Barry Hammett, CPAA, 13-year P.A. announcing veteran from Hattiesburg, MS and the 2004-2005 NASPAA Mississippi High School P.A. Announcer of the Year, explains how he became a softball P.A. announcer and provides some advice for softball P.A. announcers.
“Piece of cake.” That’s what she said when she called to ask me if I could be the substitute P.A. announcer for a weekend softball series. “But, I’ve never announced softball before,” was my response, before I heard about the cake.
My call was from Shirley Hill, Sports Information Director of Softball for the University of Southern Mississippi. Shirley discovered me from hearing me announce a semi-pro basketball team who played in Hattiesburg during the spring of 2005. She remembered me when she needed someone to fill in for the regular women’s softball P.A. announcer on this particular weekend.
I was a little unsure of what I was getting into, for I had only seen a few women’s softball games on TV. Now this is not the slow pitch variety that is played on weekends out behind the church. This is fast pitch, a much quicker-paced game than even baseball. As a matter of fact, a fast pitched softball is harder to hit than a baseball pitched from the normal distance in the sport of baseball. But that is a topic for another time.
I got through the weekend series and actually announced another game before the season was over. I must have passed the test, because I was hired the next season to be the regular softball P.A. announcer. I am now beginning my second year of calling softball games at Southern Miss, and even though I am not a veteran of the sport, I will attempt to describe a typical game day scenario for a single college softball game.
The game is scheduled for a 6:00 p.m. start. I arrive at the stadium at 5:00 p.m. As I walk through the gate, I say a little prayer thanking God for giving me the ability and the opportunity for being able to be the P.A. announcer for the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. I don’t take my abilities or my responsibilities for granted, for I know God had His hand in giving me this opportunity.
This time is used to read over the script for the entire game and to check for any corrections or clarifications. ALWAYS pre-read the script, for it may contain inaccurate information. Saying a word or phrase that does not make sense to the fan will portray you in an unfavorable light. Scripts should be written exactly as you will say them. Games are full of promotions to be given away during the half innings. I check with the marketing representative to make sure they will be ready when the time comes for the giveaway. If at all possible, I gather line-ups for both teams and enter the starters on the line-up sheet that I will use during the game. I go over the complete roster of the visiting team with their sports information director for name pronunciations and hometowns of each player. By this time, Southern Miss has gathered on the field, and I make my first announcement of the night.
“Southern Miss, you have one minute until infield warm-ups.”
“Southern Miss, you may now take infield warm-ups.” I then take the next few minutes entering the information I need on my line-up sheet. Sometimes the teams will not get the starting line-up to us until closer to game time. This makes it very hectic for me, but I persevere.
Southern Miss should be finished with their warm-ups. “LSU, you have one minute until infield warm-ups.” I use this time going over player and hometown pronunciations again and making sure I have everything I will need to announce the game. I’ll also use the restroom. I‘ll elaborate later on this.
“LSU, you have one minute left for infield warm-ups.”
“LSU, please clear the field.” Usually, after a few games, the teams will know at what time they are allowed to be on the field for warm-ups. They will already have started or finished when I make these announcements but I am mandated by Conference USA to make them in the timely order.
Opening welcome to fans, general announcements on where they can find roster cards, no smoking announcement, and game sponsor thank yous.
The meeting at home plate with the umpires and head coaches should be complete. It has been requested that announcements not be made while the meeting is being held so all parties involved will have no trouble communicating.
Again, welcome everyone to the game and begin player introductions with the visiting team. I introduce the non-starters first, complete with their hometowns, then the starters, followed by the coaches and staff. Now it’s time to meet the home team, Southern Miss. Again, the same way of introducing players with non-starters, starters, and coaches. Pump Up type music is played during the home team introduction.
Sportsmanship announcement followed by the National Anthem.
Sometimes we will have a ceremonial first pitch thrown by a sponsor or dignitary.
Time to play ball! By this time, most of the hard work is done. The entire player introductions and other announcements need to be completed in eight minutes. To do it with few or no errors and to not sound rushed gives me a great feeling of relief. Each batter is introduced as she steps out of the on-deck circle. For instance, “Now batting, the first baseman, number 21, Jane Smith.”
After each half inning, I give the information of how many runs, hits, errors, runners left on base, and the score. A short game-sponsor advertisement, giveaway of prizes from a drawing, and a reminder of future games or events are also announced. If the score gets a little one-sided for one team or the other, I usually don’t announce the score, for most people will know who is leading. If the home team is far ahead, it may come across as embarrassing to the visitors and can show poor sportsmanship on our part.
Anytime the ballgame is not in play, there is music being played. I have been fortunate to have a graduate assistant from the marketing department play the music from a laptop computer. We had to coordinate between ourselves to make sure the music was not played while I was speaking. It took a few games to get the timing down and know exactly when to start the music. For each Southern Miss batter, we have a walkout song chosen by the player to be played as I introduce her. We stop the music as soon
as she steps into the batter’s box. Of course, it would be easier if I were in control of the music, but it is one more responsibility I don’t have to be concerned with. At the conclusion of the game, I announce the final score, attendance, thank the fans for coming, remind them of the next home game and wish them a safe trip home. Games are seven innings and usually take two hours to complete. After that, my job is complete and I’m on my way home with the crowd.
A Few Extra Tips
- As with any sport I announce, I always have with me my bag of useful paraphernalia: pens, pencils, line-up sheets, clipboard, binoculars, small scissors, tape, cough drops, medicine (headache, nausea, eye drops). Stay away from sugared candy, for it will make your mouth dry.
- Bottled water. I will sip on water during the game only to keep my mouth and vocal cords moist. Keep the cap on the bottle when you are not drinking because it would be very easy to knock the bottle over and get you, your papers and computer(s) wet. I try to avoid drinking too many fluids the day of the game, for what goes in will most assuredly come out. So when the game begins, you’renot going anywhere, if you know what I mean!
- ALWAYS upon arrival check the microphone to see if everything is operating properly. Don’t take the game administrator, sound engineer; or anyone else’s assurance that the microphone is working. Make a brief sound check to see for yourself. During the opening announcements, the sound system can be tuned while I am speaking. Remember, if the microphone doesn’t work, you won’t either.
As a P.A. announcer I don’t like surprises, but if I prepare myself for every situation, there won’t be any surprises. What I have attempted to describe is my typical gameday activities. This is not the only way to announce a softball game, but it is how I have done it. It is very hard to write down in manuscript form what you do naturally. Hopefully, what I have described will be of help to others. Follow the knowledgeable advice of other NASPAA members, and your P.A. announcing really will be a piece of cake!
Hammett serves as the NASPAA’s Internet research specialist, searching for timely articles about P.A. announcing and matters that may be of interest and benefit to NASPAA members. Many of his findings appear in the NASPAA e-newsletter, such as the link to previous blurb about the lopsided baseball game.