PORTLAND – I had been sitting in the press box at Hadlock Field, high above the well-manicured baseball field, happily watching people file into Thursday’s noontime Portland Sea Dogs game and listening to public address announcer Dean Rogers sporadically make announcements.

He read the rules of the park (“use of profanity is prohibited”), ads for Maine Bank & Trust and the NextGen College fund, as well as a promo for the D’Angelo’s Number 9 Fan of the Game contest.

I was so looking forward to watching baseball from this perch that I forgot I was supposed to be helping Rogers out. He asked me to do a “reader” — a scripted commercial — for Oakhurst Dairy products sold at Hadlock’s concession stands.

I had watched Rogers sitting at his desk, breezily reading announcements for 30 minutes with no problems of any kind, so I figured this PA stuff was pretty straightforward.

Then Rogers leaned over to me and said: “Oakhurst is a huge sponsor, so don’t mess this up. Every time you read this one, there’s a tremendous amount of pressure on you,” as I waited for a “just joking” grin that never came.

I flipped the “on” button on the microphone and began reading: “Hit the Oakhurst Dairy Sweet Spot for a home run of refreshment. Ice cold pints of fresh Oakhurst milk and chocolate milk and cookies.” I listed a few more treats and ended by sending fans to the Oakhurst concession, across from the main gate.

When I was done, I asked Rogers how I did. Fine, he said. Good job. But then I pressed him, asking how he’d critique me if I was considering broadcasting as a career.

“Well, it was a little shoutey,” said Rogers, 63. “And you probably went through it a little too quick. Like you wanted to get it over with. That’s only natural.”

Yes, for me. But Rogers’ announcements during the game were delivered in the same tone of voice, at the same pace, as the comments he made to me when the microphone was off. That’s because, after 40 years as a broadcaster on Maine radio stations, and 17 years as the Sea Dogs PA announcer, Rogers’s style is well-honed.

He gets to games about 90 minutes before the first pitch, and begins going over the 10 to 12 pages of scripted announcements he’ll make during a game. Not to mention all the ad-libs and spur-of-the-moment things he announces, such as lost child or parent notices.

Plus, he goes over to the radio booth and asks the visiting radio guy for pronunciations of visiting players’ names. On this day, with the Reading Phillies in town, Rogers has committed to memory that first baseman Tagg Bozied pronounces his name “Bo-zaid” and that the shortstop, Ozzie Chavez, likes to hear the hard “ch” sound, not “sha-vez.”

“The players definitely hear it when their name is not right,” Rogers said. “It’s a big deal for a lot of them, to make it to this level (Double-A, two steps below the major leagues), and we should get their name right.”

Later in the game, when Rogers let me announce some of the batters, I tried hard to pronounce the “x” in Luis Exposito’s name, but struggled when telling people he was the “designated hitter.” It came out like “dezinated” hitter somehow.

When announcing that Exposito was about to hit, I did get to say over the PA that he was the “Servicemaster cleanup hitter” batting fourth. That was just one of the dozen or so plays or lineup positions for which Rogers has to read a sponsorship tag. Others include foul balls (Portland Glass), double plays (Coke Classic and Diet Coke), stolen bases (C-Port Credit Union) and walks (“Good eye Sea Dogs! This walk was brought to you by the Maine Eye Center”).

One of the best-known in-game sponsorships is the strikeouts. Every time a Sea Dogs pitcher strikes someone out, Rogers reads: “That’s another TD Bank Strike Out Cancer in Kids,” to recognize money being donated for each strikeout toward cancer research. I’ve heard this one for years, so I wanted to read it. So I said to Rogers, “When this next Phillies guy strikes out, can I read this?”

To which Rogers, a properly superstitious baseball man, replied: “Oh no, now you’ve jinxed the pitcher.”

Sure enough, Sea Dogs pitcher Stephen Fife did not go on to strike out the batter, Bozied. Instead, Bozied hit a double and drove in two runs, giving the Phillies a 3 to 2 lead. I promised Rogers I would not ask to read the strikeout thing again.

During the game, Rogers sits in a 10-foot-square booth with three other men — one doing stats, one running the video board and one running music. And he is constantly talking to them. As he makes his announcements, radio static and other noise abounds, but he never loses his focus.

I, on the other hand, was stuffing a steak and cheese in my mouth the next time I had to read something — about an online contest for Fritos corn chips. I practiced, then read the whole thing pretty flawlessly, I thought.

Jim Heffley, who was sitting next to Rogers keeping player stats updated, turned to me and said, “Did you have the mic on?”

I looked at the mic and realized, horrified, I had never turned it on. So I turned it on and read it again.

Then Brian Murphy, who was working the music and video board, said, “Didn’t you already read that?” He had heard me read it the first time, with the microphone off, so while I read it the second time he was playing music on the stadium speakers.

Rogers was not cross with me. He said his biggest hope during a game is that his announcements seem natural, and aren’t an intrusion on the game.

My hope was that Rogers had gotten fans so used to not hearing any PA announcer mistakes during the past 17 seasons that they didn’t notice mine.

 

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]