Petco Park. Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
I arrived at about 12:30, and was told that they had cut off the auditions; I was too late. A friendly team employee told me that I could still submit my audition with an mp3, and handed me a piece of paper letting me know how to do that. It was perfectly OK that I had missed the cutoff. I hadn’t gone to Petco Park specifically trying to win the Padres open-call PA Announcer audition; rather, I wanted to see if the event was worth writing about. If I got to audition, bonus. Instead, I’d write as an observer. But when I started to walk into the ballpark, the security guard asked to see my number. When I explained that I write for FriarsOnBase.com, and was interested in coming in to observe and maybe write about the event, the nice guy from before stepped in, introduced himself as Josh, said he was surprised he hadn’t met me yet, and said it was OK for me to go in. The first time I’ve used my status as a member of the fourth estate to get in somewhere… that was pretty cool. Thanks, Josh. I’m afraid I didn’t catch your last name, but I look forward to meeting you again.
As always, the Padres were handling this event with class and plenty of smiles.
As I walked along the concourse, I heard a few voices booming “At first base: Yonder Alooooonso!” One person sounded ok, the next sounded like he was here on a dare. I continued walking until I found a group of people standing, watching, and waiting. These people had numbers in their hands, numbers like 289 and 373 and 467. What they were watching was this:
January 25, 2014. Petco Park PA Announcer Auditions. Photo – Mark Whelan
About 100 feet past first base down the right field line, there was a camera set up to record each hopeful auditioner. To their right was a line of about 20 people who were going to audition soon. When it was their turn, each participant was handed a script to read from, and there were four different versions. One included a public service announcement about how the Padres support the military, the Sheriff’s department, and their families. Another was the Padres lineup, full of names like Benoit and Gyorko, presumably to weed out the people who said “Buh-noit” and “Gorko”. There were some voices that I thought I’d enjoy hearing over the PA system at a game, and a few who stumbled so badly over the words, I feared that might get in an accident on their way home because they couldn’t read the STOP sign. A William Hung memory flashed into my mind. I quickly erased it.
So, who were these 500 or so people spending their entire Saturday at the ballpark, all for a chance to talk into a microphone for about 60 seconds? I decided to find out. The first guy I talked to answered the question with the first few words out of his mouth, as he had an incredible Bass voice. He had gotten to the park at 8:30 this morning, (it was 1:30 when I talked to him), and he had number 374. They were currently on number 274. “100 to go”, he said with feigned enthusiasm. I asked him how he heard about the audition. He said a friend had texted him about it. Not surprising. The guy’s a Padres fan and has an amazing voice – someone was going to tell him about it. I asked him about the thing that stuck in my mind when I first heard about these auditions – how was he going to be able to make it to every home game, weekday or weekend, day or night? Turns out he works for a downtown restaurant, and the owner is friends with someone in the Padres front office. The owner promised him that they could work out something to allow him to make it to every game. Aside from his amazing voice, did our friend have any other qualifications, had he ever done any work like this before? He had some background in the theater in his past, but no specific voice work.
Wow, just heard a great voice. Clear, medium-high pitch that carried beautifully through the ballpark. The gentleman appeared to be in his 50s, read the script like a real professional. He’s got to be in the running.
Click for larger image.
I moved down into the sun to get a better look at the folks auditioning. Left and center field were covered by a large oval mini-stadium set up on the grass, for next week’s Davis Cup games to be played here at Petco. It’s funny to think of tennis courts as being portable.
A few Pad Squad members walked by, and gave me big smiles. The Padres do a really good job of creating a happy environment, even at unusual events like this one.
OK, I just had a guy start a conversation with me, a local comedian named Fabio, I think he said. I’ll find out his name for sure later on, because he gave me a DVD of his work within 3 minutes of the start of our conversation. He was an interesting dude, a real stream-of-consciousness talker. Sometimes to the point where I wasn’t really able to follow what he was saying. He talked about flying cars coming in 2015 (like in Back to the Future). And the AVN awards being this weekend in Las Vegas, which led into some strange comments probably too inappropriate for this website. Now, I don’t mind an occasional off-color joke, but this part of his monologue seemed to lack any punchlines. I say monologue because I wasn’t really doing any of the talking at this point. He went on for about 20 minutes, then I turned to get something out of my backpack, and he was gone as fast as he came.
So after that little surreal break in my day, my next encounter was with a guy who badmouthed most of the people auditioning. That got old fast. Where’s the Back to the Future guy?
One guy did this interesting supervillain kind of voice, which was a riot. If you’re not going to win, at least make sure they remember you, right? He was unlikely to win no matter what he did, at least he had some fun doing it. And it was entertaining enough to get a hand from the crowd.
Every once in a while during the day, I heard a gross mispronunciation. Ghee-orko. Guy-orko.
I started to listen to the text of the scripts that the Padres had prepared. “At first base, Yonder Alonso. Up next, second baseman Jedd Gyorko. Center Fielder Will Venable. And batting ninth, the pitcher, Andrew Cashner.” Are the Padres previewing their opening-day lineup for this small crowd?
One of the guys I talked to is about to go. It’s Badmouth guy. Badmouth was not a fan of supervillain guy – “what is he doing?” he kept asking. “He doesn’t even belong here”. Badmouth didn’t seem to think giving a memorable performance was the way to go. Dang it, Badmouth just went while I was typing that last sentence, and I only heard the last bit of his audition. Of the 100 or so auditions I’ve heard so far, it was, well, unmemorable. Should have gone with weird instead.
Joe keen Bee-knot.
I saw a guy who looks like Sean Casey before, but didn’t get a chance to talk to him. I don’t see him any more. Could he be here to audition for the job? He’s been a broadcaster before. There he is in line. I’ll recognize his voice when he goes. Stop typing, Mark, don’t miss this.
Alex Eye Almaristria. Sorry, couldn’t stop typing when I heard that.
Ok, wait for Sean Casey. He’s 6th in line, so I have a few minutes. Hey, here’s the first guy who pronounces the Latino names with an accent. The first one. Out of 100+. 18 miles from the border of Mexico. In a sport where 27% of the players are Latino. It’s incredible to me how few San Diegans speak Spanish.
Sean Casey is next. Here he is. He knows the names. Doesn’t quite sound like him. Nope, not him.
That was anticlimactic.
Wow. This next guy butchered practically every name. He got Kyle Blanks wrong. Kylo? Reeeally? OK, I can understand that you might not know the Padres players. But you’ve been here for 6 hours listening to other people say the names. Didn’t it occur to you to ask someone else in the park how to pronounce those names?
Hey, another guy pronouncing the Latino names with an accent. Hooray! There is hope for mankind!
OK, Bass voice guy is in line. His speaking voice really is remarkable. I considered asking him if he was interested in singing with my Barbershop group, but decided to keep the focus on baseball today.
Chris De la norfia. Wow.
Ooh, this guy is good. Fun voice, great delivery. Unremarkable looking, beard, baseball cap. He’s got a real shot.
Bass voice guy. His voice is great, his delivery is fair. His voice is so low that a few words of the public service announcement got lost. I don’t think his manager is going to have to make any scheduling arrangements. But he gave it a good shot.
2 hours and 45 minutes of this, and I’ve had enough. On my way out, Pad Squad members give me another genuine smile. And the security guard wishes me a “Good luck, sir!” I like the Padres organization.
I’m rooting for supervillain guy. But I wonder. If they lose a game, is he going to blow up the world with his giant laser ray?