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Stadium announcers add vivacity, volume to games

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By Phillip Suitts

It’s the job of the Grady announcers to make sure everybody knows the names of the players on the field, but nobody does the same for them. It’s no surprise, then, that the Grady Stadium announcers are hardly big names on campus.

That doesn’t mean that parents don’t notice them. Ronald Smith, one of two an- nouncers working at Grady this year, said after a game during his first year a grandmother of one of the players came up to him and let him know she didn’t appreciate the mispronunciation of her grandson’s name. Smith said the incident taught him to slow down when announcing, a lesson that the other Grady announcer, Johnny Thompson, also finds important.

“Not only am I announcing for the players, but also [for] the fans,” Thompson said. Smith saw the opportunity to announce as a way to make the game special. “[Having an announcer] makes [a player] feel like a pro,” Smith said. “This might be the closest to the pros that these kids get.” Being able to pronounce players’ names correctly every time takes effort and is one reason both Thompson and Smith arrive at Eddie S. Henderson Sr. Athletic Field an hour before kickoff.

That’s not the only thing they review though. Both get a list of special announcements, like birthdays, that they must announce at some point during the game. The announcements aren’t limited to that list. If someone needs people to move their cars, Thompson or Smith must make an announcement about that as well. Because of the variety of announcements they have to make over the course of the game, Smith has another title for himself: “Information Guy.”

APS athletic director, Jeff Beggs, said one of the jobs of an announcer is “trying to get the crowd into the game.”

Thompson believes he can achieve this goal through enthusiasm. Thompson believes he can transfer his enthusiasm for the game to the audience.

If anyone doubts Thompson and Smith’s love for their craft, then one only needs to examine the work hours they put in. On Fridays, they arrive around 4:30 p.m. and usually don’t leave until around 10:30 p.m. Whoever works Saturdays arrives around 3 p.m. and leaves the stadium around 6:30 p.m.

Thompson and Smith are compensated for their efforts. Barbara Williams, an administrative assistant in the APS athletic department, said that the announcers get paid by the hour.

Smith is the Lakewood Stadium an- nouncer and he announces all of the Lakewood scheduled games that have been moved to Grady Stadium. Smith started announcing games for APS last three years ago, in 2008.

Thompson, who has been working at Grady since 1999, is Grady’s official sta- dium announcer for all football games.

Both were recommended by the an- nouncers they eventually replaced, but each had a different audition. Thompson said he wasn’t competing against anyone else and was given a microphone and asked to read a page. Smith, however, recalled that he was competing against two or three other people who all called a preseason game.

Although Thompson loves announcing, that wasn’t the only reason he decided to audition for the job. Thompson, who was the play-by-play announcer for Morris Brown basketball games in 1999, thought that being a sta- dium announcer would benefit him.

“I thought [announcing] would be a good way to keep me polished in terms of my craft,” Thompson said.

Thompson believes he is better at spotting and identifying players than he was when he started, and thus is able to relay information to the crowd more quickly.

Smith said he has learned to be more patient and deliberate when announcing.

Unless they make a mistake, the announcers don’t call attention to themselves. That doesn’t mean they don’t get noticed.

Smith said he has gotten numerous compliments on the sound of his voice.

Thompson recalled a St. Pius coach coming up to him after a game to tell him he is one of the best high school announcers in the state.

“You might have someone who is blind,” Smith said. “You want to be the voice for them.”

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Stadium announcers add vivacity, volume to games