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You have to beat Bill Meck and Batman to become P.A. announcer at UK games

Tryouts for new UK sports announcer

Auditions were held at the Wendell & Vickie Bell Soccer Complex and John Cropp Stadium for a new UK sports PA announcer and in-game host.
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Auditions were held at the Wendell & Vickie Bell Soccer Complex and John Cropp Stadium for a new UK sports PA announcer and in-game host.

The University of Kentucky’s soccer complex was no place for the skittish Wednesday night. UK tested nerves by holding high-volume tryouts there for would-be public address announcers.

About 50 people — almost exclusively men — took turns sitting behind a live microphone and yelling. This four-hour, blue-tinted scream therapy session included:

“Batting first for KENTUCKY!! . . .” (That last word was usually said with a growl.)

“Goooooooal for Kentucky!”

“Lisa from Monkey’s Eyebrow will race against Brenda from Burkesville. You must spin around the bat 10 times before running to the finish line. Go! Spin! Spin! Spin!”

Greg Herbert, who works in UK Athletics’ marketing department, judged those trying out. He looked for .... enthusiasm!

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Doug Vaughen takes part in a tryout for prospective public address announcers and in-game hosts at UK athletic events at John Cropp Stadium in Lexington, Ky., on Wednesday, August 2, 2017. Michael Reaves Michael Reaves

“They brought energy,” he said of contestants he liked. “There should be something about your voice that gets you excited.”

But rousing a crowd can be taken to unwelcomed extremes. Or as Herbert said, “Being excited without scaring someone.”

Bill Meck, the weatherman at Lexington’s WLEX television, tried out. He described his P.A. style as “WWE.”

Brad Link, the P.A. announcer for Kentucky’s baseball team, provided Herbert feedback on the contestants. He said he all but changes personalities behind a microphone.

“It’s like a superhero,” he said. “I’m Batman.”

Adam Goodlett, 26, dressed the part. He wore a primary blue suit, which he said he originally bought for his gigs as a wedding disc jockey.

“I’m just a diehard Kentucky fan,” he said after his turn at the microphone. “If UK was in a spitting contest, I’d paint myself blue and sit in the front row.”

Although it already seemed obvious, Goodlett added, “I am an extraordinarily enthusiastic person.”

UK was not looking to find someone to immediately start working as a public address announcer at games. The school has seven announcers who work games, most prominently Carl Nathe in football and Patrick Whitmer in basketball.

The tryouts were intended to “deepen our roster,” said Guy Ramsey, director of strategic communication for UK Athletics. A newcomer that showed sufficient promise would then learn from the veterans and someday work games.

Don Hart, the P.A. announcer for women’s basketball and volleyball, has a signature call in the latter sport. In a call-and-response with the crowd, he announces “point, Kentucky!” The crowd then responds with “Wildcats!”

“You’re a performer,” said Hart, who works as a financial adviser when he’s not performing.

Hart, who also supplied feedback to Herbert, said there is a National Association of Sports Public Address Announcers. He took special delight in noting that its founder was the aptly named Brad Rumble.

Link, who studied broadcast journalism at UK and in 2011 was a finalist for the job of P.A. announcer at Wrigley Field, offered advice.

“Don’t try to be somebody else who is famous if you can’t do it better,” he said. “It’s like you’re copying somebody else’s style. You don’t need to be a copy cat (no pun intended).”

A Kentucky twang would not be disqualifying, Herbert said. “If it fits,” he said. “I don’t think an accent is a bad thing.”

Having a rich voice of Thor wouldn’t hurt your chances.

“If Morgan Freeman wanted to be my P.A. announcer, I’d let him,” Herbert said.

Meck brought a wealth of announcing experience to the tryout. Besides being the weatherman at Channel 18, he was the P.A. announcer for the Man o’ War swim conference championship meet for 14 years. He also announced at Lexington Catholic soccer games for four years.

He eschewed the goooooooal call.

“It’s a cliché,” he said. “It’s somebody else’s bit.”

Herbert did not expect to name who would advance from the tryouts to deepen UK’s roster of public address announcers until Monday.

When asked why UK needed several days to make those decisions, someone quipped, “Background checks.”

Jerry Tipton: 859-231-3227, @JerryTipton

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