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Die-Hard Ambitions and Early Auditions 

Being a law student is a tough gig, and time-management is key. Understandably, however, some things fall through the cracks and time gets away from you. For example, this article should have come out 4 days ago… but sometimes life throws you a curveball. Nonetheless, it’s human nature to make time for the important things and oftentimes we forget an obligation or two. But for the chance of a lifetime? A call for greatness and an opportunity to land your dream job?

Well… I can make time for that.

Saturday morning is typically the day I designate for recharging from a long week and sleeping in before hitting the books. I would say I wake up around noon on any Saturday – just like back in college. This last Saturday, however, started at 6:30am for me… which is unheard of, unless baseball is involved. Indeed, sleep is something I found myself willing to sacrifice in order to attend the Padres Public Announcer Tryouts.

Sorry snooze button, I wouldn’t be able to give you the standard morning “punch-to-your-stupid-alarm-clock-face” today. I will make sure to continue to reciprocate our abusive, love-hate relationship starting Monday morning. I promise.

After going through the motions of preparing for the day, I ended up arriving at the park at about 7:00am. The line had already stretched from the homeplate gate to the intersection of Park and Imperial, so I figured I would be safe to get inside. I estimated about 90-100 people ahead of me in line, some in fold-out chairs playing cribbage and other card games to pass the time.

I met a few die-hard Padres fans (who else would be there this early on a Saturday morning?) in line – a youth pastor and elementary school teacher who once dabbled in the baseball video-game industry, and a real estate agent who had a few non-speaking spots in some commercials for Valley View casino. He also brought his grandchildren with him; bless their little hearts for supporting their grandfather. These two gentlemen would be my competition once we got inside, along with the hundreds of others that I anticipated would be arriving soon. For now, however, they were my companions in line who shared the same level of admiration and fanaticism for their hometown team.

The conversations I heard in line echoed those I have heard for years and years as a Padres fan: “When do you think the team is going to get that big, impact bat?” “You think we’re going to the playoffs this season?” “Hey, if not this year, there’s always next year, right?” Apparently some people have already experienced and recovered some synthetic disappointment from the 2014 season – such is the lot in life of a San Diego sports fan. Despite that pre-ordained and somewhat crestfallen recovery, these people woke up early for the chance of a lifetime; there was no real worry about the upcoming season here, just a bunch of crazy fans with nothing to do on a Saturday morning who love their hometown team.

Not everyone was your standard fan in line, however. Some people, I noticed, had arrived in full suit and tie attire with what looked like a document folder containing what I assumed was a resume of some kind. Coifed hair, fancy dress shoes, the whole nine yards for the chance at what was in effect an interview and employment opportunity. Being a lawyer-in-training, you would think I might do the same. But no, I put on my Tucson Padres hat and old Jake Peavy shirt and stood in line with a guy in his Gwynn Jersey and “bring back the brown” shades.

The line had grown considerably in the first hour I was there; it stretched all the way past 10th avenue and looped around the stadium from what I could see. News vans arrived, media personnel interviewed random people in line, and the buzz seemed to grow and grow until 8:45 when the gates opened and everyone started to file inside.

Once at the gate, I was greeted by a “liability waiver” and “employment opportunity form.” Two lovely ladies from the Pad Squad smiled and asked for my name as I signed away my legal rights to the Padres so they could use my voice and likeness for any future purpose (if they so choose to do so). I was given a number – 96 – and my name just barely fit on the card; the woman did not anticipate the obnoxiousness of my long name, but hey. I wanted a memento if I didn’t walk away from this experience with anything else.

After signing our lives away, we were directed to the seats along the first base line where we would wait for a chance to read a script into a microphone and have our voices blasted throughout the stadium via the wired-in public address system. It had never occurred to me what the process would be like, but the sight of a plain microphone seemed exciting but underwhelming all at the same time.

I sat and watched individuals walk up to the microphone and read off a script that was handed to them, some were really good, others were okay, and some were interesting to say the least.

“Leading off for the PAW-DREES in the bottom of the fourth inning, the first baseman, number 23, YONE-DER AH-LAN-SER” … “Now pitching, JOE-AH-KWIN BEEN-OYE-T” … “EEV-ER-ETH CAH-BREA” … “CHRIS DEE-NO-FREE-AYE” … these were some of my favorites. Not because I thought they were incorrect or anything like that, but because the smile on their face afterwards was awesome.

They just butchered maybe one of their favorite player’s names, but they were so happy.

Yes, fans were happy to hear their voice boom from the right field nosebleeds to the façade of the Western Metal building, and echo and resonate for just a brief moment. They were happy to be in their favorite ball park and trying for their dream job. Frankly, they were just happy! Accent or no accent, presence or no presence in their voice, hook or no hook, these people were ecstatic to just be there.

To me, those people were better candidates than the suit and ties, some of whom probably didn’t know a slurve from forkball, let alone a rammycackle from a can of corn. Nonetheless, being a public address announcer requires diction, poise, presence and fluidity. The air of professionalism will no doubt carry those candidates beyond the jersey-donning every-man and woman. So the long shot was ever present in my mind, but the joy of getting to hear my voice echo through Petco Park reigned supreme.

When it was my turn to speak, I don’t remember how I did. I stepped in front of the microphone, held the number I was given under my chin, and stared down at the script I was handed whilst being filmed by a handful of cameras on the foul territory dirt. No butterflies, no worries, no concerns, just talking.

It went by quickly.

I think I did okay, but I was excited to hear my voice at all. I got to announce Chase Headley and Kyle Blanks for the batting order, a pitching change for Joaquin Benoit (“WHA-KEEN BEN-WHA” is how I said it, lord knows if that is right or not), and a public address announcement about the boys and girls club of America. I think I’ll remember those unnecessary bits of information for a very long time.

Very little information was given afterwards other than being directed out of the park, for they anticipated a large group to filter through the park that day. Through reading the Padres official twitter account, announcements for callbacks or rejections will be sent out via e-mail around February 3rd. Regardless of how it turns out for me, I had a great time observing the plethora of people who filed through and getting the chance to speak at my favorite baseball stadium.

It was an opportunity that I had to take advantage of. Perhaps it was just a publicity stunt. Perhaps I don’t have a snowballs chance in hell, and perhaps the team did not handle the termination of Friar Frank Anthony with the utmost grace – these are not things that run through your mind when there’s an open call for your dream job.

Given the chance to wake up at the crack of dawn to even be considered a member of the Padres organization in broadcasting or announcing again? I would do it twice over, maybe even wake up a little bit earlier.

But for now, I’ll just cross my fingers and return to my school work. A die-hard fan is what I was before I entered the park, and a die-hard fan I will remain. Win, lose, acceptance or rejection, I will keep my chin up for the team and keep myself counted amongst the Friar Faithful.

Still… here’s hoping. Go Padres.

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About the author: Ian Edward Russell Smith

Ian is a former writer for the San Diego Padres, having worked as the Padres' "In-Season Blogger" during the 2015 season. Ian wrote as a member of the Friarhood's writing staff between parts of 2013-2015, writing over 100 articles over that span. In addition to being a writer, Ian is also a recent graduate of California Western School of Law in San Diego, having earned a Juris Doctor, as well as his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science/Law & Society from the University of California, Riverside. Be sure to follow Ian on Twitter (@SDRedBull8) to see what other ramblings he's posted about the Padres, San Diego, and baseball in general!