In recent years, baseball games have become highly-produced multi-media events. But despite all the changes technology has brought, two aspects of baseball remain the same: the sport and the announcer.
This week, in honor of Royals home opening day, we meet one of the most-heard but least-known team members.
When Mike McCartney was in junior high school, he realized his voice had become a little different from his classmates.
“Everybody thought I was either my older brother or my dad when I’d answer the phone,” recalls McCartney. “Dad had a – he was a salesman – so he had a great speaking voice. And I would get into - halfway through conversations on the phone that people thought I was my father before I had to give the phone up and say ‘You’ve got the wrong guy.’”
Taking the advice of his barber, McCartney got his first radio job as a DJ in Pittsburg, KS. He also picked up sports announcing gigs where he could. And after a couple of decades of announcing everything from basketball to dog racing, he finally signed on full-time with the Royals in 2000.
In his years of announcing, McCartney says his voice has hardly ever given him any trouble, even during a 2010 double header which went on past one in the morning. He rarely gets sick and doesn’t have seasonal allergies. But he does have a few tricks to keep his voice in shape.
“I never drink soda or milk,” says McCartney. “I never have milk for dinner before we go on to start our show. Water at room temperature only. Then sometimes I’ll use a vocal spray. Sometimes the vocal cords can get kind of tired so sometimes I’ll use a vocal spray that kind of helps relax and get some moisture on the vocal chords.”
The greatest hazard to a baseball announcer’s night is the curveball of a tricky, unfamiliar name. And, especially in recent years, McCartney says these have become more and more common.
“Major League Baseball, like many sports, [is] so diverse right now that you get players from all over the world that come play,” explains McCartney. “So it’s very important, before the game starts, that you get with visiting team radio broadcasters and make sure that you get pronunciations correctly. And you have to practice those sometimes.”
Despite all his preparation, Mike McCartney admits to the occasional error.
“I recall Doug Mientkiewicz,” McCartney remembers. “He played for the Royals at one point, but he was a rookie with the Minnesota Twins, and I was probably in my first year as well. And he came up to bat, and I think I introduced him as ‘Doug Mint-keh-VITCH-key or whatever it was. And I thought that can’t be right, I kept thinking to myself. And sure enough, someone comes into the booth, and – in fact it was Greg Echlin, who I know is on your staff – and he said, ‘Mike, I think that’s mint-KAY-vitch, don’t you think?’ and I said, “Greg, I think you’re right about that.’”
This year, McCartney looks forward to reaching his one thousandth game straight without a game off. He says that for a baseball fan like him, coming to work at the stadium night after night is about as good as it gets.
“Being able to have a job,” says McCartney. “That pays you and gives you a nice seat in air conditioning, in the summertime, nonetheless, you really can’t beat it.”
This season will be Mike McCartney’s 13th as the Royals’ announcer.