A (Canada) Day in the Operations Booth at Classic Park

I’m not one to get nervous when talking to people or performing. After more than 16 years of dance performances, I’m used to being on stage and in front of a crowd. My full-time job requires me to interact with nationally recognized attorneys on a daily basis. I was in the drama club in sixth grade.  Presenting and performing are really no big deal.

Yet, for some reason, I was terrified to announce in French during the Lake County Captains game on Monday night.

For those of you who do not know international holidays, Monday, July 1, was Canada Day. As a promotion, the Captains held a Canadian baseball-themed evening, paying homage to the Montreal Expos and featuring the singing of the Canadian national anthem, a maple syrup chugging contest, an appearance by Sasquatch, and the always-exciting guessing game, “Canadian or Not?” (Spoiler – they were all Canadian).

To further enhance the authentically Canadian atmosphere at Classic Park on Monday, the Captains set out on a search for a fan to announce the opposing batters in French throughout the game. They sent out a tweet asking for interested fans to reach out for more information.

When I first saw the tweet, I briefly contemplated sharing my talents. I took French throughout middle and high school, as well as through my second year of undergrad. However, before I could make up my mind to do it myself or not, a friend replied to the Captains to let them know that I did, indeed, speak French. The Captains responded, asked me if I wanted to announce, and that’s how I ended up in the Operations booth Monday night, microphone in hand and a cheat-sheet of French baseball phrases in front of me.

I didn’t have to say much – only simple phrases such as, “Next up…” and “Now batting…” as each member of the Fort Wayne TinCaps came to the plate. I could handle this.

But still, I had nightmares the night before about announcing, imagining that I did not remember a single word of French when I got in there and couldn’t say anything right. When I expressed this fear, I was always greeted with the same response – “No one here speaks French, so even if you do mess up, no one will notice.”

Armed with this reassurance, I sat down next to Ray, the regular announcer. It was a different experience to be in the Ops booth instead of the press box. In the press box, even though you’re behind the scenes, you’re still watching the game and focusing on the field. The Ops booth, however, puts you in the middle of the whole experience.

Not only are people in there watching the game, they were operating the scoreboard and playing the appropriate sounds during a strikeout or following a scoring run; they were announcing the promotions and telling the people putting the show together where to go and what to do. These guys run the whole operation you see from wherever you are when you’re at Classic Park, and for one night, I got to be one of them.

They were a welcoming group, and I lost most of my nerves the minute I sat down with them. Although I was still out of my element – I’m used to holding a pen and a notebook, not a microphone – I felt more at ease now that I was actually in the booth and more or less ready to go.

The announcing itself went well, better than I had expected. It was exactly how it had been described to me: when an opposing batter made his way to the plate, I would get on the mic and announce him.

“Prochain à la batte pour les TinCaps, numéro neuf, le receveur, Dane Phillips.”

I went through the same series of phrases throughout the game, announcing positions, numbers, and players. I even threw in a few Captains-specific phrases, acknowledging that Maxx Tissenbaum was the night’s “frappeur de la biere,” or beer batter.

My only flub came when I forgot how to say the number “19.” Nineteen is one of the easiest numbers, too, pronounced in French by stating “ten” and “nine” – hardly a difficult concept. Only a few people told me they noticed the error, and nothing else went awry throughout the announcing, so I’m calling the evening a success.

Walking away, I realized there really wasn’t anything to be nervous about. People seemed impressed that I could even speak French, never mind if I could speak it well or not.

The ability to be part of a promotion like this was a much different experience to anything else I have done with the Captains this season. Announcing kept me more in the game than usual, as I couldn’t get distracted for fear I would forget to announce a batter. It also gave me a newfound appreciation for the people who are in the Ops booth day in and day out. It’s not easy to fit in every single announcement and promotion between innings and during the half! And although the crowd is there to see a baseball game, they are just as intrigued by the other things going on around the field when the team isn’t out there. Without those guys up there announcing it and making things happen, the level of excitement at Classic Park would be quite a bit lower.

Although I realized I prefer writing my words about baseball as opposed to speaking them (I personally feel like there’s less pressure in putting things down on paper), I’m glad I go to experience watching the Captains from a new vantage point and be involved in the game in a completely new way. I’d gladly do it again – but before anyone volunteers me for Italian heritage night coming up on the 19th, I don’t speak any other languages.

Vive les Capitaines!

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