The Voice Of God: How To Call A Cactus League Game

By Casey Kuhn
Published: Tuesday, March 15, 2016 - 5:05am
Updated: Tuesday, March 15, 2016 - 4:35pm
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(Photo by Casey Kuhn - KJZZ)
Jim Vreeke (left) and Kevin Derryberry in the press box at the Peoria Sports Complex.
(Photo by Casey Kuhn - KJZZ)
Jeff Scott reading announcements in the press box at Camelback Ranch in Glendale.

Spring training has descended on the Valley. Fans get a chance to see their favorite players up close, and minor leaguers get a chance to prove their worth.

The constantly changing lineup of games is just one challenge public address announcers face in the press box, but that 'voice of God' usually belongs to some of the biggest baseball fans in the stadium.

Kevin Derryberry kicks off a spring training game from the press box at the Peoria Sports Complex.

"This afternoon cactus league features the Kansas City Royals and YOUR Seattle Mariners!” he says, drawing out the 'your' to elicit applause from the fans slowly filling out the seats. 

As the backup public address announcer, he's in the stadium a few hours before first pitch to prep.

“One of the first things you always do is see what kind pronunciation challenges you foresee,” Derryberry said.

Derryberry said some teams are better than others with pronunciation lists. He let’s me have a crack at one particularly difficult Mariners pitcher's name, spelled Mayckol Guaipe.

"Uhh...Gwap-ee... May-kol," I sound out the spelling of it, last name first.

"You're somewhat close, it’s actually pronounced 'Michael GWHY-pay',” Derryberry said.

And getting the players' names right is just one challenge Derryberry says comes with the job of announcing spring training games.

From Volunteer Parking Attendant To Voice Of Peoria Sports Complex

Jim Vreeke, the head announcer working at the Peoria Sports Complex, started volunteering there as a parking lot attendant.

When management found out he had a radio background in Seattle, where he lived before retiring to the West Valley, they tapped Vreeke to announce a game after the main guy got sick.

“It was a quick learning experience, but I loved it, it was fun," Vreeke said about his first game announcing. "I’m a baseball fan, could it be any better than this?”

That was more than ten years ago, and he said the toughest part of announcing is staying ahead of the player changes in a spring training game

"I always wondered, why doesn’t the guy announce that there’s a new third baseman, or new second basemen?" Vreeke said. "Well, then I found out. Because WHAM you’re doing a commercial and there’s eight changes and the batter is coming to the batter's box so there’s no time to really get that in."

Vreeke’s love of baseball started like many baseball fans, as part of a family tradition.

"My dad was a Cubs fan, I grew up in the Midwest. And he would get a Gettelman beer and go out to the porch after supper and listen to the Cubs game. He taught me how to keep score and I was a baseball fan ever since. I always think when I’m in the booth that boy, if my dad had an opportunity to just come to spring training and see this..." he trails off. 

Glendale's Camelback Ranch: A Multi-Faced Affair

In another press box over at Glendale’s Camelback Ranch, a crew five times the size of Peoria’s works graphics and cameras, as Jeff Scott rattles off announcements telling the crowd where they’re allowed to smoke and to watch out for foul balls.

Scott’s day job is as news director of a local radio network. He has also announced NBA games, and says baseball is less play-by-play and more set up.

"Baseball’s different than other sports," Scott said. "In football and basketball, you announce the outcome of each and every play. In baseball it’s more a series of introductions. But you’re getting paid to sound like the 'voice of God' and do your best to fill that role."

He always looks forward to the annual gig.

"It’s a great atmosphere," Scott said, talking about the fans and his co-workers. "It’s the same people back here year after year, and they become your camp friends. Like if you went to summer camp every year, you have your school friends and your camp friends, these are my camp friends."

Those camp friends are what he says make spring training in the Valley such a special occasion.

"It’s baseball, and baseball’s American, and Cactus League is Arizona and it all amounts to one big social party," Scott said.

A social party hosted, and narrated, by public address announcers like Scott, Vreeke and Derryberry.

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