Voice of Summer

Thursday, October 3, 2013

"It's 89 sticky degrees here in Hillsboro,” Rich Burk ’88 tells baseball fans on a late June evening.

It’s even hotter in the broadcast booth, where Burk — “the voice” of the new Hillsboro Hops minor league team — is bringing the fourth home game of the season to life in the minds of radio listeners.

The room still smells of fresh paint, and Burk and his team spend the pre-game and first inning tweaking the sound of their broadcast. The stadium announcements blare in the booth. The open windows overlooking the diamond offer no breeze.

Burk, in slacks and a long-sleeve button-down, appears unfazed, either by the heat or the distractions. On his left, a laptop gives him instant access to Major League gamecasts, weather statistics and broadcast sound levels. Propped on the table in front of him is a spiral-bound book, a complete history of the Hops’ young season, for anyone who can read the markings of a scorecard.

He’s got a yellow highlighter and a pen at the ready, but Burk holds a mechanical pencil in his hand. Years of experience in the booth have taught him to keep his scorecard in pencil, so he can add in notes and reminders, like a player who wants to give a birthday shout out to Mom or Dad.

“The worst part is when you tease something you’re going to talk about in the next inning and then forget,” he says.

After all, Burk says, longtime Pittsburgh Pirates announcer Rory Rowswell is known for saying, “It’s not just the play-by-play that matters. It’s what you say between the pitches.”

Burk takes the advice of such big-timers to heart: Like the wisdom of Red Sox announcer Joe Castiglione, who said it takes four or five hours to prepare to call a basketball game, four or five days for a football game, and a lifetime for a baseball game.

“There’s so much time to fill, so much opportunity for conversation,” Burk says. “I’ve been preparing for this since I was growing up and loving baseball.”