On the job: on-field announcer
This month I spoke with Jatovi McDuffie, on-field announcer for the Durham Bulls.
Q So, what do you do as an on-field announcer?
A I run the audience-participation games in between the innings at the Durham Bulls games. And I also help out here and there when fans need help or directions. We all do that.
Q What games and contests do you run? And do you pick only kids?
A We have games for both kids and adults and we have lots of fun games—sumo wrestlers, trivia contests, termites in the trousers, bugs in the bucket, base races. The adults like the game where they stand a baseball bat on the ground, bend over to touch their foreheads to the bat handle, spin around, and then try to run. It’s funny!
Q How did you get such a fun job?
A I was always a strange child—outgoing and willing to try new things—so this is great. I had been doing improv[isational] comedy, where you have to listen to other comedians and the audience, and then react. My buddy, Chip, heard about this job and told me to try out. So when I tried out, we were all handed scripts and were given 20 minutes to prepare for performing three out of five activities on the script. People were trying to memorize the script. I didn’t worry about the words—I concentrated on the games.
Q You used your improv skills! So they come in handy?
A They do, because you don’t want to be stiff. This is completely related to improv. You want to stay loose and be able to help if somebody is shy. And also doing this verbatim would be tough because each audience is different.
Q How do you choose your players? Does anybody ever say No?
A Some people approach me, wanting to play. Sometimes I just pick people out of the crowd and ask if they want to play. And sometimes they’ll say No if they’re shy. There’s a 50/50 chance a kid will back out. Sometimes their parents will insist because they want their child to have that experience. I go over what we’re going to do beforehand so they won’t be nervous—and once it’s over the kid is so happy he wants to do it again. But for me, it’s not a big deal being in front of a crowd.
Q What do you like most about being an on-field announcer?
A Meeting people! I’ve been here 11 years and I love to see children growing up. There’s a kid named Christina. Her parents are season-ticket holders—they sit right over there. When she was 4 years old, she drew me a picture of myself holding the mic. I live vicariously through everybody—I like asking them about how their kids are doing. I get to know many of the season ticket holders through the years and it’s like they become part of my family.