Live From Pan Am Games: Broncos PA Announcer Returns to Baseball Roots in Toronto

As the Denver Broncos enjoy the NFL offseason, team public-address announcer Alan Roach is spending the summer north of the border, lending his veteran voice to Pan Am Ballpark in Ajax, ON. Roach will announce both the seven-team men’s baseball tournament and the inaugural five-team women’s baseball tournament, a multisport-games first.

SVG caught up with Roach to discuss his return to baseball (he announced Colorado Rockies games from 1993 through 2006), catching up with familiar faces in Toronto, and the joys of being a part of “a purer form” of sports.

You’re the voice of an NFL franchise. How did this particular gig come about?
When the Rockies came to Colorado in 1993, I was their PA announcer. Starting on Day 1, I did the Rockies for 14 years. I left right before the 2007 season — and the 2007 Rockies went to the World Series. So it was me holding them back for 14 years (laughs).

I had that baseball background, and I fill in every now and then when the guy who took the job after I left is sick or something. In fact, I did a game just a couple of weeks ago, so I have plenty of baseball in my background. I [also] announce a lot at the Olympics. It was because of my affiliation with the Olympics that they called me and asked if I was interested in doing this.

How did you get ready for your role leading up to the Pan Am Games?
There’s not a lot that you can do before you get here: the rosters are somewhat fluid. I talked with [former Colorado Rockies manager] Jim Tracy, the manager of the U.S. team just the other day, and I asked him how long he had a chance to work with his players [before the Games], and he said around five days. So there’s not a lot of preparation as far as figuring out names or rosters until you actually get here.

Once you get here, baseball is baseball, and what the announcer does is pretty much the same in every game. It’s dictated by the play on the field, so there’s not a lot of preparation to do. Once you get here, you’ve gotta sit down with the team managers, and it’s interesting to do pronunciations of the teams from the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and Nicaragua. But, doing hockey at the last four Olympic Games, I [had to pronounce] names from Latvia and Russia, so I’m used to spelling names phonetically and not spelling them the way they’re supposed to be spelled.

Do you speak at all with the athletes?
A little bit. I know some of the athletes just from my past. Larry Walker is the batting coach for Team Canada; he was a Colorado Rockie from 1995 until 2004. Jim Tracy was the manager of the Colorado Rockies while I was there. Jeff Francis, a pitcher for Team Canada, pitched for the Rockies [and started] Game 1 of the 2007 World Series. There’s a couple other guys that I knew from Major League Baseball. I don’t spend a lot of time with them because it’s not my job to interfere or get in the way, but it’s nice, while they’re taking batting practice, to go stand behind the cage and catch up for five minutes.

How about day of game? What do you do to prepare to call a game?
Little, now that I have all the pronunciations. I’ve announced every team. With having only seven teams here, I’ve already announced each team one time already. Preparation is basically sitting down with the lineup card. Once the teams turn in their lineup, which is [around] an hour before game time, I sit down with the lineup, and I write the names down the lineup card for myself. Again, I don’t write down names the way they’re spelled; I write down the names the way I’m supposed to say them, the way they sound. That’s really all the preparation there is.

Calling a Pan Am baseball game is certainly different from your day job with the Broncos. What do you enjoy most about this particular gig?
Seeing the people that come to the different games. [Tuesday] was Nicaragua vs. Colombia, and the stands weren’t as full as they were for the Canada-Cuba game, but just seeing the people that come and want to experience the game of baseball. Seeing families come, seeing moms and dads and little kids, and coming out and just enjoying the game of baseball. It’s not the major leagues. It’s not professional sports and the millions and millions of dollars. It’s the game in a purer form.

And then, the fun that the athletes have and seeing them compete at the highest level that they can, seeing the celebration and the faces on the athletes. It’s really about sport, and all sports are about sports, but, when you get into the United States and the billion-dollar sports industry, you tend to lose sight a little bit of the fact that it’s still a game and it’s supposed to be played for fun. I think you see more of that in these kinds of multisport games.