Baysox announcer plays word game for listeners 'I have to paint a picture'

June 24, 1993|By Donna Weaver | Donna Weaver,Contributing Writer

Dave Collins relies on rich imagery to paint a picture for those who aren't there to see for themselves.

The play-by-play announcer and public relations director for the Class AA Bowie Baysox baseball team, which is playing its home games at Memorial Stadium this season, Mr. Collins uses strong adjectives to make absent fans feel as if they're sitting in the stands.

A lively fastball becomes a "popping fastball," and a hard line drive to the third baseman a "rocket out to third base."

"Vocabulary is very, very important," says Mr. Collins, who moved to Glen Burnie from Hagerstown last September. "I have to keep in mind that the person at the other end can't see. I have to paint a picture. There's a difference, for example, between a line drive to deep right and a fly ball with a high arc."

Mixing verbs also is important to Mr. Collins, who broadcasts the games on WERQ-AM 1010. When he catches himself using the same line to describe a particular play, he'll write it in big letters on a piece of paper and put it in front of him. That breaks him of the habit.

"I try to come up with enough verbs to make things interesting, such as 'blasted,' 'hit,' 'belted' a home run," says the lanky 34-year-old. "You have to keep it fresh. I remember listening to one particular announcer for the first time, and I thought he was the greatest thing on earth. Then I noticed that he used the same cutesy expressions all the time."

Mr. Collins is sitting at his cluttered desk at his Memorial Stadium office, taking a rare break. His office is threadbare, with only a desk, a filing cabinet and a table. It looks like the temporary office it is.

The team, a Baltimore Orioles farm club, moved from Hagerstown last year and is playing its home games at Memorial Stadium while a new 8,000-seat stadium is being built in Bowie.

Mr. Collins loves Memorial Stadium, the former home of the Baltimore Orioles.

"This is a neat stadium and really unique in history," he says. "From this press box, you get such a panoramic view. There's no pole in the way or overhang. Many minor league stadiums aren't like this. In Durham [N.C.], you can't follow anything to right field. You can't tell the difference between a pop-up and a home run."

Mr. Collins, who broadcast his first game in 1980 for the Class AAA Orioles affiliate Rochester Red Wings, joined the Baysox in 1990 as public relations director of the Hagerstown Suns, after taking two years off from the game. In fact, Mr. Collins, who has a bachelor's degree in statistics and economics from the University of Rochester, was set to start graduate school at the State University of New York in Binghamton when Baysox general manager Keith Lupton called.

"I've been a Dave Collins fan for some time," Mr. Lupton says. "I always felt he should be in baseball."

Mr. Collins' wife, Christine, agrees. The two met when he was working for the Class A Prince William, Va., Pirates and she was covering the team for a local newspaper.

"I told him to go for it," she says. "You've got to do what you love."

It's a grueling schedule. The team plays 140 games, 70 home and 70 away.

When the team is home, Mr. Collins, a Rochester, N.Y., native, spends his days on public relations duties, such as writing news releases, putting together promotional brochures and setting up media interviews with the players. Then it's off to the radio booth to do the play-by-play along with color man and analyst Rick Furr.

He does take a break from the fourth through sixth innings, but he doesn't rest. That time is spent visiting reporters, making sure they have the information they need.

Then there are the away games, which he broadcasts by himself -- and which take him away from Christine and his 17-month-old son, A.J.

"It's mentally taxing," says Mr. Collins, who assumed the broadcasting duties this year. "It's hard to stay fresh. But I'd rather be at a baseball stadium than any place else. If I wasn't in this business, I'd probably be a season ticket holder."

He prepares for every game by trying to talk to ballplayers and the coaching staffs. He also fills out sheets listing the starting lineups, the umpires and even the temperature. Jotting down notes and topics to discuss during the game are another important pregame chore.

"Some people can ad-lib for three hours. I can't," he says.

He calls his style "frantic." But that's not the way it seemed on Monday night. His delivery was very smooth, clear and professional. He didn't talk too much, either. A true announcer, he's always thinking of the fans.

"I try to involve fans in the strategy," he says. "'Would you bunt in this situation?' or 'It looks like he's setting up the curveball.' I also use statistics to back up my points, if they're pertinent. Saying a player is hitting .280 against left-handers and he's hitting .283 overall isn't relevant."

The announcer doesn't pattern himself after anyone. He hates clones. But he does have a list of favorite broadcasters, including Bob Costas, Vin Scully and Jon Miller.

One thing fans won't hear from this announcer is a derogatory remark.

"I'm not a person who believes in controversy," he says. "You won't hear me say, for example, 'I think this person stinks.' I feel very strongly in the baseball family. I'll disagree with an umpire's call or a manager's strategy. But I won't put down anyone."

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