Ballpark's new voice is nearly speechless Announcer: Dave McGowan, regular guy, is exactly what the Orioles were hoping to find for Camden Yards.

March 27, 1998|By Ken Fuson | Ken Fuson,SUN STAFF

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Your new public address announcer is a 49-year-old man who arranges aircraft sales, has no formal voice training and has never met a professional baseball player.

Here he is, the happiest man in Maryland, Dave McGowan.

"What a country, huh?"

That's right, anything can happen. A man who describes himself as "a simple guy" gets plucked for one of the most visible jobs in Baltimore.

Before yesterday, McGowan was a self-employed business owner in Huntingtown, Md., brokering aircraft sales, dabbling in commercial voice-overs and serving as an emcee for various events in Calvert County. Now he's also the voice of the ballpark.

"Don't pinch me," he asks.

When the Orioles solicited applications to replace Rex Barney, the longtime and much-beloved ballpark announcer who died last August, McGowan decided to roll the dice. He joined 320 others who submitted audition tapes.

"I knew it would be an extreme long shot, but you only go around once and you give everything you've got the first time," McGowan says. "I know it sounds corny, but it's like my own little Cinderella story."

Cinderella arrived at the ballpark for the announcement yesterday wearing a pumpkin-colored shirt with the Orioles logo on it -- the team gave it to him -- and a smile that may never leave.

Spiro Alafassos, director of ballpark entertainment for the Orioles, said McGowan was exactly what the team wanted: "We were looking for a complete package, not just a voice. His exceptional character and personality is what really struck us in interviews. And his total enthusiasm to be part of the team."

McGowan received the word Wednesday. He didn't need a plane to fly to Baltimore yesterday.

"I feel like I came right from the rookie league to the big team," McGowan said. "My spring training is this Sunday."

That day, the Orioles will return to Baltimore to play their final exhibition game, and McGowan will make the 65-mile trip from Huntingtown (with 40 relatives). He will be perched high above home plate, welcoming fans to the ballpark, introducing players and reminding everyone to drive home sober.

While he understands that fans will compare him with Barney, who was so popular he has his own exhibit in the Babe Ruth Museum, McGowan hopes to be judged on his own merits.

"Rex Barney's a legend," he says. "I can't replace Rex Barney. He had the love and respect of the Orioles fans and the organization and the entire city of Baltimore for a long, long time. I have to earn that."

Here's the scouting report on McGowan: lifelong Orioles fan; married for 28 years and the father of two adult children; graduate of Arundel High School and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla.; U.S. Army captain and Vietnam War veteran; former stockbroker; former patrolman and detective in the Baltimore Police Department; owner of his own firm, McGowan & Associates, that arranges aircraft sales; possessor of keen wit.

Does Peter Angelos, the team owner, know that McGowan could get him a deal on a team jet?

"Could you tell him for me?"

How good is McGowan at ducking foul balls?

"Quick. I coached Little League for 10 years, so I'm used to that."

How did his wife, Susan, react to the new job?

"She came to a three-foot hover, if you're familiar with aviation terms, and I think she still is."

At least once in their lives, everyone should be this happy. McGowan described how he practiced being an Orioles announcer when he was a child, using a hairbrush or stick as a microphone. He practically gushes when asked to assess the chances of this year's team.

"They're awesome. We've got the greatest team, we've got the greatest organization backing them up, we've got the greatest fans in the world in a great city. What's to hold us back? 1998 -- the Year of the Bird."

As Barney would say, give that fan a contract.

No, wait. There's no contract for this job. It's strictly part-time, paying $75 a game, along with a free parking space and a meal. But McGowan, who has completed multimillion-dollar airplane deals on a handshake, acted very much like a man who would shine Cal Ripken's shoes if they asked.

"I made it to the show," he said. "How about that?"

Pub Date: 3/27/98

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