Front Row: Ryan Wagner Hopes New Job Will Last A Long Time
By Michael Page
The Orioles have named Ryan Wagner as the new voice of Camden Yards. The 26-year-old was the last man standing in a competition that featured 670 applicants.
Wagner traversed a rigorous tryout trail, which consisted of numerous interviews and auditions. Now he is one of the youngest public address announcers in major league baseball.
Wagner, a Baltimore native who grew up in the Herring Run area, is delighted at the chance to speak to the Oriole faithful on a nightly basis.
"Being a blue-collar kid from Baltimore, there is no greater honor for me than to welcome people to Oriole Park, where I grew up watching baseball," he said. "I just hope people understand that."
Some fans may recognize Wagner's name from the publicity he garnered last season as an occupant of the MLB Fan Cave. Wagner was chosen along with Mike O'Hara to watch every MLB baseball game in 2011, the Fan Cave's inaugural year. Needless to say, his Fan Cave experience led to some exciting moments.
"I was on the field at the All-Star game and for the World Series," he said. "It was amazing. It was 1,000 miles an hour for 24 hours a day for eight months straight. I don't think that my co-host, Mike O'Hara, or I or MLB knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into.
"It was as exciting as anything I've ever done in my life, because you never knew what you were going to do from one day to the next. We watched every game last season, somewhere around 2,450 games. I got to meet and interact with some of my heroes."
The Fan Cave is a 15,000-square-foot studio in lower Manhattan, equipped with 15 televisions and a television studio. With all the baseball Wagner saw, the memories were plentiful.
"Interviewing Bob Uecker, who is a hero of mine, is up there," he said. "Getting to meet Brooks Robinson was quite a remarkable thing, and being on the field in Arizona and taking batting practice and shagging flies at the All-Star Game."
Wagner will occupy a seat only two others have manned during the last 38 years of Oriole baseball. The iconic Rex Barney was PA announcer for the Birds from 1974 until his death in 1997. His successor, Dave McGowan, held the position for 14 seasons before retiring at the end of last season. With those types of tenures common in major league baseball, the opportunity for a position like this is rare.
"I never set out to do it, simply because it never occurred to me that it would be available," Wagner said. "For 40-plus years, it was Rex Barney and Dave McGowan. So the last time this job was available, I was 12, and the time before that, I was negative 15 or something like that.
"For this job to come open, or for any major league PA job to come open, is unique. For it to happen in my hometown the year after I leave the MLB Fan Cave is too good to be true."
Some have been quick to assume that Wagner's association with MLB's Fan Cave aided his quest to become the new O's announcer, but Wagner is serious about his voice. After attending Edgewood High School and graduating from Frostburg State in 2007 with a degree in musical theater, Wagner was off to New York, where he toured with numerous musical productions.
"I did 'A Christmas Carol,' " he said. "I was the understudy for the cowardly lion in 'The Wizard of Oz.' I was Pseudolus in 'A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.' I use my training in theater every day. I'm a big believer in vocal coaching and vocal health.
"The training that I have and the preparation that I do with scripts and things like that and the fact that I know exactly what it takes to keep my voice healthy over a long period of time where you're performing day in and day out, I have no doubt that contributed to the Orioles hiring me."
Wagner was required to go through all the steps and interviews that all other applicants had to endure.
"I had no relationship with the Orioles," Wagner said. "I can't stress that enough. I had never met anybody from the Orioles' front office prior to auditioning. Whatever press they may have gained from hiring the guy from the Fan Cave would go away very quickly if I'm not good at the job. I've worked very hard to get to where I am."
Wagner's youth offers an opportunity to build a relationship that could rival that of the Yankees and their PA announcer Bob Sheppard, who was a fixture at Yankee Stadium for 56 years.
"Being 26, I think presents a unique opportunity for me and the Orioles to have a relationship that spans quite a long period of time," Wagner said. "So, depending on my health and the quality of work that I do for the Orioles and a few other factors, I'd love to be at the park for the next 50 years. I want to be part of the reason that people bring their kids to the park 20 years from now.
"I don't want to be just a voice that people hear from the shadows when someone comes up to bat. I want to be someone they can talk baseball with, and can reach out to and talk about the Orioles and find out what's going on down at the Yard."
Wagner got his own mini-version of spring training before assuming his duties on Opening Day. He was in Florida to call the March 7 exhibition game.
More Front Row:
• Ryan Wagner Hopes New Job Will Last A Long Time
• Rogers Back In Action As Tour Guide At Yard
• Stevenson Lax Led By Youth Movement
• Disparate Crew Runs YOLO Racing Stables
• More Than Just Golf Is Goal At First Tee
• Columbia Will Host New Women's Race
• From The Cheap Seats
Issue 171: March 2012