McGowan Considers Himself the Luckiest Guy at the Yard
By Staci Wolfson
He sits high behind home plate, one happy fan who attends every Orioles home game. He considers himself lucky, getting to occupy the best seat in the stadium, and for the past eight years he has been the voice of Camden Yards.
Dave McGowan, a longtime Orioles fan, replaced beloved public address announcer Rex Barney in 1998 after the Orioles Hall of Famer passed away in 1997. McGowan said he felt fortunate to follow the Baltimore legend.
"Rex was known for a lot of things and one of them was being the voice of Camden Yards, the voice of Memorial Stadium for so many years," he said. "And when you do something like that you're stepping into some pretty big shoes. So it was an honor and a privilege."
With a green plaque over his shoulder commemorating Barney's 23 years with the Orioles, McGowan said he has never tried to replace or repeat Barney's style.
As the voice of the Orioles, the former Brooklyn Dodger pitcher belted "Give that fan a contract" each time someone in the crowd shagged a foul ball. He also drew out his "thank youuuuuuu's," adding character to each Oriole home. But McGowan has not duplicated these lines.
"At the end of an announcement or a promo between innings or a pre-game ceremony or something like that, we always say thank you," he said. "The tendency is because that's all you've ever heard in Camden Yards, to drag it out like that. And if I dragged that out, just in the least little bit, somebody's going to come to me and go, 'You're not Rex Barney.'"
In order to avoid treading on Barney's memory, McGowan instead says "and thank you," and feels that along with that phrase, he has brought his own style to the Yard.
And his was the style the Orioles were looking for in the spring of 1998. McGowan, then running his own aircraft brokerage firm, sent the organization a tape of his voice and a resume. Of 320 applicants, the Arundel High School graduate was chosen from a final group of 13, despite his lack of formal voice training.
McGowan believes it's his buoyant manner that made him a perfect fit for the Orioles and Camden Yards.
"Personally, I think part of it was voice and personality and attitude," he said. "There were a lot of great voices in those 13 and probably a lot of great voices out of those 325 but they were looking for a voice that fits this venue. I came in with a very positive attitude and a commitment. I was asked if I could commit to all 81 games and I said yes."
McGowan stuck to his word. Now in his ninth season, he says he has missed five games at most. Over this span of time McGowan has had plenty of memorable moments.
Despite being the PA announcer to introduce Cal Ripken Jr. for the last time, McGowan said his absolute favorite moment repeats itself a few times each season.
"My favorite moment happens with regularity, several times throughout each season, and that is when I get to announce a player and also mention that it's his major league debut," McGowan said. "That is the biggest thrill for me. There are moments that I won't forget, but to announce a player as making his major league debut. Having been a baseball player in little league and being involved in baseball and wanting to be involved at a higher level, but 99.9 percent of us not able to, to see someone in that small percentage that actually makes it to the major leagues, whether it's for a game or for a career. To be able to say, he's making a major league debut. That tells everyone that this boy, this young man has made it. This is what he's been working for all of his baseball life. He has been working for this one moment, to make it to the major leagues and to be able to say that to the fans, it's just extremely exciting to me. I love it."
Even when the Orioles are struggling or a game looks hopeless, his enthusiasm never falters because McGowan is always keeping the firsts in mind.
"I have my own style and my style is an upbeat style," he said. "When I sit down every day, and I look out, whether or not there are 12,000 or 40,000, before I turn this microphone on every day, in my mind, the first thing I'm going to say into that mic is going to be upbeat, and it will remain that way throughout the whole game."
"For the simple reason that I don't know if that person over there, if it's their first major league ballgame. I don't know that this mom and dad over here with their three children aren't bringing their children to their first ballgame. Whether we lose or win, that's irrelevant right now.
"I want it to be a pleasurable experience so they enjoy it and they'll come back and become supporters of Major League Baseball and hopefully the Orioles. But certainly fall in love with baseball and the whole idea of coming to a stadium, Camden Yards, and enjoying themselves and wanting to come back. I want that kid out there to go, 'Wow, I'm so into this now.'"
And for the fan in McGowan the novelty just hasn't worn off. Day in and day out he sits down behind the mic, the field sprawled out beneath him, and never forgets how lucky he is.
"I'm very fortunate," said McGowan. "I'm very lucky in a sense that I was in the right place at the right time, with the right sound so that the Orioles would go, 'That's the one that we want.' And it's not, that's the one we want for this year or next year, it's that's the one we want. That's the one we're gonna keep."
McGowan has no plans to go anywhere else anytime soon.
"I'll do everything I can to keep this job," he said. "People would love to have this job, but they'll have to fight me for it."
Issue 1.11: July 6, 2006