Voice of the Rogers Centre talks voice-over work, his favourite players to announce, and what happens when a crowd turns ugly.
When you take in a ballgame, it’s Tim Langton’s voice you hear introducing your favourite player when he walks up to bat, reminding you not to smoke indoors, and encouraging you to get up for the seventh-inning stretch. That’s because Langton is a PA announcer for the Rogers Centre—and has been since 2005, shortly after the SkyDome was renamed. This year marks his 10th season in the role.
Langton, 54, was born in Peterborough and grew up in Kirkland Lake. He’s lived in Toronto since 1997. After he finished high school, he briefly considered joining the military, but ended up finding a job as a part-time newscaster at a local radio station. Before becoming a PA announcer, Langton ran the audio department at the Skydome, setting up playlists and mixing audio for the stadium.
He now works with a team of three other audio producers and is part of the Rogers Centre’s larger production team (which includes producers, videoboard experts, mascots, and the J-Force reps) that brings you the baseball-game experience. A typical workday is about six hours: the first three involve prep work, which includes mastering the players’ last names. “I always want to get the names right. Some people would say that it’s the opposing team, and it doesn’t matter, but it’s a professional courtesy.” He then spends about three hours announcing each game. “Oh, yeah, I’m a Jays fan.” When I ask him who his second-favourite team is, he pauses, before muttering, “Not Boston.” (And if you’re curious, his favourite Blue Jay to announce is Jose Reyes.)
Our interview with Langton—about surly crowds, baseball geniuses, and which walk-up music he’d choose for himself—is below.
Torontoist: Tell me a little bit about how you got this job. Did you have to audition?
I sat right next to the previous PA announcer and had filled in for him on a couple of occasions. I had the background, with the radio and things like that. I was actually mixing audio at the Business News Network and got a phone call. I remember it well, because it was Valentine’s Day, and it was the lady who was producing the show at the time. She said, “Would you like to be our PA announcer?” And I said, “Yeah!” It was an easy decision to make. I kind of miss programming the music and mixing audio, because I love that kind of stuff, but I still get a chance to do that in other places around here, for other events. But that’s where it came from: experience, being there, being at the right place at the right time. Any training I needed as a PA announcer, I got sitting beside Murray Eldon [the previous PA announcer] for all those years.
You do a live show every night, in front of a huge number of people often cheering for different teams. What happens to your energy levels when the crowd gets gnarly?
I have a base energy level that I never dip below. If the team’s not playing well, that doesn’t change the way I approach it. I still put the same enthusiasm into the player’s intros and things like that. Now, if things are going well, of course I’m going to get a little pumped up. I try not to take it too far over the top—maintain a little personal dignity, I guess—but it depends on the situation. If it’s a close game, and they’re blowing it out, and the crowd’s going crazy, I’ll go a little bit crazier along with them. But there’s a base level that never changes.
I’ve seen some things that I would think the people involved in would not be proud of. But that’s not something that’s generally acknowledged by video board or anything like that. We stay away from showing things like that—we don’t refer to them, and we let security handle them.
Can you tell me a little bit about your other career as a voice-over artist?
I’ve gone a lot of corporate medical, actually. I’ve done work for Sport Chek, and for some kind of supplement called Syngex, and that kind of thing. I’m also the voice of the Buffalo Bisons radio broadcast on ESPN 1520 in Buffalo. I do all the station identification and that kind of thing. I’ve got to give a plug to my agent, Roger King at PNA. I’ve been with Roger for around six years. I have a nice little studio at home, so I can do a lot of stuff there as well.
One of my favourite parts of going to live games is finding out what players have chosen as their walk-up music (Josh Reddick of the Oakland A’s recently chose Wham!’s “Careless Whisper”). What would you choose for your walk-up music?
I’ve got a couple! Just for shock value, “Great Southern Trendkill” by Pantera might be one of them. Or anything by Zeppelin or Pearl Jam. Actually, if I was a ball-player, who tend to change their music based on what they’re listening to, I would probably have a song by the Hold Steady, because that’s what I’ve been listening to a lot lately.
Do you feel nervous in front of such a large audience? What happens if you make a mistake?
It just goes out there! If it’s something big, I might say [puts on a serious voice] “Correction” or “That should be…” And I’ll just laugh it off. As much as you want to be perfect, nobody’s perfect. Sometimes you can hide it, and sometimes you can’t. Just acknowledge it, own it, and move on.
The first half of my first season, I got a few butterflies in my stomach. Now, not at all. The only time I get really nervous is the home opener, because the stadium is packed, and they’re carrying me live on radio and television. There are a lot of people listening to me at those games. But it’s not nerves, exactly. It’s more like butterflies. After getting through the opening ceremonies of the home opener, I’m always exhausted. But it’s great; I love it.
What’s your favourite part of this job?
Part of it is the incredible people we work with. We have a lot of support. We have stats people who keep things together for me. I’ll mention Alexis Brudnicki, who’s a writer for Canadian Baseball, and she knows more about baseball than I’ll ever know. She’s the one who will let me know about any changes or a pinch-hitter coming out of the dugout; she’s the one who keeps on top of that and keeps me informed. And she does an incredible job. She’s a baseball genius.
In the traditional sense and definition, sure—this is a job. But I don’t look at it that way. You wouldn’t think it, but there are moments where maybe I didn’t get enough sleep, and I’m sitting at home going, “I don’t wanna go to work today.” And then I remember that I’m going to go watch baseball and talk. And it’s like, “Okay, I can do this!”
Tim Langton is not the Rogers Centre’s only PA announcer, as this post originally implied. The Toronto Argonauts have their own PA announcer, Don Landry.