Bourne's Kevin McGonagle Hopes to be Voice of Fenway
By: Michael J. Rausch
He is well known as the voice welcoming fans of the Bourne Braves of the Cape Cod Baseball League to the team’s home games at Doran Park, and if things turn out the way he hopes they will, Kevin J. McGonagle’s voice will become well known to Red Sox fans too.
Last month Mr. McGonagle auditioned to become the public address announcer at Fenway Park, hoping to join the likes of Sherm Feller, who announced Red Sox home games for 26 years, and Carl Bean, who did it for nine years before he died last May.
A native of Dorchester, Mr. McGonagle attended Emerson College, where he studied broadcast journalism. After graduating in 1983, he immediately went to work at WPLM in Plymouth, where he worked as a disc jockey, playing easy listening music such as Percy Faith and Bert Kaempfert from 6 PM to midnight.
Since then, he has worked at WFAL, WCIB, WXTK, WBSM in New Bedford, and WSAR in Fall River. His last radio job was at WQRC in Hyannis, where he worked as the station’s news director, news anchor and host of the public affairs program Sunday Journal. He left there in 2009, when work demands outweighed his salary, and he has continued to work as the Bourne Braves’ announcer while building his own business as a deejay, and a freelance voice talent.
He is also a painting contractor, which he called “steady work that paid the mortgage,” but the desire to work as an announcer in radio or TV has never gone away.
“No matter how many houses I paint, no matter how many other things I do, it’s just something that comes alive inside,” he said.
Mr. McGonagle got married in 1984, and he and his wife, Donna, moved to Bourne in 1987, where they raised their three children. Their oldest, 25-year-old Jaryd, lives in South Boston, where he is a landscape designer. They have a middle daughter, 24-year-old Laryn, who lives in Quincy, and their youngest child, 23-year-old Jordan, is attending Bridgewater State College.
Auditions For The Big Leagues
Mr. McGonagle auditioned on January 26 in the announcer’s booth at Fenway Park. He said that he did not approach the Red Sox about the announcer position in the immediate aftermath of Carl Bean’s death back in May. At the end of the season, however, he approached the president of the Cape Cod Baseball League, Judith W. Scarafile, and asked her for a contact person with the Red Sox. Mr. McGonagle was eventually put in touch with Sarah McKenna in the team’s public relations department. Ms. McKenna told him that she would contact him at the end of the season to let him know about the plans for auditions.
When I was doing it, I was like ‘I’m ready to be here, this is exactly where I want to be, to get into the rhythm of the game and to be part of the game and to know people have accepted your voice.'
He said that he did not hear from the team until January, right after New Year’s, telling him that he could choose one of two audition dates, Wednesday, January 23, or Saturday, January 26. He chose January 26, figuring it would be easier to get from Bourne to Boston that day.
But he was unaware of just how many people would be there that day.
Although he had an 11 AM appointment, they had also opened the doors that day for walk-ins. When he arrived there was a long line of people waiting to audition. Fortunately, he went to the head of the line because he had an appointment.
Many of the people who auditioned that day were there “just as a lark,” he said. “They really just wanted to sit in the seat; they really had no experience.”
He recalled that he had done some announcing at Fenway during a Cape Cod League All-Star Game, but that was a very different experience. He said, because he was down on the field that time, there was a lot of reverberation. “My voice kept coming right back at me,” he said.
He called the experience of his recent audition “phenomenal because you heard your voice just boom out.” He said that everyone auditioning was given the same script, which included a welcome to the fans, some player introductions, and inviting the crowd to sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the seventh inning stretch.
He remembered being “incredibly relaxed” as soon as he started with “Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Fenway Park.”
“When I was doing it, I was like ‘I’m ready to be here, this is exactly where I want to be, to get into the rhythm of the game and to be part of the game and to know people have accepted your voice’,’” he said.
“I felt so good about my audition, but then there was a frustration that set in about ‘what happens now?’ ” he said.
Uncertain About Chances
What exactly happens now is up in the air for Mr. McGonagle. He said he has not heard directly from the Red Sox organization since his audition. He said that he has tried to reach out to the team, but because the organization is “so vast” he has not had any luck connecting with anyone. He also said that he heard something through the grapevine that has left him uncertain about his chances at getting the job.
“They’re supposed to invite a small group down to Fort Myers [where the team holds its spring training camp in Florida] and try out some voices down there,” he said. To date, he has not been invited to spring training, he said. Adding to his frustration was the fact that the group who auditioned Wednesday night ahead of him, were interviewed individually. On Saturday when he auditioned, there were so many people at Fenway, because of all the walk-ins, the team dispensed with the individual interviews, even for those who had scheduled appointments.
The job only pays $50 a game, so that with only 81 home games a season, the job pays just a little over $4,000 for a season’s work. The appeal of the job has much more to do with the prestige that comes with being Fenway Park’s announcer.
He said that he has also heard that the regular season might begin with a group of voices being tested until the organization is certain they have found just the right voice.
“The Red Sox are very reactive, they want to hear what the response is to different voices,” he said, noting that the PA announcing voice is such a part of the overall Fenway Park experience.
He described the ideal Fenway announcer voice as one that helps people get settled in. “It can’t be a jarring voice; it has to be a voice that people are comfortable with, so that it doesn’t stand out,” he said, pointing out that the team did not recruit radio personalities with well-known voices.
Mr. McGonagle admitted that anyone looking to be the Fenway Park announcer is not doing it for the money. The job only pays $50 a game, so that with only 81 home games a season, the job pays just a little over $4,000 for a season’s work. The appeal of the job has much more to do with the prestige that comes with being Fenway Park’s announcer.
“It’s an ambassadorship,” he said, pointing out that previous announcers like Carl Bean often emceed luncheons for which they were paid better money than they made working in the booth, upwards of $2,000. Mr. McGonagle said that the $50 per game the Red Sox pay is comparable to what other baseball clubs pay their announcers, so the attraction and appeal of the job goes far beyond money.
“There’s no explaining what the job is, all you have to say is ‘the voice of Fenway’ and everyone gets it,” he said.
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