By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
After the Princeton Rays take their final practice swings this evening in Danville, and the umpire yells “Play ball!” to start their Appalachian League season, a man with more than 26 years of radio experience will be behind his microphone to explain every inning over the air.
Garry Griffith, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., is the new broadcaster for the 68 games of the rookie-league team. All games will air on the Internet and on 102.3 FM, with road games also being carried locally on WAEY 1490 AM and 103.3 FM.
He said in an interview earlier this week, “I’m looking forward to working here this summer, broadcasting these games, and hope that people will definitely tune in.”
For 15 years, Griffith has broadcast minor league baseball games in places like Myrtle Beach; Fayetteville, N.C.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Great Falls, Mont.; and Normal, Ill. He’s also covered men’s and women’s basketball, most recently for Newberry (S.C.) College.
Princeton general manager Jim Holland said, “His experience and heavy familiarity with the inner workings of minor league baseball will be a huge plus for us.”
In addition, Griffith is an associate professor of communications for Francis Marion College in Florence, S.C. His classes include Intro to Sports Broadcasting and Sports Media and Society.
“That’s my main job, now,” he said, adding with a smile, “However, if the New York Yankees or Tampa Bay Rays do call me, I am available.”
Since he has no college commitments between mid-May and late August, “Short-season pro baseball fits my schedule very well,” he said.
Covering games helps him keep his instruction focused. “Sports broadcasting is something I’m a practitioner of, as well as teaching it,” he said. “Theory is theory, but sooner or later, you have to do it.”
He has a respect for his job behind the microphone. He said, as if in a college lecture, “Don’t take it for granted. Don’t assume it’s a right. It is a privilege to do this. So when Jim Holland called me, I quickly realized this is going to be a real privilege to broadcast.”
“Whether it’s the Princeton Rays or a Triple-A team, or a Major League Baseball team, it’s a continuum. It’s still the sport of baseball, and it’s still the art of broadcasting.”
From a veteran’s standpoint, he said, “Like anything else, I have to get in a rhythm. Baseball’s very much about rhythm. ... You have to keep your cool the best you can. ... Then I’ll be off and running.”
He is also the author of a book about his sports-related travels, "Meandering through the Minor Leagues," published last August.
He said he has found the Appalachian League to be “full of history,” the mountains to be “very pretty” and the people around Princeton to be “fantastic. Everyone’s been extremely nice.”
“The coaching staff here is interesting,” he said. “I have a great respect for (manager) Danny Sheaffer. ... He’s been in the big leagues. He is a great resource for these young players to listen to, because he’s been all over the spectrum, from high school to college baseball to minor leagues, through pro baseball.”
He also noted one of the many coincidences in the world of baseball. When he was broadcasting for Myrtle Beach in 2005, he visited Salem, Va., where Reinaldo Ruiz was playing in the minors at the time. Ruiz is now Princeton’s batting coach.
Griffith said, “Baseball announcers, even more than basketball and football announcers, become part of your family, because they’re with you two, three, four, five months of the year if you choose to listen to them. You get to know them at the ballpark.”
He said he has already talked to people who said, “We’ve heard about you and we look forward to hearing you. ... It’s very encouraging.” He referenced Mark Twain’s quote, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”
He said, “Life is going so fast, (but) it really doesn’t take much to encourage people, and it goes a long way. Never think that it doesn’t.”
Griffith is taking over the radio coverage after Kyle Cooper spent the past five years in the job. Cooper was hired this month to be the radio “Voice of the Osprey” for the Missoula, Mont., entry in baseball’s Pioneer League.
— Contact Tom Bone