My Public Address Announcer Journey

In casual conversations with folks, the topic often comes around to work and hobbies. Outside of my satisfying day job as a Director of a software company called Quantrix, one of the things I like to do is to be a public address announcer for sporting events. When I tell people that I am a public address announcer often the question I get is "You are on TV / Radio?". They are thinking that I am a sports broadcast commentator. At that point my response is "I am the guy you hear over the loudspeaker at a stadium." That usually clears it up most of the time. Then they ask "How did you get started doing that?".

This blog post is the long answer to that question. Being a PA announcer is one of those things that the fans don't always intentionally notice at a game but the PA announcer can be an important part of the game experience. Alternatively, it can be major distraction for the players and fans if done poorly. Here are some words about my journey to be a PA announcer.

Why be a PA Announcer?

It started in high school in the mid 1980's when I played for the Madison (Maine) High School Bulldogs basketball team. For the 1984-85 season I was fortunate
Newspaper photo from a tourney game at the Augusta Civic Center. I am #32.
to make the varsity team as a sophomore. We had a special team that year and played three tournament games at the Augusta Civic Center resulting in a regional championship. We played, and unfortunately lost, the state final in a close game at the historic Bangor Auditorium. I played for coach Jim Bessey. Coach Bessey was an intense coach and I did everything possible in practice to not give him a reason to yell at me! However, I learned a lot of valuable life lessons from Coach Bessey and I am glad I have had that experience.

Since I was buried on the bench my sophomore year, I was able to soak in the sights and sounds of the tournament games while cheering on my teammates. One of the things I noticed at these tournament games was the PA announcer and how it contributed to the arena atmosphere. Hearing the player names over the arena speakers... the roar of the crowd... the whole tournament arena experience was just really cool to me. Unfortunately my junior and senior year we never made it back down to Augusta so I never got to hear over the arena public address system:

"Starting at Guard... a 6 foot Senior... #32... Mike Salisbury!" 

However, the memory of that tournament run and experiencing the tournament atmosphere is still quite vivid for me.

Life rolled on. After college, I married my high school sweetheart and our two wonderful boys came into our lives. I would make occasional trips to the basketball tournament and local basketball games to soak in the sights and sounds of high school sports. I would always notice the PA announcer and wonder... could I do that? It became apparent early-on that my boys did not pick up any basketball genes (not that I had a whole bunch to give them) but the whole family developed a love for alpine skiing. Thus, I started up this ski blog to journal our adventures together and more recently, added a section to my blog titled Maine Sports to capture some other experiences.

The Beginning

In 2009 my dad passed away. He was a great man and was a fan of anything I or my family did. He was relatively young when he died of cancer. After he died, I thought to myself that my time on this earth is short and you need to scratch the itches while you can. Doing stadium public address announcing was just one of those itches for me.

Our hometown high school in Freeport, Maine was starting up a first year varsity football program. I sent a note to the football booster president that read:

"This may already be taken care of, but just wanted to check if you know who is going to be a PA announcer for the home Varsity football games this fall. I would have an interest in doing this if the football club is looking for someone. Thanks! -Mike"

Thankfully, I got an enthusiastic yes and I started to scratch that itch. Being a young football
program, wins were few and far between and I likely made a lot of mistakes on the microphone. However, going into it I had this rule in mind about how I was going to do PA announcing.

Doing PA for a Freeport HS Football Game
The PA announcers job is to shine the spotlight on the players on the field and keep the fans informed and engaged in the game action... And pronounce the player names correctly!

The game is not about me! When I leave a game I want people to think about the game itself. They should be reflecting on the thrilling plays, their son / daughter's / favorite player's effort and performance in the game and the excitement of the competition. If they are thinking about me, the PA announcer, after a game that is probably not a good thing. A good PA will fit into the flow of the game and be a natural part of the event. A good PA always checks name pronunciation's before games and does their best to get it right. A bad PA that yells, talks too much, fumbles excessively over names or is an overt cheerleader for the home team will stick out like sore thumb and detract from the game experience for all involved.

So I honed my craft with Freeport football and Freeport's Athletic Administrator Craig Sickles started having me do PA announcing for the basketball games as well. I started getting the hang of changing the inflection of my voice when the home team did something good, but always showing respect for the opponents. I stumbled over some tough names (and still do sometimes) but always checked pronunciations with coaches and did my best to get them right. I was starting to get pretty good and received a lot of positive compliments. I began to wonder if I could "move up" to bigger events. In order to do that I knew I needed to get more experience.

Bowdoin College

So I started to knock on some doors to see if I could do PA announcing for some different teams. One of these doors I knocked on was Bowdoin College. Via email and networking I started to make some contacts with the athletic administration at Bowdoin and my name was passed around to the appropriate people. Then in the summer of 2011, I got an email from Bowdoin's sports information director Jim Caton that said:

I'd like to gauge your interest in doing public address for our home football games this fall... we're beginning to 'raise our game' as far as game operations are concerned with football and I'd be interested in seeing if you'd like to give it a shot this autumn. 

I was in! Bowdoin football is one oldest programs around. The program started in 1889 and they play their games in a very historic setting at Whittier Field. I remember well my opening welcome to the fans over the PA system at my first game. I said the conference name as individual letters N-E-S-C-A-C instead of one word NESCAC. Jim was kind enough to gently correct me and I was off and running into a great partnership with Bowdoin and with Jim. Above is a recording of some in-game PA for Bowdoin Football.

I found the college football game fascinating. Even at Division III, these players are fast, strong and very athletic. These are former stars from their high school coming together to play on Saturday afternoons for their college team. It was my first experience to getting pre and in-game information from a sports information director, being prompted for in-game reads and interfacing with webcast game production hosts. A very professional production! My youngest son was able to spot for me so it was great to share that experience with him as well. Seeing the charcoal smoke rising from the tailgating lots filled to the brim with fans and experiencing the roar of the crowd during a big Colby vs. Bowdoin rivalry game was (and still is) a thrill to be part of.

Best seat in the house... Morrell Gym at Bowdoin College
I started to inquire with Jim if I could PA the Bowdoin basketball games, as basketball is really my first love for PA announcing. I had to wait a couple of season's as they already had an announcer but I was able to fill-in a couple of times. I was then offered the opportunity the main PA announcer for basketball in 2015 which I gladly accepted.

Basketball is a sport where as the PA announcer, you get the best seat at the house right at center court. You literally feel the energy of the game as they players run by, sense the anticipation of the substitutes waiting to check in and the hear the intensity of the coaches as they instruct their teams and argue with the officials. And like I experienced in college football, the college basketball game has a level of intensity and athleticism that is thrilling to be part of. I have been fortunate to be able to be the PA Announcer for NESCAC playoff and NCAA tournament basketball games that Bowdoin has hosted.

Being the PA announcer for the Bowdoin women's basketball program is especially rewarding for me. For one, they are consistently one of the best Division III basketball programs in the country. Secondly, their coach Adrienne Shibles is someone I have known since my childhood. Adrienne's mother and my mother were roommates and close friends at UMaine and our families often spent time together when I was growing up. I have fond memories of shooting baskets with Adrienne and her brother in their driveway and hitting baseballs over their chicken barn for home runs. Additionally, the Shibles family were very supportive of my family when my parents struggled with health issues. So it is gratifying for me to give back to Adrienne and her parents in a small way through my participation in her teams games as the PA announcer. This is a video of me doing the starting lineups for a Bowdoin Women's basketball game.

So while I love doing Bowdoin events, I still find time to do as many Freeport High School football and basketball games as possible. I don't want to forget where my roots are, and I enjoy helping the game experience for the fans and the student-athletes on the floor representing my home town.

The Journey to a Championship

Getting a couple of season's under my belt at Bowdoin really started to open some doors for me in the Maine PA announcer scene. I started doing PA for the Maine Sabers, a local semi-pro football team. I started knocking on the door of the Maine Principal's Association (MPA) which conducts the high school sports state championships. After a few knocks I was invited to do PA for a MPA State Field Hockey Championship which was a fun experience. I PA'd the Western Maine Conference Cheering championships which was immensely rewarding. Those cheerleading teams bring tremendous energy to the gym! Other local high schools started calling me to do fill-in's for football when their regular PA person could not make a game. My name was starting to get out there in the Maine PA circles. 

Still, I had a strong desire to do PA for the MPA Maine High School basketball tournament. I knocked on the door from time to time but all the PA spots were full. I was finding being a PA announcer for a state basketball tournament is a bit of a "lifetime appointment" so to speak. Then in the fall of 2016, I figured out the name of the site director for the basketball tournament in Portland. I emailed him directly asking about availability to PA the tournament and he responded that he would get back to me after an educational conference he was participating in concluded. I happened to know that Freeport's athletic adminstrator Craig Sickles was at that same conference. I quickly contacted Craig and he put in a good word for me. Luck be had there was an opening and soon after, I got an official invite to be part of the PA announcer team for the MPA basketball tournament. 

On February 12, 2016, I took a deep breath... tried to settle my nerves... and announced into the microphone:

"Good evening ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Portland Exposition Building for the 2016 Maine High School Invitational Basketball Tournament..."

It was a "complete the circle" moment for me and a very satisfying feeling. Later in the tournament, I was able to PA the Boys Class A Regional Basketball Final at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. It was a most rewarding experience!

What's Next

In January, 2017, I was invited to be the PA announcer at a Bowdoin Women's hockey game at Fenway Park in Boston. What a thrill to hear my voice bouncing around this historic venue as seen in the video below! I also PA'd my first MPA high school football state championship in the fall of 2017 at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. In March, 2017, I was the PA announcer for the America East Conference Division I Women's basketball tournament in Portland and plan to do this event again in 2018. I continue to do PA for the MPA high school state basketball tournament in Portland. Of course Freeport and Bowdoin football and basketball are still mainstays on my schedule. Throughout all this I have enjoyed getting to know other PA announcers in Maine in-person and throughout the country via social media.

I am pretty happy doing what I am currently doing. I sometimes dream about being the PA announcer for the Celtics, or an NCAA Division I "March Madness" basketball tournament game or maybe even an NFL team. To get exposure for those opportunities I would have to move to a city. I love living in Maine with my family and enjoying the quality of life here. Moving to a city just does not appeal to me. I think I have a good sounding voice, but I don't have the 'big arena quality' voice some of those big time PA announcers have. PA announcing is a passion of mine but it would be difficult to make it a career. Most all of the PA's I know, even the ones I read about for professional teams, work a day job. Fortunately my day job gives me the flexibility to do PA announcing, and I am able to use the money I earn from PA announcing to pay for playing golf during the Maine summers. 

I ran into my high school basketball coach Jim Bessey at a game at Bowdoin in December, 2017. He is now an assistant coach at the University of Maine at Farmington and I had not seen him in over 25 years. After the game was over I re-introduced myself and we exchanged pleasantries. I told him I was the PA announcer for the game his team just played in and he said "I don't remember you having such a good voice Mike". I told him I was just the quiet kid at the end of his bench. Jim then told me "Yes that is right. You were buried on my bench!". I am surprised Coach Bessey didn't make me do wind sprints at that point! However, It was nice to receive a compliment from him on my PA abilities. He is not an easy man to impress.

Each of us has a passion. Some can turn those passions into a career. When that is not really possible, we have to fulfill and fit in our passions into our lives in the best way we know how. I am glad I am able to fulfill one of my passions through helping others enjoy participating in and watching sporting events in Maine. I will keep scratching that itch as long as I can!


  1. Good for you Mike! I’m just glad I can say I knew you when...

  2. Mike - a great read. As a fellow PA announcer I can relate to this story. We have similar feelings about the gig and working with you over the last few years has been a real pleasure. I am proud to be part of this "club". Thank you for sharing this story. I look forward to working with you in the coming years.

  3. Loved reading this, Mike - thanks for sharing your story. Two things: Jim Caton is a great buddy of mine... worked with him for a few years at Bowdoin ca. 1999-2006. Also, I will dispute that the Freeport-to-Bowdoin progression is the "move up" that you portray... I can't imagine anything more big-time than Working the Nest in Freeport! Keep up the good work. It's fun working with you, and great to have you serving our community.

Hi - thanks for taking the time to comment. Please keep the comments on-point and lets be nice to each other!


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A Family Skiing in Maine: My Public Address Announcer Journey
My Public Address Announcer Journey
A Family Skiing in Maine
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