"Can I sit next to you?"
I first met Carl Beane in July of 2008. A gentle, unassuming man with a deep baritone voice, Carl was just the fifth regular public address announcer in the 100-year history of Fenway Park.
When the Boston Red Sox were on the road, he'd frequently visit the ballparks around New England to talk shop, tell stories, and take in a game with fellow announcers. While he was a fan first, he certainly wasn't shy about his position. We all got to try on one of his two World Series rings (2004, 2007).
At the time, I was in my first season with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the AA minor league affiliate of the division-rival Toronto Blue Jays. Although I didn't know it then, I was segueing out of radio full-time, but nonetheless interested growing a new career behind a different microphone.
Carl was a type of mentor I was looking for. Not only was he the iconic-sounding "Voice of Fenway Park," he was featured in a major motion picture and a National Baseball Hall of Fame exhibit. He could've been aloof, yet he was appreciative and kind.
Unfortunately, our camaraderie was cut tragically short.
On May 9th, 2012, Carl suffered a fatal heart attack while driving near his home in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. The following evening, the Red Sox paid tribute by leaving his chair empty and the Fenway Park public address microphone silent.
After the initial shock of Carl's sudden passing, Red Sox president Larry Lucchino took to the airwaves on team flagship WEEI to announce the team would be holding tryouts for the position, in the form of a competition.
"What we're looking for is a rising star."
I was very familiar with this process. In the short time I knew Carl, I pushed myself to join him in the Majors, and in 2011, I was a finalist to become the new voice of baseball's other historic ballpark--Chicago's Wrigley Field.
I wanted in the mix.
After weeks of reaching out to Red Sox brass to no avail, and the frustration of seeing dozens of others rotate through the chair, I crafted a simple and direct e-mail one night to Mr. Lucchino himself:
I’m an hour away.
I have the chops.
I deserve a shot.
I received a phone call at 9:30 the next morning.
If I had to make a bold statement to get an opportunity, then I felt I needed to make an even bigger one to be seriously considered.
Fittingly, I'd be working a game versus Toronto on Friday, September 7th. A block of 55 bleacher seats was purchased just to the left of Pesky's Pole. My good friend and Fisher Cats colleague Jake Dodge designed and printed hundreds of t-shirts, rally towels, and business cards to hand out to Red Sox Nation. I did a local media blitz.
Dozens of my close friends and co-workers were in attendance spreading the gospel... rooting, promoting, tweeting.
Even my father flew up from Florida.
The support was overwhelming. The baseball game itself, however, was a near-disaster.
13.5 games out of first place two weeks earlier, the Red Sox gutted their roster by sending star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, pitcher Josh Beckett, and outfielder Carl Crawford to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a deal the Boston Globe called "the biggest Red Sox trade since Babe Ruth was dealt to the Yankees."
A severe thunderstorm caused a 1 hour, 18 minute rain delay that left Fenway Park's warning track underwater. Upon restart, and following a 1-8 West Coast road trip, the sold out crowd of 37,156 booed my very mention of beleaguered Boston manager Bobby Valentine during pregame ceremonies.
Through the first five innings, the visiting Blue Jays built a 5-0 lead off home runs from slugging first baseman Edwin Encarnación and former Fisher Cats outfielder Moises Sierra. The Sox rallied over the final three frames with a Dustin Pedroia homer of their own, but ultimately fell short 7-5.
With the loss, Boston fell to last place with a record of 63-77. They would finish the 2012 season in the division cellar.
Although I felt great about my performance, and those in the Red Sox control room were equally complimentary, it counted for little.
I was called back for yet another audition--this time a cattle-call with nearly 400 other hopefuls. On a frigid January day at Fenway, jumped back in the chair, read the same 121 words everyone else did, and that was that.
I eventually landed my own major league gig with San Diego in 2014, under then-Padres president, and until 2009, Red Sox COO Mike Dee. After announcing the 2016 MLB All-Star Game at Petco Park, Mike gave me the biggest compliment I could ask for:
"Carl would be proud."
For more of Alex's stadium announcing work at Petco Park, including the 2016 MLB All-Star Game live on FOX and 2018 Padres Opening Day, check out his Live TV & VO Demo.