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At the mike, Monroe man lives his dream

06/15/2015, 12:00am EDT
By By MATT THOMPSON  BLADE STAFF WRITER

Tigers’ PA announcer Vergiels honed his style with Storm, Mud Hens

Monroe man lives his dream

Bobb Vergiels, a 63-year-old Monroe native and resident, has been the Tigers’ public-address announcer since 2004. The Blade/Matt Thompson

DETROIT — Bobb Vergiels sipped his warm tea before roaring into his microphone for 37,411 to hear at Comerica Park as the Oakland A’s faced the hometown Tigers June 4.

The 63-year-old Monroe native and resident has been the Tigers’ public-address announcer since 2004. His start came in Toledo, working for now-disbanded Toledo Storm of the East Coast Hockey League  and later the Mud Hens.

He reminds people this part-time job, which he does while also working full time at Monroe City Schools, makes him “the luckiest man he’s ever met.”

Before games, he lets fans know to refrain from foul language, familiarizes them with emergency procedures, and reminds them not to drink and drive. Then he gets to introduce fan-favorite pitchers and hitters as the crowd roars for names like Miguel Cabrera.

“The human voice is a tremendous tool that can take out a crowd or bring them up,” Mr. Vergiels said. “I get nervous for every game. At first I got nervous because I didn’t want to mess up and lose my job. Now I’m nervous because people expect me to be perfect.”

He wears a Tigers 2006 American League Championship ring and 1993-1994 Storm ring on his right hand, and a Tigers 2012 American League Championship ring on his left. 

The director of broadcasting and in-game entertainment loves the energy the announcer brings. “Bobb brings a lot of life both to our booth and the stadium,” Stan Fracker said. “When you talk to Bobb, the No. 1 thing is how much pride he has in what he does. He takes it seriously and it permeates through our control room.”

Next month he’ll have worked his 3,500th game. He’s spread them out mostly between the Toledo Walleye, Storm, and Mud Hens; Wayne State football and basketball, and University of Michigan basketball and baseball.

His style has evolved since his 1991 start with the Storm.

“I realized it’s not a one-man show,” he said. “With the Toledo Storm I was a little over the top. Not one person paid a penny to hear or see me, they came to see these [players].”

Two World Series appearances, the 2005 All-Star Game, and Justin Verlander’s first no-hitter in 2007 are a few of his highlights. He also recalled that during a 2006 World Series game he couldn’t take a painkiller for a kidney stone because he was on national television.

Mr. Vergeils says his most difficult moment was introducing legendary Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell on Sept. 16, 2009, for what would be his last public appearance. Mr. Harwell died the next spring.

“Unbeknownst to me, CNN and ESPN carried my intro and I didn’t know,” he said. “I was about to cry, that was one of the toughest things I had to say. He was saying goodbye to a city and state that he loved, and they loved him.”

Those are pretty incredible experiences for someone who grew up in Monroe listening to the Tigers on the radio, rooting for his favorite player, right fielder Rocky Colavito.

When he’s not at a field, court, or diamond telling fans what they need to know, Mr. Vergiels is the Monroe schools’ community engagement coordinator. During Tigers day games he works from 6 to 10 a.m. in his office before leaving for his Comerica Park office, then returns to the school district from about 6 to 9 p.m. He also volunteers as an interview coach and is working with several girls for the Miss Michigan Outstanding Teen Pageant.

After the A’s game he worked with Darbi Dombrowski — daughter of Dave Dombrowski, the Tigers’ president, chief executive officer, and general manager — for the pageant. That meant an even later night in the office. But Mr. Vergiels loves how busy he is, because he loves what he’s doing.

“You have to schedule very tightly and don’t have time for yourself,” he said. “I have a gift I want to share until I’m not invited back. 

“This is a tremendous team I grew up watching. I think I was born to do this job. My ultimate goal was to do play by play, but this second prize is not bad.”

Contact Matt Thompson at: mthompson@theblade.com, 419-356-8786, or on Twitter at @mthompson25.

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Tag(s): Pro  Tigers