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Youth honored as youngest announcer

July 19, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

An 11-year-old Hagerstown boy may be well on his way to a potential broadcasting career after calling Friday's Hagerstown Suns game against the Delmarva Shorebirds.

Calling the game probably seemed like a routine play for Zach Spedden, who set the world record a year ago when he officially became, at 10 years old, the youngest sports commentator to call an entire baseball game.

The Suns organization honored Zach, a home-schooled youngster who will be at the sixth-grade level in the fall, by presenting him with a Guinness World Records certificate for calling all nine innings of the Aug. 25, 2002, Suns game against the Kannapolis Intimidators on WHAG radio.

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The organization then surprised Zach during the on-the-field presentation by telling him he would be calling Friday's Suns/Shorebirds game.

"We wanted to catch him off-guard," Suns General Manager Kurt Landes said.

"Sounds good," Zach calmly said when told he would be announcing.

Still, Landes said he noticed Zach "shaking with excitement."

Zach, a fan of the Baltimore Orioles and the Suns' Major League Baseball affiliate, the San Francisco Giants, said he would have no problem stepping in without notice or preparation time. He said he has plenty of practice doing play-by-play from calling everything from video baseball games in his bedroom to Suns games from the stands.

"It's a lot of fun doing it," he said. "I sit in a room playing PlayStation and doing the games. I've been doing it since I was 6."

Landes said the Suns chose Zach to call the game early last summer after noticing his talent during one of the team's fan interactive Saturday broadcasts.

"Zach had always excelled compared to others we approached, and he was much more than enthusiastic," Landes said.

A few months later, the Suns received confirmation Zach's achievement was a world record.

The accomplishment seemed to worked out well for everyone involved.

Zach's performance last year garnered the Suns one of five ESPN Veeckies awards, the minor league baseball equivalent to the network's ESPY sports awards, for Outstanding Achievement in New (Young) Media. Meanwhile, it got Zach thinking about a career behind the microphone.

"(Calling the game) is what led me to wanting to be a broadcaster," Zach said. "If I can't get into playing, I'd love to be a broadcaster."

John Michael, in his first year as a commentator with WHAG, said his young partner was doing a great job with Friday's game and had "all the knowledge you could ask for" in the booth. Michael said the experience was "odd, but neat."

As for a repeat performance, Zach said he would be glad to step in any time WHAG wanted him.

"I'll come in any day not expecting it, and I could do it," he said.

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