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Money where his mouth is

Suns' Reeder is first-ever sponsored PA man

Suns' Reeder is first-ever sponsored PA man

May 14, 2004|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

Rick Reeder is a firm believer in free speech.

"My parents said I was vaccinated with a phonograph needle," said Reeder, the Hagerstown Suns public address announcer at Municipal Stadium. "I switch on and just start talking. I just love talking to people."

To Reeder, talk has always been cheap. Until now.

Reeder's excitable syllables now have a price tag as he is the first public address announcer in professional baseball history to be commercially sponsored. Maryland Talks, a Hagerstown-based telecommunications company, has bought the rights to Reeder's vocal cords for the 2004 season.

"It's a matter of being in the right place at the right time, I guess," Reeder said. "I wasn't sure about it at first, but it's kind of nice to be in on a ground-breaking level of something."

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Reeder's sponsorship is the brainchild of Suns general manager Kurt Landes, a wizard when it comes to creating promotional ideas for the Class A South Atlantic League affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. Landes created a promotion that gave away a free funeral last season, a ploy which gave the Suns national acclaim, including awards from minor league baseball and ESPN The Magazine.

"We're thrilled to have initiated this one-of-a-kind sponsorship," Landes said. "We look to find natural ties between sponsors and our entertainment brand. Maryland Talks and our own talkative Rick Reeder was a match made in baseball heaven."

Overall, the sponsorship hasn't changed Reeder. He still does the voice-overs for all of the Suns announcements and between-inning promotions. He will represent Maryland Talks in all 70 home games and any public appearances.

"The neat thing for me is that before this promotion, I found out that I was one of 160 people in minor league baseball to do this job," Reeder said. "That's neat. I just love to sit up here (in the pressbox) and just be able to watch baseball. I'm a purist. Woolie B. and all the promos are fine, but I just love the baseball."

But now, he does it wearing a shirt covered with Maryland Talk logos, especially while he makes the rounds through the Municipal Stadium crowd in the bottom of the first inning when fans get the opportunity to introduce Suns batters when they come to the plate. He also anchors the Suns' post-game Launch-a-Ball contest.

"I know in the minors, you have to promote things to get people to come out to the game," Reeder said. "There will always be a Mike Veeck personality out there who will come out with someway to promote something. To me, it's just nice to see Maryland Talks is happy with what I'm doing with the promotion."

Reeder, who is also the PA announcer for Hagerstown Community College basketball games at the school's athletic complex, won't have any added features. There is no truth to the rumor that everything he says is free after 7 p.m. or that he's able to have unlimited talking on weekends.

And even as the first-ever sponsored PA announcer, Reeder has bigger aspirations.

"Being the first sponsored PA guy is nice, but I want to get a bobblehead doll just like Lou Scally," Reeder said, with a smile.

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