21st of Jun | Story

First person: John Maedel


CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee | John Maedel mixes Red Bull and orange Gatorade, all without sugar, before every Chattanooga Lookouts home game, then drinks the result over the next two or three or four hours. “It’s a little bit about staying hydrated,” he says, “but it’s more about keeping my mouth and throat moist throughout the game. 

“And yes, I’ve absolutely coughed right into the microphone by accident.”

Maedel is the public address announcer for the Lookouts — not to mention the team vice president and assistant general manager — a position he stumbled into a dozen years ago as an intern. Along with stadium operations director/second radio broadcaster Will Poindexter and media relations director/on-field emcee Peter Intza, he is one of three Lookouts front office staffers who juggle ridiculously different responsibilities. He shares wisdom about multitasking and stories from behind the mic.

It’s probably safe to say the three of us wear the most hats. NOW BATTING, THE THIRD BASEMAN, NO. 34, PEDRO BAEZ. We just try to take the philosophy you can do the same amount of work with less people. It’s just the work ethic we’ve committed ourselves to. And here comes a contest. ALL RIGHT, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, PETE’S BACK DOWN THE THIRD BASELINE. HE’S GOING TO BRING YOU TONIGHT’S OLD MILL KETTLE CORN DIZZY BAT RACE. Dizzy bat race being a staple of minor league promotions. It’s kind of timeless. The best part is when they fall down. One of these kids is definitely going to fall. AND CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR WINNERS. THANKS TO OUR FRIENDS AT OLD MILL KETTLE CORN FOR BRINGING US TONIGHT’S DIZZY BAT RACE. FRIENDS, YOU CAN PICK UP A BAG OF OLD MILL KETTLE CORN AT THE CONCESSIONS STANDS RIGHT HERE AT AT&T FIELD. MAKE A GREAT SNACK CHOICE WITH OLD MILL KETTLE CORN. LEADING OFF FOR THE BLUE WAHOOS, THIRD BASEMAN, NO. 30, DAVID VIDAL. We looked at other staffs, teams in our league, similar-sized towns that draw similarly — and it’s certainly no offense to them, it’s just the way they do it — but you look at their staffs and sometimes they’re twice as big as ours, and I just wonder what they do all day.

"On a Friday night with 6,000 people here, about halfway through the season, the guy didn’t show. Our owner at the time came up about a half hour before the game started and said, ‘I know you’re going to be terrified of this, but you’re going to do p.a. tonight.’ And I was horrible the first night. NOW BATTING, THE FIRST BASEMAN, NO. 20, YORDANYS PEREZ." — Chattanooga p.a. announcer John Maedel

This is my 13th season. I started as an intern in 2000. NOW BATTING, THE LEFTFIELDER, NO. 11, ANDREW MEANS. I needed to do an internship to finish my sport management degree,  and I thought I would spend a summer learning about the industry, get a great recommendation and move on to either another team or do something else. I really liked Chattanooga, they offered me a full-time position and I snapped it up. I’ve had other opportunities, but I like who I’ve worked with and worked for and never had a reason to move. I met my wife here, we have a home here, and now we have a little boy and a dog. We’re kind of dug in.

My intern year, one of my responsibilities was running the music in the press box and we used to have a rotating group of radio personalities who handled the p.a. duties. On a Friday night with 6,000 people here, about halfway through the season, the guy didn’t show. Our owner at the time came up about a half hour before the game started and said, ‘I know you’re going to be terrified of this, but you’re going to do p.a. tonight.’ And I was horrible the first night. NOW BATTING, THE FIRST BASEMAN, NO. 20, YORDANYS PEREZ. It was pretty brutal the first night. It happened three or four times the first season, when I just had to fill in. After the season, they went, ‘Why are we paying somebody else to do this?’ 

You could probably train a chimp to do this, but not in one day.

LEADING OFF FOR THE LOOKOUTS, THE LEFTFIELDER, NO. 27, KYLE RUSSELL. If you have throw in exhibition games, I don’t know, about 850, something like that. 

I don’t really watch a lot of baseball. I’ll explain in a second. NOW BATTING, THE SHORTSTOP, NO. 8, JAKE LEMMERMAN. As soon as I announce a batter, I look down, because I have a detailed script with the promotions and lineups in front of me, and I have a book that has all the p.a. reads. I just announced our shortstop, so I look down and I think, ‘All right, we have this race, so are we prepared for that?’ I just keep my eye on the game so I don’t miss a batter, which happens. I think it happens to every p.a. announcer. I look up and we’re two pitches into an at-bat, and you go ‘Whoops.’ You end up remembering very little from each game. After a season’s over, there are a handful of moments I’ll remember. That’s it. The job in general shocks people. You don’t stop. NOW BATTING, THE CATCHER, NO. 28, MATT WALLACH.

Most of the time, when the visiting radio broadcaster gives you the roster, there’s a pronunciation guide on there. I took Spanish a long time, so most of the Latin names don’t give me any trouble, but with the influx of some Asian players, some of those are tricky. They don’t roll off the tongue. Every once in a while, you’ll get to one, there’s no pronunciation guide and you have no idea how to pronounce his name. That’s when you go, ‘Sorry, man.’ ALL RIGHT, FOLKS. LOOK ON TOP OF THE FIRST BASE DUGOUT AND THE THIRD BASE DUGOUT. LOUIE’S ON THIRD AND LOUISE IS ON FIRST AND THEY’RE GOING TO BRING YOU TONIGHT’S HIXSON TRANSMISSION SQUISHY BALL TOSS! HIXSON TRANSMISSION AND TOTAL CAR CARE IS YOUR COMPLETE AUTOMOTIVE REPAIR SHOP. IF YOUR CAR SMOKES, SQUEAKS, SQUEALS, SHUDDERS OR STOPS, TAKE IT TO HIXSON!

I’ve missed two games in 13 seasons. I wasn’t sick. One was the wedding of a good, good friend that I didn’t feel like I could miss, and I’m glad I didn’t. The other was the birth of my son. It happened in August three years ago, August 11, and it happened the last day of a home stand. It was induced, so it wasn’t a surprise, so I prepared Will, our No. 2 broadcaster, and just had him do a couple mock innings. He stepped in and did a great job. 

If I had attended a ball game instead of the birth of my little boy, I probably wouldn’t be married anymore.

At some point, I will stop doing this. NOW BATTING, THE SHORTSTOP, NO. 18, DIDI GREGORIOUS. I do enjoy it, but there are times when I think it would be great for me to be down in the crowd, talking with our clients and sponsors and season ticket holders a little more than I do. But it’s fun.


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Time for minor league trivia. The Lookouts are named after Lookout Mountain, part of the Cumberland Plateau and a major geographic attraction around Chattanooga. The Lookouts also share a moniker with the old Lookout Bakery, long purported to be the first to churn out what regional sugary delicacy? (Keep reading for the answer.)

Our home team win streak stretched to four thanks to three early Lookouts runs and just enough good pitching for a 3-2 win over the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. With two outs in the bottom of the fourth, leftfielder Kyle Russell walked, shortstop Jake Lemmerman doubled him home and catcher Matt Wallach singled to score Lemmerman. After the Blue Wahoos scored a run in the top of the fifth, centerfielder Nick Buss doubled, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a wild pitch. Righty Allen Webster pitched six innings and allowed two unearned runs on three hits for the win.

Last August, right around the end of another season, Peter Intza asked his girlfriend, Lauren, to marry him. She said yes, they hugged and celebrated immediately, then shared the news and started to plan the biggest and most overwhelming day of their lives. The only catch, because Intza was and is still is the aforementioned media relations director and on-field emcee, was that anything between April and August might prove a challenge. Still, after less than a year of planning, they ironed every wrinkle and married in June. How did they make it work? “It was certainly tough,” Intza says. “When we got engaged, we knew the 2012 schedule. We found the venue and then we were looking at the schedule. Obviously, we had to do it when the team was on the road. We thought RiverBend week would be best — that’s when we have a big music festival and the team’s on the road for two weeks — and the venue had one of those weekends off. That’s exactly what we did.” If all that sounds a little too easy, well, it probably was. The two dated for a few years and from “the minute she met me,” Intza says, “I was working in baseball. She’s conditioned to the long hours during the season.” No word yet on the logistics of anniversary dinners.

Want the answer? Why, Moon Pies, of course. Originally a couple of round graham crackers stuffed with marshmallow and dipped in chocolate (or vanilla, or banana, or coconut), the Moon Pie was a Chattanooga specialty for years, especially when coupled with an RC Cola. Still manufactured in Chattanooga, you can find them now in stores around the country. They taste better in Tennessee, though.

And in random statistical news, the game started two minutes late, the first pitch was a ball, the first batter walked on four pitches, the first time that happened all season, and a church youth group sang the national anthem in a crisp 1 minute, 4 seconds. We ate chicken tenders upstairs, then shared some popcorn with Carolyn’s parents downstairs. We enjoyed the real treat, though, hours before the first pitch: Ben & Jerry’s scoops from a shop not far from AT&T Field. Tough to beat Oatmeal Cookie Chunk or Americone Dream or the old standby, Chubby Hubby. Oh, and we ate a couple of Double Decker Moon Pies. Had to.

Matt@AMinorLeagueSeason.com ♦ @MattLaWell ♦ @AMinorLgSeason

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