If you have attended a Riverside-Brookfield High School baseball game recently, you probably have seen Mark Farina.
You definitely have heard him.
Farina, a Brookfield resident since 2012, is the public address announcer for the Bulldogs.
While he volunteers his services for the school, he is no mere amateur.
Farina, 56, has been a public address announcer for over 40 years, starting when we was a student at Steinmetz High School on Chicago’s Northwest Side. He has a background in radio and public relations.
“It’s exciting, it’s very time-consuming, but it’s gratifying,” Farina said of announcing duties. “I take a lot of pride in that.”
Farina, who estimates he announces about 140 games per year, works football, basketball and baseball games for several high schools, colleges and minor league baseball teams.
But he didn’t get involved at RBHS until he moved to Brookfield with his wife, Diane, and son, Lou, who is now a senior at RBHS.
“I had gone to a few of their games,” Farina said. “I walked up to the press box and introduced myself to one of the parents who was doing the P.A.
“He said, ‘would you like to sit in and do the next game?’ So I did P.A. for that game.
“Then I offered the coach, Dallas Till, to do it the next year. That’s my donation to the booster club.”
Farina, who has been a member of Kiwanis for 26 years, likes to be involved in the community. While he works for free at RBHS, he gets paid for many other gigs, including the Chicago Public League football and basketball games and several minor league baseball teams. He also is the announcer for Chicago State men’s and women’s basketball.
It began when he was a boy listening to Jack Brickhouse broadcast Chicago Cubs games. Back then, Farina’s career ambition was to either become the next announcer for the Cubs or Governor of Illinois.
Neither thing happened, but Farina has lived an interesting and varied life.
Farina started announcing games while in high school. A Public League official heard him and asked him to do the city game at Comiskey Park.
Farina studied at Illinois State and Columbia College in Chicago, working for the student radio station and announcing games at both colleges.
After college, he worked for the city of Chicago as a lab tech and photographer in the graphics department in the early 1980s, then as a writer for the Italian-American Sports Hall of Fame’s monthly magazine.
Some of the other writers on that publication went on to become well-known journalists, including Dan Pompei, John Kass, Phil Kosin, Bob LeGere and Barry Rozner.
“It was pretty cool,” Farina said. “Little did we know where some of these guys would go. We didn’t make much money.”
Farina also spent three years hosting a Sunday night sports show for radio station WTAQ. That allowed him to cover Chicago’s pro and college sports teams, including such notable teams as the 1984 Cubs, 1984 Sting and 1985 Bears.
It was heady stuff for a young man in his 20s, but as he likes to say, life got in the way, namely the need to pay the bills. When he was 30, he accepted a public relations job with the city. He spent 19 years there before being laid off in 2009.
“I didn’t actually mind,” Farina said of the job loss. “I was ready for a change. The last five years have been interesting.”
Now semi-retired, Farina announces games at least three days a week, but says it is not a hobby.
“I treat this very professionally,” Farina said. “I expect that kind of professionalism from coaches.”
Unfortunately, he doesn’t always get it.
“I’ve had a number of coaches have a kid hand-write me the roster just before the game or even at halftime,” Farina said. “I’ve had rosters where players didn’t have a number, or had the wrong number.”
That, Farina said, illustrates one of the two most important ingredients for being a quality P.A. announcer: preparation.
“Even if you’re doing college or pro, you’re going to run into a lot of different things,” Farina said. “On the high school level, unfortunately, not all schools are as organized in terms of modern technology such as the internet.
“I’ve seen the most organized high schools with complete rosters listed online in numerical order with whatever other information and schedules and results for all the different teams. Then there are other schools where I’ve found nothing online.”
Fortunately for Farina, his reputation for meticulousness precedes him.
“If I don’t have the information, I send an email three or four days in advancing saying this is who I am and what I am doing,” Farina said. “Most of the (schools) know me by now and know that I’m demanding in that area. You have to be.”
Farina does his homework so he can inform spectators. He won’t just announce names and statistics; he also tries to find out team nicknames, recent results and upcoming games, as well as the names of the school stadiums. During high school football games, he’ll announce scores of college football games, even at the Division III level.
“That’s part of my signature that I started in college,” Farina said. “People can tell that I’ve done my homework. Even the professional announcers do their homework, above and beyond the statistics sheets they get handed to them.”
The other important facet of P.A. announcing is enthusiasm for both teams.
“You’re not a cheerleader for your team,” Farina said. “Yes, you’re the home announcer and yes, you can be a little more enthusiastic when your team gets a first down or a touchdown.