Massaponax football stadium announcer talks about his national award and the future
FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (BVM) — The work of a public address announcer during sporting events may not be the most glamorous. They don’t throw touchdowns, rack up strikeouts or dunk basketballs, but the games wouldn’t be the same without them.
For many fans, these seemingly disembodied voices are nothing more than speakable directions telling fans to all rise for the national anthem or to please drive home safely. Although these announcers are a part of some of the most important aspects of the pregame and postgame traditions such as the lineup/team introductions and play-by-play for the fans in the stands, much of their work goes otherwise unnoticed by the ravenous fanatics during gameplay.
But this past fall, Massaponax High School P.A. announcer Matt Kreitz finally got his turn in the spotlight amongst the team he has helped introduce for nearly two decades.
Kreitz, the school’s P.A. announcer for 18 years, was named the recipient of the National Association of Sports Public Address Announcers 2019 Bob Sheppard P.A. Announcer of the Year for high schools. The award is given by the NASPAA each year to public address announcers at the high school, junior college, NAIA, NCAA and non-school amateur levels.
“It’s great to be recognized for doing something that is a passion of mine,” Kreitz said. “To be recognized at the national level by this organization that has members that include even those at the professional sports level. … I can’t even describe it. It was just an incredible opportunity to be recognized for something I just love to do.”
The award gets its name from legendary P.A. announcer Bob Sheppard, who was the stadium announcer for the New York Yankees for 57 years and is considered to be one of the best sports P.A. announcers ever. The NASPAA was happy to present the award to Kreitz for his work behind the mic.
“There are some really good announcers at the high school level, and Matt is certainly one the best,” said Brad Rumble, NASPAA executive director. “The NASPAA is thrilled to have the opportunity to recognize him. We know that he will not only be a tremendous ambassador for P.A. announcing professionalism, but will represent the best of Bob Sheppard in helping perpetuate his legacy.”
The process to selecting winners is no simple task. Nominations are submitted by the respective high school’s athletic director who must include an MP3 audio clip of the announcer doing five different calls: a welcome/opening announcement, an introduction of some starters for home and opponents, two reads — the national anthem and the sponsor read, special presentation, or an upcoming school event or activity, and some game/event action. The nominations are then reviewed by a committee made up of former and current professional announcers from across the professional sports world as well as other industry leaders.
For winning the award, Kreitz was honored during halftime of the Massaponax Panthers football regular season finale against North Stafford on Nov. 1. During the ceremony, Kreitz received a championship ring from Balfour, one of the award’s sponsors. Kreitz, not one to celebrate alone, brought his wife and two children with him on the field and had a group of approximately two dozen friends along with other family members cheering him on from the sidelines.
“While it was an individual award I definitely had to credit my family and all the fans at Massaponax,” Kreitz said. “It was a very special night. … It was really, truly an incredible two minutes of my life to be surrounded with friends and family, all the Massaponax’s school, administration, fans, community. It was spectacular.
The ring has a blue stone surrounded by the words, “PA Announcer of the Year 2019.” On one side of the ring it has Krietz’s name above the numeral one with “HS” in the middle signifying high school while the other side has NASPAA with a microphone.
Just over a week after his ceremony, Kreitz received another surprise when he was invited to West Virginia University’s football game against Texas Tech by their P.A. announcer Bill Nevin, who was the recipient of the NASPAA award at the NCAA level.
“(Nevin) found me on Facebook and sent me a private message on Facebook just congratulating me and saying it was an honor to share the award with me that year,” Kreitz said. “We talked about what a great thing it was that we were geographically close because it is a national award. That’s where he said it’s a short drive out to West Virginia University so if I would like to drive out there and watch a game from the press box and be next to him, I was more than welcome to do so.”
For Kreitz, it was an opportunity to observe one of the greats at one of the highest levels of the craft and to experience what it was like to do the job at a different level of the sport.
“At the high school level, things are completely different than the college level,” Kreitz said. “I sit in a press box that probably holds maybe 10 people. But a college, especially a Division I major college football program, their press box holds hundreds and hundreds of people. Their stadium holds thousands of people. To see the operation at the college level is just incredible, something we just don’t have at the high school level.”
Some of these operations include producers, speech writing staff for Nevin’s script and other members of the department working to make the entertainment of the game the most effective. For Kreitz, it ran counter to what he’s used to in his job at Massaponax.
“At Massaponax, I am my own script writer,” Kreitz said. “I am my own sound engineer. I am my own music selector. At the professional level and the major college sports level, there are positions for all those different tasks in the press box. Where at the high school level, I’m basically a one-man show.”
Following his time as a student at Massaponax in 2003, a then 18-year-old Kreitz approached the school principal and athletics director about the possibility of him taking the reins of the announcing position, which had been on an uneven rotation among random staff members since the school was founded in 1998. The staff gave Kreitz his first chance at public address announcing during a football scrimmage and he has been a staple at Panthers sporting events ever since.
“They were real hesitant about putting the microphone in the hands of an 18-year-old kid that had just graduated, but they said that we are hosting a football scrimmage in August and we will see how it goes,” Kreitz said. “The scrimmage went well and they basically told me I could announce every home game so they kind of put the teachers on the backburner, but I’ve been doing it ever since.”
During his tenure, Kreitz has been the P.A. announcer for Panthers baseball, boys and girls basketball, wrestling and football.
Kreitz has established himself as a sort of living legend within the Massaponax athletics history. Not only has Kreitz been in the booth since he graduated from the school, but he also has an award named after him. The Matt Kreitz Spirit Award was given to the most enthusiastic member of the marching band, who must be a rising senior who showed the most pride and spirit during their first three years at Massaponax. The recipient of the award is given a megaphone and brings it to all football games their senior year and are charged to lead the cheers from the stands.
“I was always enthusiastic,” Kreitz said. “I loved sports, especially football so at the football games I was the one who was kind of leading the chants and leading the cheers. My senior year of high school, the band director got a big megaphone and gave it to me. … After I graduated, I then passed the megaphone onto a rising senior coming up behind me, then that person did the same thing his senior year so it kind of turned into a trophy, an honor.”
As the “Voice of Panthers football,” Kreitz has announced 13 regional football playoffs, four football conference championships, and one Virginia High School League Semifinal Football Championship.
This past season, Kreitz again took his place behind the microphone to announce for a Panthers team that finished the season 10-3 and made it to the VHSL Class 6B regional championship game where the team lost, 42-21, against Colonial Forge.
One of the highlights of the season came the week before for the Panthers when the team upset the Freedom Eagles, the No. 1-seeded team in the region, with a last second field goal to win, 45-42. Kreitz was there, as he always is for both Panthers home and away games, following all the action. The field goal was one moment in particular he will cherish from the season.
“We came into this game as underdogs,” Kreitz said. “The kick was good. That was the end of the game. Everyone swarmed the field. I ran out on the field with the camera. … So, that was definitely the biggest moment from the 2019 football season.”
With sports now at a standstill following the VHSL decision to cancel the spring sports season, Kreitz is still working on his craft, taking a National Federation of High Schools online training course for P.A. announcing the day it became available online.
“That was one thing to kind of refresh even though I’ve been doing it for 18 years,” Kreitz said. “I still enjoy training and bettering myself and always trying to get better at my trade.”
Although Kreitz did enjoy his two minutes in the spotlight receiving his ring, he knows what his role as a P.A. announcer means for the Panthers. It is not about him, but rather the players on the field.
“Obviously, I am of the belief that in no situation should the public address announcer be the center of attention,” Kreitz said. “My job is to inform the crowd of what is happening out on the field. To recognize the achievements of the players out on the field. To be part of that is what makes athletics entertaining. That’s the whole reason people go out and watch these games, to support their child or grandchild. It’s a great family night out. I am a part of that and glad to be a part of that.”
Though many sports fans may take P.A. announcers for granted, Panthers fans know they have a special one in Kreitz. Although Kreitz is welcome to an opportunity to grow in the career at another level, he knows how special his connection is with Massaponax.
“We will see what the future holds. I love public address announcing,” Kreitz said. “If I were to have opportunities to move up to the next level, college, professional sports, I would definitely welcome that and entertain that idea. But, at the same time, I love Massaponax High School. I love what I do for the high school students and just for the Massaponax community as a whole so I definitely see myself staying at Massaponax for a long, long time.”