I had the honor of interviewing Tim DeBacco, Public Address Announcer for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Organist for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
As a PA Announcer for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Tim’s job is to announce the players up at bat. For instance, he will say “#21, Roberto Clemente.” Tim’s love for baseball began at a young age. He always paid attention to the announcers at the games and his dream was to one day become a Public Address Announcer himself. At the age of 23, Tim learned that the Public Address Announcer for the Pirates was leaving and there was an open position. Tim applied and has been working in the position ever since.
I asked Tim how he prepares before and after every Pirate game. If it is a 1:05 P.M. game, he arrives at the ballpark before 10:30 A.M. and reads and records the scripts that give the names of the players from both teams. He familiarizes himself with anyone who might be in the pre-game ceremony and any persons or groups who perform the National Anthem. He will also meet with the producers before-hand to discuss any changes that may happen.
At 11:30 A.M., Tim takes a 30-minute lunch break. At around 12 P.M., he will review the recordings he has made over and over again. He likes to make sure he has the correct pronunciation, and everything sounds perfect. He makes his first announcement at around 12:40-12:45 P.M right before the 1:05 P.M. game.
Once the game is over, Tim reads the totals, which tell the fans the number of hits, runs, how many men were on base, the winning and losing pitchers, the length of the game, and the number of paid attendees. He also gives a brief overview of the next game and closes the day by saying “Please drive home safely.”
The Pirates have other PA Announcers, including Dave Shinsky, Rick Dayton, Andrew Stockey, Larry Richert, and Guy Junker.
Tim shared that his favorite part of announcing for the Pirates is that he gets to sit in beautiful PNC Park with its spectacular view of the city and he gets compensated for it. When I asked Tim if there was anything he doesn’t like about his job with the Pirates, he explained that he had to give up close to half of his summer nights and be away from his family. He typically would announce 81 home games a year and would miss out on family activities. The positive aspect, as a result, is that he has a wife and two daughters who are very understanding of his schedule. He could not have done it without their support.
In the 2022 Pirate season Tim cut back on announcing and only announces week afternoon games before 4 P.M. There are only about 12 week afternoon games at home.
I asked Tim if he ever gets to interact with the players, and he doesn’t. Although, when the Pirates played at the Three Rivers Stadium many years ago, he did several promotions out on the field where he did have the honor of interacting with the players. Now, Tim just goes straight to his perch on the upper level of PNC Park.
Tim’s all-time favorite Pirate is Willie Stargell. He had the honor of working with him in the late 1990’s. When asked who his current favorite Pirate is, Tim explained that it changes daily. He simply enjoys getting to announce the names of the players or he may be inspired by a play from a player out on the field.
To become a PA announcer, Tim attended college at Clarion University where he earned a degree in communications. He kept his focus on television broadcasting. Clarion had two excellent radio stations and a television station where he got to spend as much time as he wanted, and the producers there were wonderful, and they let him work on projects and explore his passion and creativity. He really enjoyed getting to work at the television and radio stations. It helped prepare him for where he is today, working as the Public Address Announcer for the Pittsburgh Pirates!
Tim is also employed as the organist for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He plays a little crescendo on the organ during each TV time out or commercial break and after each player is announced. He does a little ditty at the end of each period and a little fanfare after every goal is announced. If the Penguins win, he does a little fanfare as the players come out on the ice to be recognized and the fans give a round of applause.
Tim has been the organist for the Penguins since 2010. He received an email from them asking him to play the organ. He tried out and then a week later got the job. The Penguins do not have a fill-in organist. If Tim calls off, they will just play recordings of his music.
In order to become an organist, Tim took lessons for many years, beginning at the age of four years old. He took lessons from two different instructors. One of his instructors was Vince Lasheid, former organist for the Pirates. Tim would fill in on the organ and would announce the Pirate games. He had to do both in one day at least 20 times between the mid 1990’s and early 2000’s. Ever since Vince died in 2009 the Pirates discontinued the organ. They now just play recordings of his performances.
Tim’s all-time favorite Penguin is Mario Lemieux. His favorite current Penguin is Sidney Crosby.
I asked Tim what he does to prepare for the Penguin games. If it is a 7 P.M game he arrives at the stadium around 5:40 P.M to turn on the organ, warm up his fingers, and rehearse what he will be playing. The organ that he plays is called a “Hammond B3,” which was manufactured in 1965. Once he rehearses his piece on the organ, he will break for dinner and then take a walk around the inside of one of the concourses of the arena before the game starts.
The Penguins only have a little over 40 home games a season, which is half as many games as the Pirates. It is easier for Tim.
I asked Tim if there were any differences from the Pirate games verses the Penguin games. He has more flexibility and creativity at the Penguin games as an organist than he does as an announcer at the Pirate games and it gives him a broader range of what he can play on the organ. He can sometimes play what he wants to play on the organ, but he also has to make the crowd yell “Let’s go Pens!”
I also asked Tim if he has ever worked both a Pirate game and Penguin game in 1 day and to describe the challenges. He explained that he has worked both in one day. If the Pirates play at 1:30 P.M, and then the Penguins play at 7 P.M., that works out well for him. He will park his car, take the Subway to the Pirate game, then take the Subway to the Penguin game after the Pirate game is over, and then after the Penguin game take the Subway back to his car.
If both games would overlap, and the Penguins were in the playoffs, Tim would work the Penguin games. The Penguins playoffs are more important. Dave Shinsky will then fill in at the Pirate game.
I asked Tim where he sits in comparison to the television and radio announcers at the games. He is near both. He is closer to the television booth than the radio booth, just by a couple sections.
Tim also works another full-time job where he oversees marketing communications for a gentleman with three audio related businesses in the North Hills. He often does video editing.
In his free time, Tim enjoys listening to music, especially vinyl records - he collects them. His favorite musician is Elvis Presley. He has visited Graceland in Tennessee eight times. He also enjoys spending time with his family and traveling.
Tim also does volunteer work for the Blessing Board in Pittsburgh. There is an article in this issue of Pittverse discussing what the Blessing Board is.
Tim’s future plans include not to work as much, and he plans to retire someday.
My interview with Tim was very inspirational and caused me to never want to give up and to be determined in everything that I do!