Announcer calls four decades worth of ball

Stadium Announcer Jay Rokeach introduces former Hurricane & MLB All-Star outfielder Ryan Braun at the 2010 Alumni Game this past Saturday.
Stadium Announcer Jay Rokeach introduces former Hurricane & MLB All-Star outfielder Ryan Braun at the 2010 Alumni Game this past Saturday. Steven Stuts//Asst. Photo Editor

All Jay Rokeach wanted was a free trip to Hawaii and Los Angeles when he started his first semester at the University of Miami back in 1968.

In high school the Brooklyn native had worked as the men’s basketball team’s manager and wanted to do something similar in South Florida.

When he arrived in Coral Gables, the Hurricanes basketball team didn’t need any additional managers. As Rokeach passed the baseball field he introduced himself to future Hall of Fame head coach Ron Fraser and started working for him that day.

Now, 42 seasons later, Rokeach remains the public address announcer at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field, and a staple for the program.

“It’s a nice sign to see that I’ve been able to last,” he said. “I’ve seen hundreds of great players. I’ve seen a wonderful program develop from a very minor program to what is certainly now one of the top-five baseball programs in the country.”

Although he calls baseball his first love, Rokeach has lent his voice to other University of Miami sporting events: football games since 1986, basketball games since 1988 and volleyball matches since 2001.

He was also the stadium announcer for the Florida Marlins’ first five seasons, earning himself a World Series ring in 1997.

All the while he kept his full-time job of 22 years as a sports information director at Miami-Dade Community College.

“I don’t like change. I like things to stay status quo, but I wouldn’t have thought I’d be around 42 years,” he said. “Hopefully that means I’ve done a fairly good job a few of those years and have kept the coaches happy and haven’t upset the administrators much.”

According to Rokeach his announcing style isn’t a science.

“I guess it’s a little bit of emphasis on being entertaining. It’s not like you’re inventing the wheel,” he said. “It’s just making sure that the fans and players are excited and that you’re creating a great environment.”

Rokeach said that Latin names, like former second baseman Jose Trujillo, are usually his favorite to announce.

“Certain names give way to a more enthusiastic annunciation. Certain names have more syllables and can be drawn out or emphasized more,” he said. “It’s not something I stay up at night thinking about. It’s just something you get a feel for.”

Head coach Jim Morris said he even remembers Rokeach’s signature delivery while visiting as the coach of Georgia Tech.

“JayRo’s great. Anytime I come out here, to be honest with you, and I don’t hear JayRo’s voice and I hear another voice I kind of look down because he’s expected,” Morris said. “He means so much to our program and I hate it when he misses games.”

Senior first baseman Ryan Perry agrees.

“When you think of baseball you think of his voice,” he said. “He’s been here forever and he’s one of a kind.”

Rokeach has been around for all four national championships, but puts the Hurricanes’ 1999 national title victory over Florida State near the top of his list.

“There’s a lot of pressure when you wind up playing your closest competitor,” he said. “That win was probably the highlight, but in 42 years there have been so many incredible games and fantastic players and so many spectacular finished that it’s difficult to name the top thing.”

What Rokeach appreciates most about his job is the friendships that developed with guys from each decade.

“Baseball players are my closest friends. I don’t go out with these guys anymore, but I want them to feel comfortable around me,” he said. “They have to treat me somewhat nicely because I’m the official scorer.”

One of those players, sophomore catcher David Villasuso, appreciates the relationship. He also happens to be one of Rokeach’s favorite names to announce during ballgames.

“He walks around the locker room and we say hi to him,” Villasuso said. “He talks to us about how we’re doing. He’s not a stranger to us. We know who he is, and it’s a good relationship. It means a lot. It’s important.”

At Home Plate Creamery, the popular milkshake stand at the stadium, Rokeach even has his own top-selling recipe: Oreo cookies blended with chocolate syrup.

“We’ve been doing this a long time and what happens is over the years as people either invent their own or get a particular shake, we name it after them as an honor,” owner Mitch Freedman said. “When he [Rokeach] was younger, you could not make it chocolate enough. It was as chocolate as you could possibly make it.”

Looking back on his career, Rokeach knows the legacy he’ll leave on the program.

“Nothing goes on forever, and certainly Hurricane baseball will go on for very many years past me,” he said. “I’m surprised that people are excited to meet me and I have some sort of celebrity status. I get many people who say they’ve listened to me for their whole lives. Sometimes I don’t think my voice is that special, but I guess when you become used to hearing someone for so long, that’s what you come comfortable with.”