Baker entering 40th year announcing for Bellwood-Antis Blue Devils football
When high school football resumes this fall, Tom Baker begins his 40th season as the voice of Bellwood-Antis football for varsity, junior varsity and junior high competitions.
Throughout those years, he’s missed announcing just one game — when it moved to a Saturday night and conflicted with his duties announcing races at Hesston Speedway in Huntingdon County.
“I’ve never heard anyone as accurate and timely as Tommy,” said former high school football coach John Hayes. “It’s miraculous how he can come up with the opposing player’s name and number as quickly as he does. He is quite something. He does a great job.”
A former teacher, Howard Walker, recruited Baker to announce the games over the public address system when Baker was a junior in high school. His mother, Carol Baker, recalls attending the first game that her middle son announced with some anxiety.
“He suffers from Tourette’s syndrome and makes involuntary, guttural noises — especially when he is excited about something. But they totally disappear when he is announcing,” she said, explaining it’s typical for the condition. “We’ve always encouraged our children to try new things and pursue their interests. We were so excited and he did a really good job and it was only his first time.”
Her son, she said, “has always been good with numbers. Before the games, he goes and gets the opposing team’s roster and he’s able to remember the names and numbers. He doesn’t even need a spotter. He is that great.”
Current Athletic Director Charlie Burch, who also coaches junior high school football, said of Baker, “He does a very professional-style job. He loves doing the games and does them with enthusiasm and professionalism.”
Burch said at away games he is struck by the bias shown by some announcers.
Hayes described Baker’s announcing style as straightforward and knowledgeable, including game officials’ calls and signals.
“Tommy is very much appreciated by the fans, too,” Hayes said.
Baker said he finds the first few games of the season most challenging as he is learning new B-A players names and numbers in addition to the opposing team’s roster. Fumble recoveries create the most excitement.
His duties also include announcements between plays and quarters that recognize students in other sports and general housekeeping type announcements to keep the fans informed. Varsity games average about 2.5 hours, JV about two hours, with junior high games being the shortest, especially if the mercy rule comes into play, Baker said.
Among his favorite memories is broadcasting on Tyrone radio station WTRN in 1997 when Bellwood-Antis played West Branch, an opportunity extended by the late station owner, Cary Simpson.
“Afterward Mr. Simpson told me I did a great job,” Baker said, noting he was asked to help out the next year but had a scheduling conflict.
“I try to do the best job possible,” Baker said. “Sometimes I’m not sure how to pronounce kids’ names on the visiting team, so I ask the coaches when I meet with them before the game. I evaluate myself after every game and try to do better.”
Baker said he will continue to announce the games as long as he can — even after he retires from his day job.
“My long-term plan is to keep doing it as long as they want me,” he said.