By Hayden Godfrey
Athletes are often known to have rituals or superstitions. Broadcasters and media personnel aren’t the first people who come to mind when one thinks of sports routines.
Still, Kevin MacDonald, the Ryerson Rams public address announcer (PA) who is entering his fifth year at the mic, has one endearingly personal and rather efficient ritual.
Baseball players will never step on the mound, hockey players frequently stickhandle with frivolous precision before games and basketball players can be seen bouncing the ball prior to taking a free throw for rhythm.
Before every game, MacDonald takes a pencil and adds a tick mark on the commentary desk at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC). It adds to his growing tally of how many games he’s announced since becoming the voice of the Rams in 2014.
As of Jan 21. 2019, he’d called 227 games. In a sense, he has a good time, but when the game starts, he’s all business.
Cool and calm, MacDonald always looks like he’s in good spirits. Often in Rams gear, he tries to make sure that he’s as relaxed as possible before he heads into the MAC. A fifth-year RTA Sport Media student, MacDonald grew up playing baseball, cutting his teeth as a knuckleballer in various leagues in Toronto.
A former pitcher for the Rams’ men’s baseball team, he has established himself as one of Ryerson’s most recognizable voices at home games. “It makes me laugh that some of my friends who go to other schools tell me that their part-time job is flippin’ burgers,” MacDonald said. “I’m like, OK, cool, I work at Maple Leaf Gardens!”
Although his dream of becoming an announcer for a Toronto sports team has become a realistic goal, it wasn’t always this way for the Toronto-native.
It wasn’t until age 16, when his baseball coach, the primary PA announcer for Humber College, showed him the intrigue and excitement of being behind the mic that he became interested in pursuing his dream.
During frosh week of his first year, he saw a post advertising positions at the MAC. Seeing as he’d be spending a lot of time there already as an RTA student, he applied for the PA announcer position.
After a brief interview, he was offered the job on the spot.
From his unique way of pumping up the crowd (pronouncing Ryerson as “Ryer-SIN” in his pre-game announcements, a theatrical choice he attributes to his unique vocal range) to emphatically stylizing the names of star players (declaring a Jama Bin-Edward basket with his famous “J-J-J-Jama” call), he speaks with a powerful timbre and a precise intonation that is as calculated as it is enjoyable to listen to.
Though fans in attendance take in his voice as part of the energetic atmosphere of attending a sporting event, athletes and Rams personnel seem to take extra notice.
Luke Bellus, a member of the Rams digital content team and a former baseball teammate, called “K-Mac” a “big, prideful, professional personality,” while men’s hockey goalie Taylor Dupuis added that he “doesn’t get enough credit.”
“When you’re in the building, you can close your eyes and listen to Kevin call a corner three and it sounds professional, it adds to the environment,” Bellus added. “It seems like there’s a constant professional there.”
Friends who he’s known for years are sometimes surprised to hear his voice over the PA, frequently asking him after games where he was during the game, only to find out it was him who was energizing the crowd and informing the fans.
Although he insists that he doesn’t change his voice much when working games, he still gets a chuckle out of telling people that it was him that coined the phrase “three-ball, corner pocket” for when a Rams player sinks a corner three.
For someone who has only been at this for a handful of years, MacDonald is a master at his craft. Last year, he even trained another PA announcer, the same way he himself was trained by Alex Bloomfield, who now serves as the stadium announcer for the Toronto Marlies.
“When you’re in the building, you can close your eyes and listen to Kevin… it seems like there’s a constant professional there”
Despite his already elevated professionalism and confident delivery, he still looks to improve at any chance he can, often gauging the effectiveness of a call by talking to athletes and fans after the game.
It’s important to him to keep listening to different broadcasters and announcers to polish his chops, but MacDonald says that young, aspiring broadcasters should listen to voices of all kinds, instead of just listening to professionals.
“There’s only so much I can take away from professionals,” he says. “I have to be Kevin MacDonald.”
Throughout his five years, MacDonald has learned a lot in his time with the Rams. There’ll always be something new (he laughs when athletes request signature calls), but he seems to have found his groove, becoming proud of his accomplishments without coming off as cocky or arrogant.
As much as he acknowledges the uncertainty of his future, MacDonald is, among many things, grateful for the opportunities Ryerson has given him. Even nearly five years in, he says that he’s living the dream.