For the past couple of weeks I’ve been filling in as the public address announcer for the Charlotte 49ers baseball team, a gig I held full-time from 2006 to 2010.  This afternoon’s game is the final one of the season; after an unexpectedly brutal season following last year’s conference title and NCAA regional appearance, the 20-32 Niners will be left out of next week’s Atlantic 10 Tournament for the first time ever.

The 49ers had a rough doubleheader last night, losing both games after leading or being tied late.  On a personal note, I had a rough night behind the mic; I butchered two advertising reads because I got something funny in my head and started laughing, and then late in the second game got mixed up and answered a question posed to me via walky-talky with a very loud “no” over the stadium PA system. (I guess saying “no” is better than accidentally saying “Holy cow, someone put this pitcher out of his misery” in front of a mic you didn’t realize was on during an 11-year-old AAU tournament, which I may or may not have done once.)

Teaching makes for some great funny stories that can be shared with family and friends, but working in press boxes at athletic events has also provided its share of unforgettable moments.  Shea Griffin, my former tag-team partner in the Kannapolis Intimidators press box, told one such gem on his blog last year. There’s one in particular, though, that I’ll never forget and that I’ve never told many people outside my family.

I have to preface this by saying that Ryan Rose, the baseball sports information director at Charlotte, is obsessed with getting sound effects to play at games – funny clips from movies or TV shows to play during visits to the mound and things of that nature.  We also found several clips that we could use to rib the opposing team when they struck out, committed an error, etc., such as the sound that plays when Mario dies in the original Super Mario Bros.  Our favorite one, though, was the sound heard when a “Price Is Right” contestant loses.  When I told Shea about that one at an Intimidators game, he reached a level of excitement usually reserved for when a game was over in two hours: “Oh my God, we HAVE to have that one.  Make it happen!”

So several nights later I brought in a CD with the “loser’s horn” on it and uploaded the sound clip to the computer that runs the sound/music program.  Through several torturous innings, no one from the other team struck out or did anything boneheaded enough to warrant it being played.

Finally, in about the 4th inning, it happened – an opposing player swung weakly at a curveball for a third strike.  I clicked the button I’d labeled “Price Is Right Fail” on the computer, and the distinctive horn fall went out over the Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium speakers.  Everyone in the press box was laughing hysterically.

The next thing I remember was lying on the ground next to my chair with a pounding head, blurry vision, and a pile of CDs scattered around me.  Shea was on the walky-talky asking for paramedics.  Tom Glennon, my then-colleague at Robinson and our official scorer, was on the ground at my side shaking me. “Alex, Alex,” he was saying. “Are you okay??”  It sounded like he was in a tunnel.

As the first responders were taking my pulse and asking me how many fingers they were holding up, I got the play-by-play recap from Shea.  I apparently laughed so hard that I forgot to breathe and passed out right there in my chair.  On the way down, I hit my head on the base of the table that holds the computer (hence the headache), took out a tower full of CDs that stood on the ground next to my chair, and crashed to the ground where I lay unconscious for about 10 seconds.  Doop-doop-do-dooooo… bwaaaaaaaaawwwwwww.

My saving grace was that only two weeks remained in the season, so I had to put up with everyone’s jabs for just a handful of games.  The next night, I was afraid to play it for fear that we’d have a repeat.  I mustered up the nerve to play it the following game, and as soon as I clicked it, Shea jumped out of his chair with outstretched arms as if to catch me.

That happened in August of 2008.  Between 49ers games and Intimidators games, I’ve probably used that sound effect on hundreds of occasions since; in fact, I used it a couple of times last night.  Not a time has gone by, however, when I don’t think of that night four years ago when I became the first press box employee in the history of the South Atlantic League to get knocked to the canvas by a three-second-long .mp3 file.