I was in a public place the other day. Some other friends and acquaintances were there. Suddenly, a friend turned to me and said, “What’s that voice? I know that voice from somewhere!”
“That voice” was Matt Provence, voice of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs for the past 11 seasons. With very few exceptions, every single game, home and away, Matt could be heard on the local radio affiliate describing the action on the field as the IronPigs battled through seasons good and bad, 140+ games per year.
One of my first memories of Matt calling games goes all the way back to that dreadful 2008 season–the first in the Lehigh Valley. It was relatively early in the season, and the team was bad. I had been to a couple of games, and really loved the stadium and the game; I was hungry to learn more. The team was getting such poor media coverage, and social media wasn’t really a thing on my radar yet. So, I’d tune in to the games on the radio to try to learn more about the players and the team–and try to figure out why they were so bad. One evening–I think the team was on the road–and they were getting just blasted, I think in upstate New York somewhere. They were down by 5 or 6 runs and I was getting ready to turn the game off and do something else.
But before throwing it to commercial, Matt told me through the airwaves that if the IronPigs could just push across one run, and then load the bases with the Sacred Heart Heart of the Order due up, that perhaps Andy Tracy could hit a 5-run home run and we’d be right back in it. Coming up next!
Ooof. Well, OK, I’ve gotta hang on for that, right? 🙂 I did. Nothing happened. But still, I was starting to learn about the team and the AAA game and I’d be back for more. Through the years I would time my long drives and my lawn cutting for when I could listen to an away game on the radio. I’ve acquired a number of low-cost terrestrial radio devices, as well as a couple different streaming applications for my phone so that I’d always be able to listen in–whether at home, on the road, at the tailgate party, or even at the game in person. Part of the reason I continue to go to so many games in Reading is that I know I’ll be able to listen to Matt call the end of the IronPigs game from the road, as I drive home.
That’s the thing with minor league baseball, you know. Eventually, everyone moves on. The players, of course. We’ve had four different manager eras already. At the park, we’ve lost assistant general manager Howard Scharf, as well as my favorite usher, Nick. Young staff members move on by design–I think I’m on my sixth season ticket rep. Even fans–not so much of Dan or DiPro or Jimmy T around the park lately. We mourned the untimely passing of superfan “Diamond Jim” just a few days ago. At the end of the 2017 season, we lost Matt’s home-game sidekick and media backbone Jon Schaeffer–and they had to hire two people to replace him.
Today is Matt Provence’ last day with the IronPigs. He moves on to full-time duty at NJIT–New Jersey Institute of Technology–where he had been calling basketball games over the winter in previous years.
We can’t say that it is unexpected, as minor league employees of all levels are looking towards the bigger leagues–or other opportunities in greener pastures. We knew it wouldn’t be forever. But, it’s going to be different, that’s for sure. At this juncture I don’t think the IronPigs have decided how they will handle the opening: There could be a promotion from a lower level. A previous intern could return. They could hire someone to take care of Matt’s inside media responsibilities full time, while having a hired-gun call the games over the summers. We’ll just have to wait and see. Like I said, though, it will be different.
Matt Provence Drinking Game
I really don’t have any Matt Provence stories to share with you. Oh, I’ve heard some, but rather than go with hear-say, let’s just grab an old recording of an IronPigs game and try this drinking challenge. Your goal is to keep from passing out and be able to repeat the score at the end of the game.
“Red Piping” – Drink
“Shivers and Delivers” – Drink
“Oy Vey” – Drink Twice
“Holy Toledo” – Drink Twice
Complaints about the official scorer – Drink continuously until rant is over
Complaints about bunting strategy – Drink continuously until rant is over
Dead air returning from commercial – Drink continuously until Matt speaks
“Unemployed Umpires” – Drink
“Forrrgettabouuuut-it” – Drink
“Outttaaa-Heerrrre-Ahh” – Drink
“Nobody ever paid me to be a….” – Drink
There were more, but I can’t remember. This originally came from a radio hit Matt was doing with the drive-time sports guys on 1320. I was writing them down to do a post about it, but never completed it. Credit to them for the original idea, and to DiPro for some of them when I was preparing the original post, which was never published.
Matt says he’ll still be around. He wants to get a chance at that “official scorer” spot so that we can get our licks in on him. He’ll do things for Service Electric from time to time, perhaps, as his NJIT responsibilities may be less over the summers. He said he doesn’t think he’ll be able to just sit and watch a game, though, so I’m not expecting to see him sitting in the stands. I do often have an extra seat and an open tab at the bar, however.
Let me just close by thanking Matt for everything he did for us here at the Horn and Bell Blog, and the Noise Nation Fan Group in all it’s former incarnations. He’s always supported the fans as well as supported the players on the team and the promotion of baseball information cutting through the carnival that can sometimes be minor league baseball. In the early days, Dan would have his trusty radio out in the ‘K-Corner’ in right field, the oinK sign in all it’s glory. Provence (and Schaeffer) provided the soundtrack. Good times.
See you at the park,