Joe Zelinski lives and works in Reedsport, where he is the voice of the Brave for various high school events and is active in the booster club. He will be the stadium announcer for a number of the games this week at Pirate Palace on Marshfield’s campus.
Q; What is your high school and athletic background?
A: I grew up in southern Ohio, and played basketball in high school. I was never a stellar athlete, but enjoyed the activity and being part of the team. I was always more inclined to help with the event-management aspect of sporting events — keep stats and the scorebook, run the scoreboard.
Q: How did you get into being a public address announcer?
A: In college, at the University of Dayton, I did some play-by-play and “color” on the student-run campus radio station. I was also a deejay and news reporter. Later, I worked for a Dayton-area commercial station as a traffic reporter, on-air personality, and in the business office. So my announcing background comes from radio broadcasting. Shortly after moving to Oregon, I began broadcasting the Reedsport High School games on what is now KJMX, and later on KDUN. After the stations discontinued those broadcasts, I moved into the Public Address Announcer role, as well as got involved with the Boosters Association, with the encouragement of late coach and AD Jim Akre. I believe I’ve been doing it about 10 to 12 years now.
Q: In Reedsport you are the voice of the Brave for football, volleyball, basketball and baseball. What makes each season special?
A: Each sport really is a special experience, for different reasons. Football is special because I feel like I’m contributing, at least in a small way, to the strong football tradition at Reedsport. With mentors like Akre, Lynn Fulps, and preceding coaches all the way back to Rudy Ruppe, Reedsport has a tradition of putting on events in a professional manner. I aim to do the same every time I announce an event. I’m still learning lots about volleyball, and doing the announcing is a great way to get to know the game better. It forces you to pay attention to what’s going on — the substitutions, the strategies, and so on. Unfortunately, this past year, the gymnasium construction at Reedsport was still wrapping up, and it wasn’t possible to do any announcing until the final two matches.
Volleyball and basketball are unique because I get to do lots of time-out music as well, and make it kinda loud. Nothing’s more fun than an exciting game, with a loud crowd, and the music rockin’ during a time-out. Best side-job I ever had back in Dayton was as the “music man” for a professional minor-league hockey team. It’s so cool to hit the right song at the right moment and get 5,000 people on their feet, clapping and shouting in support of their team. I have as much fun hitting the right time-out music as I do announcing the indoor sports.
And baseball is great, because, c’mon, it’s baseball! We’re back outside after a long winter, and it’s actually among the easier sports to announce, because the action unfolds at a slower pace. I’m also really spoiled at Reedsport — we have a nice announcing booth above and behind home plate. Best seat in the house, with a space heater! (I think a certain sports editor from The World has appreciated that a few times as well.) I think we’re one of the few schools on the coast that does PA for baseball; definitely among the smaller schools. It’s been exciting to see the Reedsport baseball program emerge into a statewide powerhouse in the last five or six years. Hopefully that continues with strong numbers participating at the youth level.
No matter what sport, it’s true that announcing is more fun when your team is doing well. But doing a professional job even during those two-win seasons is just as important.
Q: What makes being the voice in the arena special to you?
A: As I mentioned, I’ve always enjoyed the event-management aspects of sports — the organization and execution. Helping get the field or arena ready for “showtime.” Getting things started on-time. (Proud to say every football kickoff in Reedsport this past fall happened promptly at 7 p.m.) And it’s important to me to be a welcoming, informational and entertaining part of the program for the spectators. We don’t have all the nice amenities of a Matthew Knight Arena, but when you come to a Reedsport game, I’m going to do my best to give you a first-class spectator experience.
Q: What is your favorite part of the Class 3A tournament?
A: Without a doubt, working with the other event staff who share my passion for putting on a first-rate event; from the OSAA executives to the local tournament committee and the other volunteers who come from all around the South Coast. I’m always humbled by the favorable comments we receive from visitors from the Willamette Valley or Portland metro area. It’s fun and rewarding to put on a top-notch event, showing the rest of Oregon what the South Coast can do.
Q: You’ve been involved in this tournament for a number of years. What makes it special?
A: This tournament is special because of the first-class treatment extended to the participating teams, their families and fans. Also the professional job we do executing the event, and the recognition ceremonies we do at halftime of the championship games for teams who played in the tournament in years’ past. Greg Mulkey comes up with some entertaining halftime games, too. It all comes together to create a special experience for the students and the fans.
Q: You will be on the microphone Saturday night during the girls championship game. How big of an honor is it to be able to call a state championship game?
A: It’s an absolute pleasure to announce games with such a high-caliber level of play. Excellent student-athletes competing on the court for both teams. It’s the biggest moment of these young peoples’ lives. For some of them — especially the seniors — it will also likely be the very last time they put on a team uniform and play in an organized setting. It is an honor to be a part of it.
Q: Also as part of Saturday night’s festivities, the first Reedsport girls team to advance to a state tournament will be recognized. What does bringing back former teams add to this event?
A: That’s truly a special part of this event. I think it resonates with the adults in the crowd, because many of them were also part of a team in high school as well. It brings back memories not just for those being recognized, but for everyone in the crowd. And for the younger people in the stands, it’s a nice reminder that determination and hard work will never let you down. Those “old ladies” being recognized were young girls who worked hard to achieve, and you can do the same.
Q: Why should people from the Bay Area come out to the tournament when there are no local teams in the field?
A: It’s great family entertainment, for about the same price you’d pay to go out to dinner. I think local fans will be impressed with the excitement and quality of play the tournament provides each year.
Q: What is the value of the tournament for the South Coast?
A: Each year, people from all over Oregon are coming to the South Coast for the tournament. For many of them, it may be their first visit ever. It’s a fantastic opportunity for the South Coast to showcase itself as a travel and recreation destination.
Q: You are very active in the Braves Boosters Association. Why are booster clubs so important for schools?
A: Although school districts in our area don’t seem to be in quite as hard of financial situation as they were some 10-12 years ago, budgets are still very tight. It’s a struggle for some districts to maintain facilities and equipment. If outside organizations such as booster clubs don’t step in to help fill the gaps, there is real likelihood that programs will be lost, and that would be a real shame for the kids. Booster clubs are also an important way to build relationships between families of student-athletes, and bring a sense of community to our schools and their athletic programs.