HOUSTON -- He's the man with the booming voice that has filled up every space at Minute Maid Park during the ballpark's first 11 years of existence. He introduces starting lineups, informs the crowd of position changes and reminds them to stay alert for foul balls.
Baseball in Houston just wouldn't be the same without the soothing sounds of 53-year-old public address announcer Bob Ford, a passionate baseball man who gets as pumped up for Opening Day as anyone else. A lifelong Astros fan while growing up in Galveston, Tex., Ford has a passion for baseball that comes through each time he turns on the microphones and lets his vocal cords fly.
"It's definitely a charge," Ford said. "Everything's fresh."
This will be Ford's 18th year behind the microphone, a run that began when Drayton McLane bought the club in 1994. He began in the Astrodome and announced games there for six years before making the move with the Astros to Minute Maid Park in 2000.
Ford's preparations for each game are pretty standard. He receives a script that includes the names of those involved in pregame activities -- such as who's throwing out the ceremonial first pitch -- and gives the starting lineups just minutes before first pitch.
The script is longer and more detailed for Opening Day, when the pomp and circumstance of the first home game of the season means the field is filled with honored guests. It's Ford's job to introduce them all, but the duties of introducing the starting lineups on Opening Day falls on Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton.
"There's a lot more into it on Opening Day than a regular game as far as the logistics and everything," said Ford, a former radio disc jockey who does plenty of radio and television voice-over work. "We have people down the field, Clint Pasche [marketing director], down on the field with the headsets and he coordinates the on-field stuff -- the anthem and first pitch and stuff, so we talk back and forth."
This Opening Day will bring one huge difference for Ford. The Astros moved their press box up one level, giving Ford a different vantage point to view the games. The view of the field might be better, but one of the reasons Ford was so popular was his constant interaction with fans, and he'd even go as far as giving kids cookies who stopped by to say hello.
Ford can still talk to fans, though it won't be as easy.
"That was one of the jokes that was going around up there during the college tournament," he said. "When's everybody going to come up and talk to Bob? Nobody's going to be able to see Bob. Even during the college tournament, some of the fans came up to me. I'll have to make a new set of friends. I made a great set of friends down the first 11 years, and now I'll make a new set of friends up there."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.