Rich Burk ’88 came to Pacific to play baseball and found a career as an announcer. Today, he’s the radio voice of Oregon’s newest minor league team, the Hillsboro Hops.Jenni Luckett | Editor
"It's 89 sticky degrees here in Hillsboro,” Rich Burk ’88 tells baseball fans on a late June evening.
It’s even hotter in the broadcast booth, where Burk — “the voice” of the new Hillsboro Hops minor league team — is bringing the fourth home game of the season to life in the minds of radio listeners.
The room still smells of fresh paint, and Burk and his team spend the pre-game and first inning tweaking the sound of their broadcast. The stadium announcements blare in the booth. The open windows overlooking the diamond offer no breeze.
Burk, in slacks and a long-sleeve button-down, appears unfazed, either by the heat or the distractions. On his left, a laptop gives him instant access to Major League gamecasts, weather statistics and broadcast sound levels. Propped on the table in front of him is a spiral-bound book, a complete history of the Hops’ young season, for anyone who can read the markings of a scorecard.
He’s got a yellow highlighter and a pen at the ready, but Burk holds a mechanical pencil in his hand. Years of experience in the booth have taught him to keep his scorecard in pencil, so he can add in notes and reminders, like a player who wants to give a birthday shout out to Mom or Dad.
“The worst part is when you tease something you’re going to talk about in the next inning and then forget,” he says.
After all, Burk says, longtime Pittsburgh Pirates announcer Rory Rowswell is known for saying, “It’s not just the play-by-play that matters. It’s what you say between the pitches.”
Burk takes the advice of such big-timers to heart: Like the wisdom of Red Sox announcer Joe Castiglione, who said it takes four or five hours to prepare to call a basketball game, four or five days for a football game, and a lifetime for a baseball game.
“There’s so much time to fill, so much opportunity for conversation,” Burk says. “I’ve been preparing for this since I was growing up and loving baseball.”
Many of Burk’s peers dreamed of careers as sports commentators, he says. He wasn’t one of them.
“I grew up watching (Hall of Fame broadcaster) Vin Scully because I loved the Dodgers,” he says. “But I never pictured myself in his seat.”
It was John Seeley, Burk’s baseball coach at MiraCosta College in Southern California, who first tipped Burk to the idea.
“He suggested I come to Pacific, play baseball, and broadcast football and basketball games,” Burk says. “He thought it would be a good career for me.”
Burk did, indeed, come to Pacific, and in his first year, he hit a .432 average. Then, he says, he spent the off-season “resting on his laurels” and paid with a lower average the next season. The importance of working hard is just one of the life lessons he attributes to Pacific.
More, though, he says he learned about finding opportunities.
“There are chances to do more at a small liberal arts college than you get at a major university,” he says.