Rick Trotter Overcomes the Odds to become the New PA Announcer
Like an undrafted rookie entering an NBA training camp, Rick Trotter went into the Grizzlies’ PA Announcer auditions knowing he was a long shot. There are only 30 PA Announcer jobs in the NBA, and the small fraternity is populated almost exclusively by radio or television broadcasters. Trotter’s only experience speaking in front of a crowd is his job as a worship leader at the Fellowship Bible Church and high school theatre. But in Trotter’s mind, he went in with nothing to lose.
“I didn’t (expect to get the job), mostly because I didn’t have the experience. I kind of felt like if somebody heard me, they’d say, ‘Hey, that’s pretty good’, but I thought it would just be left at that. I felt it was a long shot, but hey, it was worth a try,” Trotter said earlier this week.
But a funny thing happened. Among the 28 people at the auditions, Trotter made it through the first cut and was one of eight finalists. He was called in for a second audition, this time in front of a larger group of judges- the 40 members of the Grizzlies’ Fan Advisory Board.
“That was pretty intimidating because we didn’t know that would be an aspect of the audition,” he said.
Trotter took his turn, doing his best rendition of the starting lineups, standard PA reads and special calls as his audience jotted down notes and graded his performance. He admits now that as excited as he was, he was just happy to get that far.
“If anything I felt, at least in the final eight, that even if I didn’t get it, I was at least good enough for them to seriously consider even though I didn’t have the pedigree,” he said.
Even without professional broadcasting credentials, Trotter’s performance impressed the crowd. He and one other finalist were selected from the eight, earning him an interview with Grizzlies President of Business Operations Andy Dolich. Shortly after, the improbable journey was completed when he was told he would be the new PA Announcer.
“I guess that’s the amazing part about getting the job, is that I don’t have a long resume of voiceovers, or radio, or anything like this, as much as I just have a passion for the game, and I was able to translate that with the folks at the Grizzlies,” he said. “I moved to Memphis a year ago, so this is pretty amazing for me, and almost surreal at this point.”
Reality will hit for the Atlanta native when he makes his debut on October 11 at FedExForum when the Grizzlies host his hometown Hawks in the preseason opener. Despite being a lifelong Hawks fan, he’s also followed the Grizzlies closely over the years and is so passionate about the team, it was one of the reasons he and his wife Heather chose to move here last year when the job opportunity with the Fellowship Bible Church arose.
“In moving here, the Grizzlies being here was a big part of my decision, (I wanted) to move to a town that had a major sports franchise. I feel it would have been tougher to move if there was no sports franchise, because that kind of says something about the city and its progression to me.”
Trotter attended numerous games last season, and even sang the national anthem on two occasions. He also remembers sitting in the stands listening to John-Paul Stevenson, the team’s PA Announcer during the first five seasons in Memphis. Grizzlies fans considered Stevenson one of the best in the business, and were disappointed to learn he was leaving the team to move to Houston to be closer to his family.
“I feel like I have some enormous shoes to fill. John-Paul Stevenson had a lot of natural ability, he’s a naturally likeable guy, he’s got the ‘The Voice’. I would never try to duplicate him, I just give him that respect,” he said. “I just want to bring enthusiasm. But it is intimidating stepping into his shoes because I know a lot of people have grown to know and love him. Even myself, before this was even a possibility, if you’d asked me, I’d have said John-Paul Stevenson was my favorite Memphis celebrity because you hear that voice and you just know who it is. There’s nothing easy about sitting in his seat.”
Trotter knows the fans at FedExForum will be judging him against Stevenson, but it’s a challenge he doesn’t back down from.
“The biggest thing is that I am them. I paid to see games last year and I just want to bring that fan enthusiasm. I’m not just a guy who’s there and has a job, I’m a guy who’s passionate about the game, passionate about the Grizzlies, and I want it to be infectious, I want to pass on that energy night in and night out and really cheer our guys on.”