Longtime voice of Roxana’s Softball World Series brings technological twists

ROXANA — Roy Lamberton has a long way to go to catch legendary Bob Sheppard, the longtime baritone public-address voice of the New York Yankees.

In the world of the Little League Softball World Series in Roxana, Delaware, Mr. Lamberton is the voice — with a technical twist.

Mr. Lamberton has been behind the microphone in the caged, ground level media coordinator booth at Lower Sussex Little League’s Bruce Layton Field since Little League International arrived in Southern Delaware with the Senior Softball World Series in 2004.

“I belong to the public-address announcers’ association, and their motto is: ‘The voice above the crowd,’” said Mr. Lamberton. “The whole point is they shouldn’t know who I am, except that it’s that fat guy with the mustache over in the corner who talks on the microphone — and he doesn’t screw up the names too bad. That is kind of what we are shooting for with it.”

“It’s the voice that nobody really knows you who he is. I do the Little League World Series. I do Seaford High School. The parents all know who I am. But hopefully the crowd just says, ‘Well, that guy did a pretty good job,’” he said.

The 71-year-old Seaford resident is back at Roxana this week for the 2019 Little League Senior League Softball World Series, which began July 30 and runs through Sunday, Aug. 5.

Ten teams will battle it out in pool play, then quarterfinals, semifinals and finals for world bragging rights.

“I went over 200 consecutive Little League World Series games last year,” said Mr. Lamberton, who also serves at commissioner for American Legion baseball in Delaware.

Mr. Lamberton brings more than his voice and some foreign language expertise gained during his broadcasting, computer world and military service.

“The idea is, what we are trying to accomplish is to make it as close to a major league ballpark environment as you can,” he said. “I use one of the two software packages to play music. It’s very similar to what they use at the major league ballparks.”

He’s been involved with Little League post-season competition, regionals and the World Series for about 25 years. That’s a bit shy of Bob Sheppard’s 56 years with the Bronx Bombers.

“I can do Bob Shepperd … ‘Now batting, batting’ … that Yankee Stadium echo,” says Mr. Lamberton.

His involvement with regionals and beyond Little League sprouted when son Andrew was a Little Leaguer.

“The way I got started, as an adjunct to computer business, I was interested in computer software for the youth sports, Andrew was playing in Little League. When they came around to pick all-stars, everybody’s kid batted .750. I said that’s not possible. I had a laptop, so I sat down, and I started scoring games. Laptops have CD players, so I started playing music in between innings. I was announcing one of the regional tournaments, the District III tournament I believe, and one of guys in the district said, ‘Hey, we’ve got the Eastern Regionals, we’ve got the nationals. Can you come up and help us do that?’”

The world stage called after he took over when the man running the Eastern Regionals retired. He connected with Martin Donovan, director for Senior Softball World Series in Roxana.

Roy Lamberton, at right, has announced more than 200 consecutive Little League Softball World Series games as the public address announcer since the World Series came to the Lower Sussex Little League complex. Seated at left is Charles Bireley, longtime scorekeeper for the World Series held in Roxana.

“When they got the World Series, I called Martin, ‘What do you need to make this work?’ He said, ‘I was just about to call you,’” Mr. Lamberton said. “So, I wound up as media liaison guy. I do the games at Bruce Layton Field. It’s almost like a sub-media office during the World Series. I have my laptop and all my software. I’ve got a printer, and internet connection.”

Mr. Lamberton and his wife Kathryn met in 1973 while attending Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. They married in 1974.

They have three sons: Edward, David and Andrew. “All three boys were born in different states,” said Mr. Lamberton, whose work took him to Illinois, Texas, Oklahoma, Arizona and Delaware. Ms. Lamberton is a retired teacher in the Seaford School District.

Language barrier

While with the Navy and Reserves, he experienced Spain, Asia and other parts of the world. That helps in the name game and tackling the language barrier as the World Series announcer.

“I did spend some time in Philippines. The Philippine language, a lot of names are Spanish, but they are a little bit different pronunciation. Sometimes the Southwest, they have Spanish kids on teams and in some cases their pronunciation is different from the pure Spanish that I learned in Spain,” said Mr. Lamberton. “Every so often I will get a wild hair and I will do an introduction for the Puerto Rican team all in Spanish. They get a chuckle out of it. They laugh at my accent. I speak Spanish like a Delmarva person.”

“Czech and Polish are both Slavic languages. They are closely related to Russian than other Romanic languages, so you’ve got learn what individual Slavic pronunciations are for the different letters. Like a “C” in Czech is different than a “C” in Polish. Of course, the “C” in Russian is an “S” … so the trick is getting accents in the right place,” said Mr. Lamberton. “The Dutch team, they are not as hard — any double vowel is a long vowel. Then there is the Chinese. I sat down, and we got phoneticized properly. They said we did a pretty good job considering we are not Chinese. We don’t speak Mandarin.”

“Language is fun, and we do go out of our way to get the kids names pronounced properly. Another person and I, we spend a lot of time to get kids sitting down at check-in do go over pronunciations. Some kids come second or third time so it’s no problem, I already know them. Now that we have more live news coverage it makes sense to get them right. Every so often the ESPN guys will have a slightly different pronunciation,” said Mr. Lamberton. “What do you have to do be a PA announcer for Little League World Series? Well, it doesn’t hurt to have lived in Spain.  It doesn’t hurt to have lived in Europe or have lived in the Far East.”

National Anthems

“One thing we started doing is we got the names of all of the national anthems. We are one of few Little League World Series that I know of that actually introduces the national anthem with their actual names.”

Upbringing

Mr. Lamberton was born in Queens, New York. “I am rare, a native Long Islander … and if you think they funny around here about being a native Sussex Countian, they used to be just as picky, because we had all of them foreigners coming in from New York City,” he said.

He attended school in Carle Place, N.Y. Carle Place was next to Old Westbury, which was featured in the Alfred Hitchcock movie, “North by Northwest.”

In high school he was in band. “And I was in debate, and basically tried to do as little possible. I graduated in 1964, made two attempts at electrical engineering at the University of Rochester,” he said.

Do’s and don’ts

“In Little League, we don’t call it the ‘Slaughter Rule’ and we don’t call it the ‘Mercy Rule.’ We call it the 10-run rule. We have a winners and losers’ bracket, but they don’t talk about winners’ bracket, losers’ bracket in Little League.”

“Once game begins, I try to keep news guys from violating rules. And now, you have got to keep an eye out for people because you can’t stream. You’re not allowed to stream anything. You can video, do interviews, all of that, but you can’t stream.”

Memorable moments

“It’s hard to say. Watching the Green girls (former Laurel standouts) pitch was always good. They were always phenomenal to watch. But I have the wrong angle to watch the ball come in. Where I sit in the press box, I have an umpire and catcher in my way. So, I’m listening to the feed from upstairs, and they are talking about her cutter and her rise-ball and all of this, and I can’t see it.”

“You remember certain players that were really good. The kids that played in past that come back, we had a Puerto Rico team who had an assistant coach who hit first home run at Roxana. She came back as an assistant. She hit first home run over at Connie Mack Field.

“This year we have a Canadian umpire. She played on the Canadian team in 2008. We’re starting to see that repetition, the kids that coming back from different programs.”

And the time Laurel won, the picture of the manager, jumping with a big fist-pump. That to me is little league. That is the epitome of Little League.”

“I’ve done, it’s closing in on 220 games. Which one stands out? Half of them.”

Call the game, don’t impact it

“Can you affect the game if you don’t do it right? Yeah, if you don’t do it right you can cause problems during a game. You have to step back because sometimes I am in some cases the official scorekeeper. It’s the things that will tell the manager that you wouldn’t say over the microphone. There is a lot of conventions.”

Broadcasting passion

“When I was at the University of Rochester, they had a campus radio. I had done public address announcing at Carle Place High School.  It’s nice to be able talk to people and they don’t talk back. I just enjoyed doing it. I got to Rochester and wound up working at the campus radio station, that’s probably if why I flunked out.”

“Then when I went in Navy, same things that got me into Navy ROTC scholarship got me picked up by Navy by more technical stuff. I was steered toward that.”

“When I got off active duty in 1970 I went back to college to get a degree in broadcasting at Northwestern. But I figured out that being disc jockey is fun, but you sure don’t need an $80,000 to $100,000 education to do it. But if you want to run these puppies, radio or a TV station, that is the way to go and you morph from time and temperature to ‘how do I run a multi-million broadcast operation?’”

“Also interned at CBS when I was there. I worked at WBBM-TV for a quarter. I worked for Lee Phillip Bell, who is one of the people who created ‘The Young & the Restless.’ One thing I learned is I don’t want to work in television. It’s fun. Bottom line it is took too many people to make a TV show go. In a major market like that in Chicago it takes five labor unions. You’ve got stage hands, directors, camera men, audio, and if you play music you’ve got a musician union. Plus, the talent — so that’s six unions.”

“I worked at a public station on the air in Texas. We won awards there.”

He also worked in the broadcasting field in Oklahoma, Iowa and Dallas, Texas. “It’s been an interesting broadcast career. When my wife got a job teaching Seaford I said we’re not moving anymore,” he said.

Career change

After moving to Delmarva around the mid-1970s, he went to work at radio station in Georgetown.

“At that point I was about 40 years old, and nobody in the broadcast business in Delaware at the time was over 30. It was all young people, and the people that were over 30 were the general managers,” said Mr. Lamberton. “So, I went into the computer business. That is what I have done since then, computer applications and support. I joke that I have three part-time jobs, and one sometimes pays me.”

His computer and technical expertise plays into the World Series. “It lets me host the website for Little League World Series. It doesn’t cost anything. Martin and I and anybody else on the board has a lot tighter control on what gets put up on the website. We can react a little faster. It’s my platform, so it can be adjusted and fixed very quickly.”

In the Navy!

“I stayed in Navy Reserves another 25 years. I retired in 1995 as senior chief cryptologist. I did everything; communication security to stuff we still can’t talk about.”

Closing thoughts

“It has been an interesting ride for 15 years. It’s actually closer to 25 for Little League. I started doing Legion baseball in 2000. In a moment of weakness, I told the guy who was the state commander, ‘I’ll take it over.’ I can computerize most of it. That’s what I did. And now my problem is how do I give it up?”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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