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21-Year-Old Jeremiah Paprocki Becomes Cubs' First Black PA Announcer

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Ladies and gentlemen, the new public address announcer of the Chicago Cubs at historic Wrigley Field, Jeremiah Paprocki.

(CHEERING)

JEREMIAH PAPROCKI: Thank you for that intro. That was amazing.

SIMON: Well, there's more. Wrigley Field is 112 years old. Jeremiah Paprocki is 21. He's the team's first Black PA announcer, and if there's any younger PA announcer in the majors, please let us know. Mr. Paprocki joins us from Chicago. Thanks so much for being with us.

PAPROCKI: Thank you for having me. This is awesome. Thank you.

SIMON: You grew up a Cubs fan, didn't you?

PAPROCKI: I did. Born and raised, thanks to my mom.

SIMON: Well, tell us about your mother, because she kind of had a role with the team - or with the team's fans. Let's put it that way.

PAPROCKI: (Laughter) Yeah, she used to work in the parking lots of Wrigley Field as a parking attendant/security. And she sometimes controlled the players' lot and made sure everything was in order.

SIMON: So you grew up with the team, kind of, didn't you?

PAPROCKI: Yeah, I've been going to games since I was 2 months old.

SIMON: (Laughter) Wow. All right. You win. That's the best I've heard so far. That's great.

PAPROCKI: Yeah, a lot of games that I don't remember.

SIMON: Did you grow up imitating the PA announcer every now and then as I guess, you know, a lot of us do?

PAPROCKI: (Laughter) Of course. It first started off as more of like a childish thing being at the game and hearing that voice in the background and saying, I could do that, and trying to beat him before he says it and calling up some of the Cubs. And then when I got into, you know, PA announcing, maybe my early teens, I'd sit in the bleachers with my scorecard, and I'd do the same exact thing but this time with the intent of practicing on my career and really shaping my voice.

SIMON: Well, you've got a beautiful voice, and it's a great voice for this. I've grown to feel over the years that the key is not just having a good voice but having life in it, having a voice that makes people want to hear what you have to say.

PAPROCKI: That's important, too. It's - you know, it's - you don't want to sound like a robot, you know, giving information out, especially with sports. And there's exciting moments. You know, you definitely want to have some inflection in your voice when you're saying things. There's big-time moments. Bottom of the ninth, Cubs are at bat, you definitely want to wake Wrigley Field up and make sure that fans are on their feet for those big moments as well. So...

SIMON: Yeah. What does it mean to you to be the first African American PA announcer at Wrigley Field?

PAPROCKI: It means a lot being a part of the community and having a lot of, you know, African American friends and just being up to date with, you know, everything that's going on in the world. There's been a lot of, you know, negative news and stuff like that that's been put to the community. And for my story to be out there and kind of bringing positivity to it and inspiring a lot of younger African Americans and people of color in general to pursue professional careers, it really means a lot, and it's an honor to have as well.

SIMON: Do you dream of being the PA announcer in a World Series?

PAPROCKI: Oh, of course. I'm hoping this year is the year. They're looking really good this year, too.

SIMON: Do you plan to stay with us for a while? I think Pat Pieper was the announcer for 59 years.

PAPROCKI: Of course. That's always the goal, especially with a job like this. And I got a lot of years left, so I'm looking forward to enjoying it as long as I can.

SIMON: No better place to work than Wrigley Field, is there?

PAPROCKI: Of course. I walk into the booth every time, and it's like - it's crazy how, you know, at such a young age I landed this - Wrigley Field. And to be a fan in the stands for so many years, it's an amazing honor to walk into that press box and turn the mic on.

(SOUNDBITE OF KING CURTIS'S "TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME")

SIMON: The man who writes the theme music for our show is named BJ Leiderman. We credit him every program. I think it would give him a thrill to hear you read that credit.

PAPROCKI: Our WEEKEND EDITION theme is by BJ Leiderman.

SIMON: Oh, that's beautiful. Jeremiah Paprocki, the new PA announcer of the Chicago Cubs - let's hope on his way to read the lineup of the World Series. Thank you so much for being with us.

PAPROCKI: Thank you. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

(SOUNDBITE OF KING CURTIS'S "TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.