BATH TOWNSHIP – Few schools can feature a game-day experience quite like a Bath girls basketball game.
There’s NBA-like introduction music.
There’s a professional-sounding announcer.
There’s plenty of music throughout the game.
You even have a wildcat growling at most of the breaks.
Most of this entertainment can be credited to the “voice of Bath sports,” Tony Hammer.
Hammer is honored today as the winner of the Paul Smith Award, for contributions and volunteer work to make the high school game-day experience possible.
“I love sports,” Hammer said. “Plus, I love watching these kids grow up from Little League games. And, I’m coming back to my school.”
Hammer is a 1986 Bath High School graduate, who played football and baseball.
He’s been doing the public address at most Bath sporting events for 17 years. He’s best known for announcing football and girls and boys basketball games.
But he’s also done the announcing at Bath for baseball, softball, boys and girls soccer, volleyball and Middle School baseball.
He’s even announced Little League baseball at the Cairo Park.
“That’s one of the most fun things I’ve done,” Hammer said. “The kids loved it.”
Hammer was actually “volunteered” for the Bath post by his dad when then Bath athletic director Dwaine Holt was looking for someone to take Bob Tomlinson’s place.
Hammer had worked for a local radio station, 92 Zoo, for six years at the time and certainly had the voice for it.
“I grew up on a farm in Cairo and I was standing there with my dad when Dwaine said he was looking for someone to do the P.A. My dad said, “Tony’s your man.”
Hammer first start to announce the boys basketball games. That quickly led to girls basketball the next year.
“(Bath girls coach) Greg Mauk came up to me and said the girls were a little shy to ask, but they wanted me to announce the girls games,” Hammer said. “I said I’d be happy to.”
Then, came announcing football, then nearly every sport at Bath.
Since the beginning, Hammer made sure to give the opposing team the necessary credit for scores and during the introductions.
“I try to be neutral for the introductions,” Hammer said. “I try to give them as much enthusiasm as I do for Bath.”
For close to the last 10 years, Hammer has added music and sound effects to his girls basketball games.
“Greg Mauk asked us if we could play music,” Hammer said.
That brought the Bath gym to its electric state.
“We have our own 20-minute warm-up mix,” Hammer said. “The first year I did the music by myself, but the second year I brought in Brent (Garver).”
Garver added the NBA-like introduction music, courtesy of the Allen Parson Project, along with a growl he took from Penn State.
“Brent and I have been best friends since the seventh grade,” Hammer said. “We go to a timeout and he throws on the music. It’s all about the timing and we have a blast.”
Over the years, Hammer has had plenty of people and players comment about the sound.
“There was a coach from Valparaiso here scouting and he told us after the game that the atmosphere was one of the best in the country.
“Then, this (Bath forward) Danielle Van Dyne asked me if I could go with her to college. She wanted me to introduce her in college,” he said with a laugh.
Over the years, he’s had plenty of highlights, including watching big games with big crowds like when Ottawa-Glandorf and Lima Central Catholic come in for boys basketball games.
Another highlight for him was announcing and playing the music for Bath baseball when it played at Dayton’s Fifth Third Field, the home of the Dragons.
But, more than the games, Hammer has liked following the players and chatting with the opposing coaches.
“Treva Fortkamp of Marion Local will request music,” he said. “And a lot of the referees will make comments and ask about the music.”
Hammer inherited his love of sports from his dad, who was a big Reds’ fan.
“At first, I wondered why he wanted to watch all those games, then when I was a teenager, I finally got it. He said, “I love to watch sports because, you never know what will happen. And that’s true.”
Hammer, who works at Proctor and Gamble during the day, is always looking ahead and thinking of what he can add to the night’s entertainment.
“If we could do spotlights (for the introductions), it would be awesome,” he said.
There’s one thing more he would like to do on the P.A.
“My son’s a sixth-grader, who plays football,” Hammer said. “I’d love to announce his name. That would be great.”