CHICAGO (CBS News) — The Cubs are making history again this year, but not for their work on the field.
As CBS News’ Adriana Diaz reported Monday, the Cubs’ new announcer is the youngest ever to take the mic for the team – and he’s the team’s first Black announcer too.READ MORE: 7 People Shot After Argument At Englewood Gathering
Returning to great American pastimes comes with a nostalgic soundtrack. At Wrigley Field, there’s the organ – organist Gary Pressy retired a couple of years ago, but the musical accompaniment he inspired continues on in the hands of new organist John Benedeck. There is also a voice from above, speaking to all the fans – and at Wrigley, the booming voice is younger than it sounds.
The announcer at the public address microphone is 21-year-old Jeremiah Paprocki, the first Black person to ever hold the job and the youngest in Wrigley history.
“I thought this dream was out of the ballpark, but here I am in the ballpark as the voice. So anything can happen,” he told Diaz.
His new office — “in the press box,” he said.
The college senior at the University of Illinois at Chicago is finishing his last year remotely.
Wrigley Field, of course, has been home to legendary play-by-play announcers Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray – as well as famous super fans like Bill Murray, who takes the mic himself from time to time.
Now, it’s Paprocki’s voice greeting fans with, “Good afternoon and welcome to baseball at beautiful Wrigley Field.”
Paprocki told Diaz that getting the position “means a lot,” especially as Wrigley Field’s first Black PA announcer.READ MORE: Massive Chemical Plant Fire In Rockton, Illinois, Could Burn For Days
“The social climate hasn’t been the best,” he said. “And to have my story alone, you know bring a lot of positivity… people of color in general reaching out and saying like ‘Hey, you’re such a huge inspiration.'”
Being an inspiration has turned Paprocki into a kind of sports star of his own. He’s often recognized outside the ballpark by Cubs fans.
DePaul University professor Fred Mitchell, the Chicago Tribune’s first Black sportswriter, said that while he is “certainly happy for” Paprocki, his selection highlights an even larger issue.
“Just the attention that this hiring is receiving tells baseball, to take a look at themselves and say, well, you know, how diverse are we?” Mitchell said. “Major League Baseball in general is lacking when it comes to diversity among scouts, front office executives, personnel people. I think there’s a lot of improvement that can be done there.”
As for Paprocki, his passion for baseball is hereditary.
“I’ve always been a Cubs fan. My mom made sure of it. You know, she brought me to my first game when I was a few months old,” he said.
His mother once worked as a parking attendant at Wrigley Field, and when the family would go to games, Paprocki said he would mimic the announcers.
Starting out as a PA announcer in high school, Paprocki saw an opportunity when he noticed a Cubs job posting on Facebook. He knocked his audition out of the park.MORE NEWS: Indiana Man Searches For Family Of Little Girl Seen In Film That Dates Back More Than 80 Years
“It’s like this has to be a joke in some way, maybe I’m dreaming so I don’t know right now I’m still speechless,” he said.