The voice of the AquaSox
Tall Tom Lafferty begins his 35th season in the booth
Doug Ramsay photo
“Tall” Tom Lafferty was checking out the newly installed artificial turf (seen in the background) at Everett Memorial
Stadium baseball park during the semi-pro Everett Merchants opening game on June 1.
EVERETT — “Tall” Tom Lafferty casts a long shadow at Everett Memorial Stadium, and it’s not just because he’s 6 foot 5 inches.
Lafferty is beginning his 35th season announcing at the field and his resonant voice is synonymous with the Everett AquaSox, the Mariners’ Class A franchise.
The baseball loving bass singer is renowned for his pipes, whether serving as a PA or directing choir for the Snohomish United Methodist Church, where he’s also been a fixture for more than three decades.
It’s hard to know if it was his striking height, his limited high school announcing experience, or pure moxie that landed Lafferty his baseball career, but one thing he certainly had in the bag was his voice.
It was 1984 when the then-San Francisco Giants affiliate, the Everett Giants, arrived.
Tom was already in the area: he grew up in Snohomish, and after graduating Snohomish High attended Bellevue Community College.
“I saw baseball was coming,” so when Bob Bavasi, the original owner of the Giants came up, “I went to their office… and said, I know you’re coming to town, I want to be your PA announcer.”
“He said ‘well you seem to have a nice voice, you seem like a nice guy, OK.’ That literally was it… It just seemed like the right thing at the right time,” Lafferty said.
“His voice is just naturally pleasing (and) he knows what people will enjoy. He has passion and works really hard” at entertaining said Pat Castro, who is the team’s official scorer and sings with Lafferty in the Common Ground quintet.
“Tall” Tom is not above having a little fun with his instrument either: Pastor Annie Hayes says he makes a mean King Herrod at the church’s Epiphany celebration, yelling at children in a reenactment of the biblical tale of the three wise men.
But she says he also uses his “incredible gift” paired with a kind heart to benefit all those around him. As choir director, Hayes said Lafferty adjusts music to the strengths of the performers and assists young singers as they prepare for music scholarship applications.
Lafferty’s favorite moments on the job include seeing great players come through including Felix Hernandez, Ken Griffey Jr., Randy Johnson, Jay Buhner, Mike Zunino, and even the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson in a 2010 stint as a second baseman for the Tri-City Dust Devils.
He has witnessed countless players come through and almost as many changes to the operation over the years. Lafferty saw the team through its name change, multiple owners, and the advent of the digital era.
Those were the days before Monster.com and keyword-studded resumes. They were also the days before the
team used walkie talkies, computers or video boards.
Lafferty has adjusted to all the technology over the years. It’s changed the job, but not simplified it.
Today’s players each expect their own walk-up music, cued to just the right moment. Screening lyrics to avoid expletives in the family-friendly stadium is a concern: He has to hope the Spanish language songs are clean as he doesn’t speak the language.
Currently, game nights are more scripted than in decades past, because Lafferty’s words must match content on the video screen.
One thing he doesn’t miss is fans hollering up to the booth to get the Mariners’ score. Smartphones have solved that problem.
There is a timeless element to the work, though. “From 1984 until now, the game dictates what’s going on, no matter what, the baseball game is what’s important, it’s the star of the show,” Lafferty said.
Lafferty manages both the music and announcing, jobs often handled by two people. “It’s almost more of an entertainment and music gig than a sports gig,” Lafferty said. And that’s just at the AquaSox.
Afterhours he sings with the quintet, performing everything from “Lydia, the Tattooed Lady” to “Danny Boy” to please fans.
And Lafferty’s directed the choir at the Snohomish United Methodist Church for nearly as long as he’s announced. Then there’s his day job, doing sports for KRKO radio.
Lafferty is known for being highly organized and impeccably prepared, not to
mention possessing a resounding instrument, but he is modest about his longevity with the AquaSox. “They keep inviting me back,” he chuckles.
His manager is less demure.
“He brings so much institutional knowledge to the plate,” said AquaSox general manager Danny Tetzlaff in an email. “When I started as GM in 2015, my head was spinning at I was getting acclimated and everyone told me I did not need to worry about the PA announcer. They were right … ‘Tall Tom’ is here every day to get things started more than four hours before the first pitch! You can always count on him.”
“It’s just fun, it’s still fun, and I’m a stick to it kind of guy anyway.” Lafferty saves his embellishments for the game, where he always seems to keep in mind that “every day is Mardi Gras, and every fan is king.”
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