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Rusty Kath is taking his talents to the land of baseball-toting pigs.
It may not be 'The Show', but it's the best sideshow in town
Rusty Kath to be a voice of the St. Paul Saints
By Rick Moore
From M, summer 2004
It may be a bit of stretch to say that Rusty Kath is joining the circus. But if you've ever been to a St. Paul Saints baseball game, you know it's not much of a stretch. Kath, a 2003 University of Minnesota, Morris, grad and former Cougar public address announcer, was recently chosen to be a voice of the Saints, the professional baseball team whose games are filled with madcap fun. He will share the PA announcing duties with Maggie Faris, a Twin Cities comic, this year during home games at St. Paul's Midway Stadium. Kath won the job following two nights of auditions during which he was required to do a 90-second stand-up comedy bit, then provide commentary while watching videotape of Saints action. What does comedy have to do with announcing baseball? Well, these are the St. Paul Saints we're talking about. Members of the independent Northern League, which was reborn in 1993, the Saints play pretty good baseball; in fact, they won three of the first four Northern League championships. But oftentimes when the Saints play, the between-innings entertainment steals the show. (Cue up circus music here.) There are the fans who square off to sumo wrestle in faux-flesh costumes so bulky that the combatants need help in getting up if they fall down. There are the fans who try to throw wiffle balls past a fanatical goalie guarding a hockey net. There are tire races, too. Not the animated kind, like on the Metrodome scoreboard, but ones with fans pushing real colored tires around the bases. And of course, there is the pig that brings fresh baseballs out to the home-plate umpire. It's the closest thing to an open-air Big Top that there is in professional sports, and in previous years, the comedic commentary and sarcastic interjections of the PA announcers have been the perfect complement to the antics on the field.
"I had the intention of going into broadcast journalism, but at this time that's on the back burner," Kath says. "I'm more interested in seeing where the Saints job takes me."This is what Kath will be stepping into. But he brings with him a wealth of experience from his days at Morris, first as a baseball announcer during his freshman year, and later as the voice of the Cougar basketball teams. "I got to make crowds laugh; got to do a little bit of entertaining from the head table," says Kath. "I couldn't believe that they were paying me to sit there, watch basketball, and talk sports. I love sports and I love talking." Back in the day, he was known for a signature comment or two. After an opposing basketball player was called for a foul, Kath would announce that "John Smith was cheating." And if an opponent broke loose for a resounding slam dunk, Kath would respond, "John Smith with the layup." That kind of sarcasm and understatement will play well in the land of baseball-toting pigs. As for the auditions, which were held at the Acme Comedy Club in Minneapolis, Kath apparently held his own. The stand-up segments wound up being fairly short ("It was good for me since I'm not a stand-up comic," he says), and he was able to think on his feet, even when the Saints videotape included some movie clips, like one from Tom Cruise's Days of Thunder. "It was a curve ball, but they were looking for the folks to be able to respond to whatever they threw at them," Kath says. "I remember starting to sing 'Take My Breath Away' by Berlin, and realizing that that was from Top Gun instead of Days of Thunder." No matter. The crowd appreciated his humor, and he and Faris were chosen from a field of about 20 candidates, including fellow UMM student Nate Fuller--"a really funny young comic" who Kath felt was equally qualified. As an added treat, Kath and Faris were flown out to New York in March to appear, along with Saints president Mike Veeck, on ESPN's "Cold Pizza" program. And since then he's turned up in the Morris Sun Tribune newspaper and on a WCCO Radio program. "I think my 15 minutes are about up," Kath says. He says his dream job would be to be the PA announcer for the Twins--a position held many years by the iconic Bob Casey, he of the signature "Kirrbbeeeeeeee Puck-ett!" For now, Kath's got the best of both worlds--working part-time at the Metrodome compiling highlights for Major League Baseball, and getting ready for his gig at Midway Stadium. "I had the intention of going into broadcast journalism, but at this time that's on the back burner," Kath says. "I'm more interested in seeing where the Saints job takes me."