Radio play-by-play announcer Phil Elson is in his 14th season with the Travelers. In 2001, he became the first full-time home-and-road broadcaster in Travs’ history. With 19 years in professional baseball, he has spent 16 years on the radio and was voted the 2009 Arkansas Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. On the last day of the 2001 season at Ray Winder Field, Elson met his wife, Julie, and they have two children, Sadie and Gabriel.
Eliminating Dickey-Stephens, what is your favorite ballpark in the Texas League?
I like urban settings and love ONEOK field in Tulsa. It is built right into the core of downtown and has a cool view. It is a great ballpark.
How long does it take you to prepare for a broadcast?
It’s an all-day thing but also depends on the situation. I time everything and how my day goes before I’m on the air. If by 1 p.m., the stats aren’t right, I’ll start aligning them right. By 4 p.m., I like for my game notes to be finished. By 5:30 p.m., I hope I have an interview done although sometimes I don’t get in an interview. By 6:30 p.m., I hope to be ready to go. It doesn’t happen like that every time because other things can come up. But, it takes about five to six hours.
How did you start singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch?
Arkansas Al used to sign it when I first started working. He was the sweetest old man and always said he was singing alcapella. Tradition is that one person sings it, and one day about three or four years ago they handed me the mike. I did it a few more times, and then started doing it all the time.
So someone knew you could sing?
I had sung the National Anthem before. I’m not going to put out a record, but I can sing and carry a tune. Growing up and going to the Pirates’ games with my parents, we were known as the crazy fans who sang one beat ahead and then hang on at the end (Elson does this when he sings).
Last year’s Travelers’ team and this year’s basically mirror each other in that they had an up-and-down first half and came on and won the second-half. What’s your perception of that?
I think it says a lot about the players on both teams improving at the end of the year. Both team basically had the same hitters, and they got better as the season went on. They were able to hit the ball and scores runs, and the pitching was always there.
What do you do in the off-season?
I call play-by-play for the Henderson State football team and up until this year also did UALR women’s basketball. Since I gave that up, I’ll enjoy spending more time at home with Julie and the kids.
What do you do in your free time?
In the hotel, I read and like to read. I don’t watch a lot of T.V. and also like to listen to NPR.
Besides a being a Big League broadcaster, what are your goals?
Part of that goal is to enjoy the trip and to have fun doing what I am doing. My goals have changed over the years, and I also want to have a successful family life and raise good kids.
What do you do to hone your craft?
I listen to my own broadcasts and critique but try not to do that too much because I’m hard on myself. I like to listen to random minor league broadcasts and during the playoffs like to listen to Big League broadcasts. I rather listen than watch it on T.V.