From heckler to PA announcer: Cole's unique path
EUGENE, OREGON -- Jill Cole didn’t apply for the job and had no prior experience. So how did she end up as public address announcer for the Eugene Emeralds, spending her evenings behind a microphone in the PK Park press box? It's kind of a weird story. “I came here
EUGENE, OREGON -- Jill Cole didn’t apply for the job and had no prior experience. So how did she end up as public address announcer for the Eugene Emeralds, spending her evenings behind a microphone in the PK Park press box? It's kind of a weird story.
“I came here with my kids and my husband to watch a game,” said Cole, speaking prior to the Emeralds game on May 5. “We were in the stands, and I love to heckle. I’m a clean heckler because I’ve got little kids. So I was just doing my thing and, all of a sudden, we look over and there’s this guy, dressed head to toe in Emeralds gear, who’s motioning for me to come out of the stands.”
Seemingly out of nowhere, a wholesome evening of clean heckling with the family had become fraught with tension.
“My husband stands up, like, ‘Oh, you’re gonna kick her out?’” said Cole, her tone conveying the incredulity of the moment. “I couldn’t believe it. I’m about to be ejected from the game. For heckling?”
The foreboding fellow in team apparel was Emeralds general manager Allan Benavides, who remembers the moment well.
“I could hear her from sections away, and was like ‘Who is that? That is insane!” he said. “I thought I’d come down. ‘I need to talk to you.’ Like she was in trouble or something.”
Fortunately, Benavides’ heel turn was short-lived. Here, Cole again picks up the story.
“I get up, squeeze through the seats, and he says ‘You’ve got a great voice. You ever think about doing any PA work?’ And I was shocked. He gave me his card and I sat back down to watch the rest of the game.”
The next time Cole visited PK Park -- once again operating in clean heckler mode -- Benavides tracked her down and insisted she come to the press box for an impromptu audition. Emeralds PA announcer Ted Welker ceded the mic for an inning and Cole stepped in.
“The crown went wild, and so, here I am,” she said.
And so, here she is. After several seasons serving as Welker’s back-up, the 2023 campaign marks Cole’s first as the Emeralds’ primary PA announcer. This is supplemented by additional weekends announcing for the University of Oregon Ducks baseball team, who share PK Park with the Emeralds (High-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants). It’s all felt a little surreal, given that PA announcing wasn’t something Cole had ever thought to do professionally.
“I love theater, love a stage, love a spotlight, love a microphone,” said Cole, who, by day, works in a classroom support role at a local school. “But I never thought that I’d get to make it work, that’d it be a part of something as unique as shattering the glass ceiling.”
A lot of Public Address Announcing Girl Power in one photo! 💁♀️🎙— Eugene Emeralds (@EugeneEmeralds) June 4, 2021
Jill Carmichael-Cole has graciously joined us to serve as the voice of PK Park for a number of home games so far this year, and today she got to meet THE voice of Oracle Park, @RenelSFVoyce! #GoEms x #SFGiants pic.twitter.com/XwbxaICKtf
As her @TheFemalePA Twitter moniker suggests, Cole takes pride in being a woman within a traditionally male-dominated ballpark vocation. Her ultimate inspiration in the field is Renel Brooks-Moon, who has handled PA duties for the San Francisco Giants (the Emeralds’ parent club) since 2000. Cole says that having the opportunity to inspire girls at the ballpark is one of her favorite parts of the job, as is looking down into the stands and seeing her family, friends, students and co-workers looking back up at her.
"They think it's the coolest thing ever," she said. "They love my story."
If there's a moral to this improbable story, then perhaps it's this: Hire clean hecklers, as enthusiasm in the stands can translate elsewhere in the ballpark.
“One thing I always tell people is, you can’t teach passion,” said Benavides. “If you’re working in this business, you’re not doing it for the money. You’re doing it because you love it, and you want to be here. Jill, she’s got that.”
Benjamin Hill is a reporter for MiLB.com and writes Ben's Biz Blog. Follow Ben on Twitter @bensbiz.