Varnado steps down as FHS’s P.A. announcer

Published 7:07 am Saturday, May 7, 2016

Public address announcers are important in sports.

They can help create a homefield advantage by getting the fans, players and coaches excited.

For the last 11 years, Stuart Varnado has been a familiar voice for Franklinton baseball.

Franklinton coach Jeff Tageant said Varnado changes the whole atmosphere at the Franklinton High School Demon Diamond.

“He plays the music, gets the crowd fired up and makes maybe the people that are not the truest baseball fan, but they want to come to an event and Stuart makes it an event with music and just the way he puts us on the field,” Tageant said.

Tageant said he’s had other coaches tell him that FHS can be intimidating place to come through.

“I think what Stew does definitely contributes a lot to that,” Tageant said.

After calling plenty of games, seeing a lot of great moments and announcing many players coming up to bat, taking the mound or going in as a substitute, Varnado is stepping down at the end of the season.

Varnado and his wife Marie were honored by Tageant and Franklinton Principal Lisa Tanner in a ceremony prior to the Demons’ opening round playoff game against Lakeshore on Tuesday, April 26.

Varnado, who fills in as the football P.A. announcer from time-to-time, began his role as the P.A. announcer as a fill in at the field the Demons played on before the current one was built.

“Jeff didn’t have anybody and my daughter (Kristina) was new to the school and wanted to be a Diamond Girl, so I figured I’d volunteer just to spend a little time with her,” Varnado said. “That was 11 years ago.”

“I’ve had the privilege of seeing my little brother graduate, Jared Varnado. He was a Demons’ shortstop for a couple of years, district champs.”

Varnado said it’s been a fun ride.

“I’ve seen a lot of good baseball,” Varnado said. “It’s kind of bittersweet. My boys (Dylan and Christopher Varnado) are graduating this year. They don’t play baseball, but I’ve watched this senior class from the time they were 5. I’ve helped coach all of them and at some point in their baseball career, I’ve had the privilege of announcing their names here.

“I’ve gotten to see some all-district players, some MVPs and some actually go pro (baseball and football). We’ve seen some college players here too. Although it’s been a blessing to me, it’s been a privilege to be a part of such a good program.”

Varnado said his goal going into games is to provide an atmosphere where they can have fun and take a little pride in the community, the school, themselves and their team.

“I wish I could remember all of the players I’ve announced. I’ve seen so much, but one of my favorite memories was we were playing Notre Dame when Charlie Lester and Lee Seal were seniors,” he said. “It was 0-0 and it was a defensive struggle and Charlie Lester hit a two-run shot to put us in the semifinals. The atmosphere at Old Doc Diamond was so electric after that home run that I’ve become a little bit addicted to it.

“That was my second season and I couldn’t give it up. Jeff and I have a real strong bond, a good friendship. He’s looked out for me for the last 11 seasons even when we called it in the snow. I called a baseball game in the snow. But it’s been a real pleasure. Facilities are second-to-none. It’s going to be bittersweet. I’ll have a hard time walking away.”

Varnado called his final game on Saturday, April 30, as the team will be on the road for the remaining playoff contests. His final game was a memorable contest. Franklinton won 6-3 to defeat Salmen 2 games to 0 and advance to the quarterfinal round in a best-of-three. The contest featured about a five-hour rain/lightning delay.