If you’ve ever watched the greyhound racing at Wheeling Island Downs, you’ve certainly heard Jerry Echemann calling the races. Continuing our Track Announcer series, we spoke with Jerry about his start in announcing and his love for his awesome career.
Jerry describes himself as never having the “gift of gab,” nor does he wish he did. Instead, Jerry enjoys and prefers quiet conversation. How did someone who isn’t very chatty get into a speaking career? Well, despite having a preference for quiet conversation, Jerry had become interested in announcing when he was a young boy.
“As a boy, I would watch the Cincinnati Reds on TV and pretend I was doing radio play-by-play.”
This interest lead Jerry to announce for his high school diving team when the position became available. With announcing of some sort still on Jerry’s mind, he headed to Ohio University after high school to study radio and television, which kickstarted his 31-year career in television news. Throughout this time, Jerry would visit Wheeling Island a couple times a year for fun. One day, he noticed a help-wanted ad in the local paper for a back-up announcer at Wheeling and Jerry applied for the gig.
“It would be many months before they called. Other guys tried out before me and could not make the grade. The work-weary full-time guy, upon hearing me call my first race, thrust his arms skyward, spun around and said, ‘I’m going to get a day off!”
Jerry enjoyed being a reporter for WTRF-TV in Wheeling, West Virginia, but his announcing spot at Wheeling Island was becoming more appealing to him. After about ten years of working as a back-up announcer, Jerry decided to leave TV and switch to full-time announcing at Wheeling.
“I had become tired of covering fires and stabbings and being put outside to go ‘live’ in the predawn hours of 5 degree below zero mornings.”
This career change ended up being a great decision for Jerry as he loves his job at Wheeling Island.
“I tell people I have the best job at the track.”
The great thing about calling races for Wheeling Island is that Jerry gets the best of both worlds; he is pursuing his childhood dream of announcing and gets to enjoy the greyhound racing action. Jerry’s favorite greyhounds often consist of the pups with creative names. If he likes a name, you can bet that Jerry is a fan of that dog. Run-together names like Benicetoafireman are names that catch Jerry’s interest.
This season, at Wheeling so far, Jerry is keeping an eye on Barts Outofmyway (Pictured) and Barts Buymeaboat, who has been doing a great job tearing up the track. Barts Buymeaboat has 8 wins, 7 places, and 11 shows in 42 starts this season so far. Jerry really appreciates the greyhounds that can break out of the box really fast, which we have seen a few times from Barts Buymeaboat.
“They bust out of the box to take big leads and it’s exciting to see if they can hold on at the wire.”
Jerry’s favorite races to call are the championship stakes races, which are full of excitement. This makes announcing the races even more fun. The event that Jerry enjoys the most at Wheeling is their Fourth of July Party on the Apron, which consists of music, food, fireworks, and dancing on the apron after a day of greyhound racing.
Working so long as a track announcer, we asked Jerry what his most memorable call has been over the years. For Jerry, this consisted of the first time he was alone in the announcing booth. He had the nerves and excitement of calling his first race alone, but the thing about starting out is that you lack experience and one thing that Jerry hadn’t experienced yet was calling out prices of a dead heat. Naturally, Jerry’s very first time alone in that booth to call a race, a dead heat came in. Fortunately, Jerry got through it and has now called a ton of races, some of which have included dead heats.
We are so glad that Jerry was able to push through the learning curve of calling races because we enjoy listening to him at Wheeling Island. His energy and love for announcing shines through when he calls races. We couldn’t agree more with Jerry when he says that he has the best job at the track.
We would like to thank Jerry Echemann for speaking with us and sharing his story. Make sure to tune into greyt greyhound racing and announcing by Jerry at Wheeling Island Wednesdays through Sundays. We would also like to thank Stan Pawloski for providing us with pictures. One of our main goals is to promote the greyhound industry. Do you work in the greyhound racing industry or know someone who does? Would you be interested in being featured in our blog or podcast? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.