Andy Freed remembers not only the day but also the exact time when he learned he was heading to the Major Leagues.
"It was February first of 2005 at 3:58 p.m.," says Freed, who grew up in the Valley Meade section of Ellicott City.
Freed, who turned 41 on May 11, played baseball in the Howard County Youth Program (HCYP) and at Mt. Hebron High before he graduated in 1989. But his promotion to The Show — as baseball's big leagues are known — had nothing to do with throwing a fastball or hitting a curve.
For more than a decade Freed had been a radio announcer in the minor leagues, working his way up from the Class A Florida State League to the Class AA Eastern League to the Class AAA International League. Just before spring training seven years ago he learned he had landed a job with Tampa Bay, an American League East foe of the Orioles.
At the time, he had spent four years as a broadcaster covering Pawtucket, the top minor league affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.
"For 11 years I was in the minor leagues and I wanted to get an opportunity" for the majors, says Freed. "Someone told me the point of the broadcast should not be to get me to the next level. The point was to invest energy into the team I was working for. I really tried to do that."
Even so, there was a sense of relief when he got the Tampa Bay job, mainly since he and his wife had their first child, Sarah, in 2003.
"I won't lie. In Triple A, the schedule was relentless and there were few off days, even in the off-season. You make no money in the minor leagues," he says.
Tears of joy
Freed said he cried tears of joy on the drive home from the ballpark in Pawtucket after he learned he had gotten the Tampa Bay gig.
"It sounds so sappy and dramatic, but I was going to be able to tell (my family) we were going to have a better life," says Freed.
Freed says his family went out to dinner to celebrate that 2005 evening and then came back to their home near the ballpark in Pawtucket and began to call family and friends with news of his promotion to The Show.
"It was one of the happiest things in our life," says his father, Erwin, who lived with his wife, Carolyn, in Ellicott City for more than 30 years before moving to Florida last year to be near their three grandchildren. "He came up through the ranks. We were waiting for him to be called. It was extremely exciting."
Freed's wife, Amy, who he met while working in New Jersey, has a background in nursing and held down several jobs while her husband was a broadcaster in Trenton and Pawtucket. Now she is a stay-at-home mother for their three young children.
"I would not trade those 11 years in the minors. But the minor leagues are there to leave them. If they wanted you to be there, they would pay you better," says Freed.
Since joining the Rays, Freed — who returned home the weekend of May 11-13 when the Rays played at Baltimore — called the 2008 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. In addition, at the end of last season he was behind the microphone for one of the more dramatic conclusions to the regular season in baseball history.
On Sept. 29, he called the home run by Evan Longoria that sent Tampa Bay to the playoffs after the Rays had trailed the Red Sox by nine games Sept. 3. The Orioles beat the Red Sox, also on walk-off fashion, the same day to give the wild card spot to the Rays over Boston.
(To hear Freed's call go to raysindex.com/wp-content/Audio/WDAE%20-%20Andy%20Freed.m4a)
Nice guy finishes on top
Freed has a passionate style but does not go overboard in inserting himself into the action during such dramatic moments.