Home Features The People of Pensacola: Josh Gay

The People of Pensacola: Josh Gay

From diving with Blue Wahoos fish to announcing the Blue Wahoos baseball games, this Pensacola native won his enviable job American Idol style. 

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The former Catholic High Crusader and Florida State religion studies student became the voice of the Blue Wahoos after winning a contest for the position at Cordova Mall. No stranger to figuring it out as you go, the man with a great voice hopped from college to being a misplaced SCUBA instructor after the BP oil spill in April 2010, to sales jobs before devoting his nights and weekends to the ballpark and the hockey arena.

Gay was also the PA announcer at the Pensacola Ice Flyers from 2014-2023 and has been a PA announcer with Running Wild since 2013.

His warm authenticity puts him in the category of someone you feel like you’ve known forever, but the mention of his adventurous trip to South Africa with his little girl and wife lets you know you’ve only begun to scratch the surface. 

After hearing his voice, it’s a surprise to learn that he has no formal broadcasting education or training unless you count reading announcements over the PA system in high school. You can’t help but have questions for someone who literally talked his way into one of the coolest jobs in town.

Many of you already know him, but it’s my honor to introduce him to the ones who don’t through a little Q & A. Pensacola, meet Josh Gay.

Dana Hairston Hof: How did you become the Voice of the Blue Wahoos?

Josh Gay: My wife and I often joked about how great it would be to be a stadium announcer. The Wahoos were doing open tryouts in the mall. The stadium wasn’t even built, yet. The contest was American Idol style, so I walked in, they handed me the script and the three judges were less than overwhelmed with my performance. Still, I walked off stage and was given the job.

DHH: How did you feel that first opening day?

JG: To get to opening day, it was pretty stressful. To train, I sat at the mic in the press box while our former team president, Bruce Baldwin, sat in section 101. He made me pull up just about every Major League roster and announce them. He would yell through the radio, ‘No not that way, do it this way,’. We sat doing that for hours, so I learned really quickly.

I know about baseball and keep in mind changes like the pitch clock, and the timing and flow of the game, but it’s better when I am not affected by the score or performance of the players. 

Many people come to the game for the entire experience and it’s important that my energy not be affected by the ebbs and flows of the game. 

I remember every second of my first game. It was a little overwhelming. I had my script for the game and I’d gone through it several times. I’d gone through the roster, too. But I walked in and was handed a 13-page welcome and thank you to the people who helped put the ballpark together. I had never seen it before, but I was expected to read it on the mic just a few minutes later. We also had a Blue Angels flyover scheduled and a person from their team in the press box with a radio going, so it was a very stressful time, at the end of it, I thought I’d failed miserably, but here I am starting season 12. 

*It would be 13, but the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 13 years later and comfortable in the announcer’s seat, Gay claims that the once chaotic and unpredictable “hot seat” of calling the game is his stress relief. After working a different job from nine to five, Josh equates being in the press box as a place to unwind. The amazing view of Pensacola Bay doesn’t hurt.

DHH: It seems like there’s a good rapport with the other people you work with here, tell me about that.

JG: From top to bottom, you can tell this is a Studer Family of Companies. Quint (Studer) didn’t run this like a baseball team, or a minor league sports team. He ran this like any of his other businesses, with a focus on customer service and “managing up”. The press box is like the nerve center of the game, so we need to work well with the entire organization scattered throughout the ballpark. To provide good customer service, we must work as a team and communicate well with one another. We also get to know many of the season ticket holders well, too, which just makes the entire park feel like a big family. A season ticket holder will pop up on the camera and we usually know them by first name. It’s a great atmosphere.

DHH: Did you grow up playing baseball?

JG: I am awful at baseball. I’m a tee ball dropout. But my Mom was my baseball influence. She was obsessed with the Atlanta Braves. That mid-nineties World Series team…we watched every game. But for other reasons, I ended up loving the Boston Red Sox, before they went on their series run. I’ve been a die-hard Red Sox fan since the mid to late nineties. Baseball is a minor obsession at our house. 

DHH: How did you meet your wife, Alexa?

JG: I wrote my now wife her first love note when we were both in the PATS gifted program in middle school here in Escambia County. But I was stupid enough not to sign it, so she threw it away. 

After high school, we lost touch, but I saw her out at the beach and we reconnected. We’ve been married since 2008. 

We have an awesome daughter, Charlie, who thankfully looks like her Mom, but acts just like me. 

DHH: I want to know more about your hobby of world travel. Where to next?

JG: Every dime I make from announcing I put into travel. My wife doesn’t like to travel much, so my daughter is my travel buddy. I want to give her experiences, not things. The year before last we went to France. We did convince my wife to go and she loved it. 

Last year we went to South Africa. When I was a diver, I had been in the water with 9 out of the top 10 man-eating sharks, even though sharks aren’t really dangerous, except for a Great White. But from a very young age, I’ve always wanted to see white sharks in Africa, which inspired the trip.

My daughter loves animals, too. She carries around an adult animal reference book and knows more about the animals than I do. I’m also motivated to take her to places where things are different from here, where the people and cultures are different, and where we aren’t always the majority. When I’m traveling, I like to get out of the tourist areas and see that the world is small, because while people are different, at the same time, we are all the same. 

Our next trip is to France for several events of the Summer Olympics and to “wing it” around Europe. 

DHH: What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an announcer?

JG: You don’t have to have a great voice. Be persistent. Announce for free or on a volunteer basis at youth sports. Saying things into the mic is only half the job. Timing is important for television or what’s going on down on the field. You cannot be born with timing, pace, or tone – that is something you have to practice. You could also connect with a college that has minor sports without an announcer and offer to announce their games. 

It’s also important to note that for us, the announcer is different than the emcee. Downtown Dave for example is a definite face and character, with his Hawaiian shirts and fan interaction. He walks around and adds a lot of personality and variety to the game. Although we are able to have fun, the announcer is typically the one with the script and is a little more buttoned-up. But there are always ways you can make it your own. 

Author’s notes:

Is there ever enough time to be with a curious person? I could have spent another two hours with Josh, unpacking his day job of being a legal investigator for Levin, Papantonio, Rafferty Law Firm, or his childhood dreams of swimming with sharks. We discussed the Savannah Bananas, marketing, fan experiences, and life experiences. 

Maybe there will be a part two to hear how his travel photographs have caught the eye of Smithsonian Magazine or a family report from the Summer Olympics! Perhaps daughter Charlie can serve as a correspondent, giving us a peek into her travel diaries with Dad. 

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Dana is an Arkansas native and a seasonal resident of the Gulf Coast since childhood. She was a Pensacola resident for 13 years, before moving to Gulf Breeze. Dana attributes her Mayberry-esque childhood in Warren, Arkansas, as enormously influential in honing her definitely Southern style of storytelling. She earned a degree in Journalism, Advertising/Public Relations from the University of Arkansas (Woo Pig Sooie!). In addition to writing, she loves photography, art, adventures in the great outdoors, and spending time with her three children.