Pat Dillon is the broadcaster of the Everett AquaSox, a minor league baseball team of the Northwest League (Part of the Class A short season of the Seattle Mariners). He has been broadcasting Northwest League baseball for the last 24 years, 21 of them with the AquaSox (previously with the Bellingham Giants and Salem-Kizer Volcanoes). When he is not broadcasting AquaSox games, Pat Dillon is the Director of Corporate Partnerships with the Everett AquaSox. In his off time, Pat loves to play golf when he isn’t spending valuable time with his family.
As the AquaSox enter their 25th year in the Northwest League, Pat begins his 25th year of broadcasting (over 1600 games and counting). Seattle Sports Union recently got the chance to sit down with the longest-tenured broadcaster in the Northwest League to discuss his illustrious career.
SSU: Thank you for taking the time to sit down with us today. We are so excited to meet you and interview you in person. How are things going? How is the off-season treating the Everett AquaSox?
PD: Things are going great. Thanks for having me. The off-season has been going well for the AquaSox. In 2015 we started off with a good business model and we have been growing ever since. Ticket sales are up, and we have a few seasonal promotions we are looking forward to.
SSU: Great news. We are so excited for the 2019 season to start as well. Every year we look forward to meeting the AquaSox and getting to know the team. The culture shock these kids experience each season is unreal, but it’s fun to see them adjust. When we get the opportunity to interview them, each interview is infectious on us. They all come from different backgrounds and have one goal, to reach the Major Leagues. What are your thoughts? Do you think we will have a winning season?
PD: We always hope to have a winning season but even when we don’t win, we aren’t penalized for losing. 2014 we saw former Mariner Dave Valle get the job as manager. He struggled with getting wins all season and lack of pitching. There wasn’t enough pitching depth that season to where we saw infielder Jordan Cowan get into the ballgame to pitch several times. It was a season of struggles, but by the end we had lots of positives. Valle finally won a few in the 2nd half and many of these kids matured on the field. By getting to watch these kids play 76 baseball games in like 82 days is a joy itself. Some do great, some do ok and some struggle at this level, but the result is what matters. Did they do enough to climb the ladder in the organization? Player development is important for each player in the organization. These kids like it when they are drafted here because it’s there first experience in professional ball. They aren’t asked to change right away but are observed to a point where the coaches will give out pointers to help their game perhaps.
SSU: Who are some of your favorite players over the years with the Everett AquaSox?
PD: They all are my favorite players! There are a few that stand out. Lefthander Troy Cate is one player that stands out, perhaps one of the better AquaSox pitchers of all time. He pitched on the 2002 division winning AquaSox. I have broadcasted over 1800 games over my career (for all three teams) and maybe twice has there been nine inning games that lasted under 2 hours. Troy Cate threw one of them during the 2002 season. The game lasted one hour and fifty-eight minutes. He struck out ten batters and won the game 2-0 with a pitch count only in the eighties, a masterful performance. Chris Snelling was another player from “Down Under”. He was only 17 when he played here in 1999. Chris was a 5-tool player who was so fun to watch. Unfortunately, his career didn’t last too long because his body gave out. King Felix was another player who pitched in 2003. The hype around him was incredible and he proved it day in and day out. Chris Taylor was another AquaSox. He came up and played on the 2012 roster. Chris quickly climbed the ladder that saw him get traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. They tweaked his swing and the rest is history as Chris Taylor is a huge part of that ball-club. Braden Bishop is another one. Look what he’s done since he played for the Frogs. Talking about a successful story. Finally, 2013 we saw Mike Zunino get drafted and play in Everett for a month. What an impact he made.
SSU: Where are you from? What was it like growing up? What brought you here to the state of Washington?
PD: I am from Santa Barbara, California. I grew up a Dodger fan and whether I knew it at the time, Dodger announcer Vin Scully was a huge influence in my life. During baseball team my life revolved around the Dodgers. My Mother always had the ballgame on the radio. Back in the 1970s, baseball was rarely on the television. The Dodgers were probably on 30 games a year, so when they played a big series that was going to be aired, we would surround the TV every chance we got. I was always reading the box scores for updates and statistics. Every year I would acquire the “Street n Smith” yearly magazine about the upcoming season. I collected baseball cards. My life truly revolved around baseball whenever I had the chance. I played baseball through high school.
After High School, I entered the Navy. The Navy GI bill allowed me to attend the University of Washington where I got my degree in Economics.
SSU: What kept you in the state of Washington?
PD: There were lots of reasons that I enjoyed about moving to the Seattle area when I came to Washington and made it my home. I met my wife and started a family here. When I first came up here, I was excited about the opportunity to attend so many sporting events in Seattle. The Seattle Mariners, the SuperSonics, the Seahawks, and the Huskies were major sporting teams. By being able to go to a game at the last minute and being able to sit wherever I wanted to with all the stadiums being close by.
SSU: How did you get into broadcasting?
PD: It all started in the Kingdome during the Mariner games. They had this promotion for a couple years called the “Budweiser Fantasy Play by Play”. It is where you (and a friend) can pay 30 bucks and go into an auxiliary booth to broadcast an inning. It was completely set up like a major league broadcasting booth. They would record you on a VHS tape. To this day I still have a few tapes lying around. When I first started doing this, it was like karaoke where I was going out to do if for the fun of it. I didn’t want to continue paying money all the time. What would happen if I had a tape recorder and started recording myself doing play-by-play from the 300 level of the Kingdome? The more I did it, I got better at it with my own system. There were moments where I got to broadcast the games from the press box. The recordings lasted for 3 years and of about 70 games. I told myself that I could do this so in 1994 I put together a demo tape of one ½ inning of 5 batters and mistake free. I made sure it sounded good. It was the Mariners versus the Indians. If you listened to it today it had the same voice that I have today. I mailed out two copies, one of them to the Everett Giants and the other to the Bellingham Mariners. In 1995 I was hired on by the Bellingham Giants (the M’s moved to Everett) and worked there for 2 years before working for Salem-Kizer in 1997. In 1998 I started broadcasting for the AquaSox and the rest is history.
SSU: How you encountered any AquaSox superfans over your years here? Any Frog fans that have been here your entire time in Everett?
PD: Jeff Swanson comes to mind. He has been sitting in right field for years and wears the orange shirt. He is a great guy and listens to me during the games. He has been quite helpful over the years. There was one time where he texted me during the game a player’s number that I couldn’t read on the jersey he was wearing in right field. Another long-time superfan is Melissa who sits on the 3b side in general admission. She constantly keeps the score in her scorebook.
AquaSox fans Les and Mary, who sit on the first base side, have always been at the games along with their Mother over the years. They always have the game on the radio and keep score while watching the games. They listen to every road game on the radio.
SSU: Will Everett ever start televising games? What are some great ballparks to visit in the Northwest League?
PD: We’ve talked about it here; I can see it possibly happening 3 years down the road. I believe it’s mandatory all the way down to AA baseball. Eugene and Hillsboro have their own broadcasts on MILB TV.
Eugene and Hillsboro have excellent ballparks. Spokane has a long history and a great ballpark. They are right next to a fair ground. Vancouver is a spectacular ballpark to play at. It seats 6400 fans, they probably average 6200 a game. They play day games on Friday and they sell out. They play Monday night games and they sell out. Win or lose, the Canadian fans fill the ballpark daily.
SSU: What do you think of the DH potentially taking over the National League?
PD: I’m on the fence. If they do the change, I won’t lose any sleep over it. If they don’t, I won’t lose any sleep over it either. The history of the DH goes back to 1968 where Carl Yastrzemski won the batting title with a .301 average (no other batter in either league broke .300). Bob Gibson won the ERA title with a 1.12 and Denny McClain had 31 wins. The mound was 15 inches high, so they lowered it the next year. The offense of both leagues exploded which eventually lead to the American League adopting the DH in 1973. Adding the DH was adding another job for American League teams. The National League chose to keep the pitcher hitting. As we can see the DH was a success for the American League. Do we like to watch the pitchers hit? Change may or may not come, because tradition is sometimes kept the same. Yes, it’s weird to have two leagues with separate rules when all other professional sports leagues rules are the same, but this is what they decided on. We shall see what happens.
SSU: Have all the Northwest League team announcers ever gotten together and swapped stories?
PD: No, they have not, but that is a great idea. Maybe one day they can make that happen.
SSU: What was it like to fill in for announcer Mike Curto of the Tacoma Rainiers?
PD: It was a great experience. It was on a Friday morning and I quickly got myself ready and drove down to the stadium. It was a fun time. I also filled in for Rich Burke of the Portland Beavers back in 2005. What an experience that was in front of a crowd of 20,000 plus. It was like calling a major league game with all the noise.
SSU: Thank you Pat Dillon for taking a moment of your time to talk with us today. We could have talked to you for hours, but we know you have other things to get too. Best of luck for the 2019 season. We know it’s going to be a fun summer in Everett. Go Frogs!
PD: Thank you guys. I’m glad we could talk. Have a great day.