As a young boy in the early 90’s I fell in love with the sport of hockey, and I had little interest for other sports. I played a year or two of soccer, when I was 6 or 7, but I quickly followed in my brother Ryan’s footsteps as I traded in the cleats for a pair of skates and spent many weekends watching the NHL on FOX’s game of the week.
Growing up in Hillsboro, there were not many other hockey fans in my elementary school, but the Canadian blood I inherited from my Winnipeg born mother and the time at the rink both playing and watching my older brother made for a fan of the coolest game on earth in the pacific northwest. Eventually, as I grew older I began to fall in love with baseball and football as well. A childhood friend of mine, who already knew the ways of said sports led me to love the Seattle Mariner and San Francisco 49ers. I begin to follow them almost as closely as I followed my beloved Pittsburgh Penguin squad. I lived and died by my professional sports teams, never paying much attention to the college ranks, and knowing very little of Oregon State. It wasn’t until 1999 when Ryan graduated high school and headed to Corvallis. I instantly became an OSU fan, knowing very little except that I now also despised the Ducks. Unbeknownst to me at the time Oregon State had recently hired a new “Voice of the Beavers” in Mike Parker.
In May of 1999, it was announced by then OSU athletic director Mitch Barnhart that Mike Parker would be the new voice of the Beavers replacing Darrell Aune who held the position for 29 years. While the hire was announced by OSU, Parker, unlike many other collegiate broadcasters, is not actually an employee of the university, but rather the production company that puts the broadcast together. Parker, who was 40 at the time of his hire, had already made a name for himself in the state as the one time play by play voice of the Portland Beavers baseball team as well as a radio host on the Portland airwaves. A graduate of the enemy in Eugene, Parker had always wanted to be the voice of the Ducks, applying twice in the 80’s but was passed over in favor of others including current voice of the Ducks Jerry Allen. Following his stint as a radio host covering all things sports in the Portland area, Parker was let go by KEX in November of ‘98. He ended up driving a cab to make ends meet and support his family, while debating whether or not to continue a career in sports broadcasting. Luckily for Beaver Nation, a career change proved unnecessary as the spring of ‘99 saw Parker receive what turned out to be somewhat of a tryout as he was asked to cover some Oregon State baseball games. Parker’s time with the Beavers reunited him with Beaver head coach Pat Casey, with whom he had crossed paths with, via the Portland Beavers during the end of Casey’s minor league playing days. Parker enjoyed his time with the Beavs and applied for the full time gig when Darrell Aune stepped down. When Oregon State offered the full-time job covering baseball, as well as basketball and football, Parker got the chance to accept the job he had always wanted, just at a different school than he had ever imagined.
The job of “voice of” any team is no easy task. You follow the team closer than anyone, you know all the coaches and most of the players, you travel with them and stay at the hotel with them, yet when that microphone cracks you are expected to toe a very fine line between being a team homer and being so unbiased that you come off as boring. Mike Parker toes that line with the best of them. Some may confuse his passion for OSU as homerism, but those who listen often know that Parker is not afraid to call out a Beav for making a mistake or admit when the Beavs are the beneficiary of a blown call. There may be times where Parker’s passion boils over, as demonstrated recently when Utah’s third base coach and OSU pitcher Luke Heimlich exchanged words which led to Parker’s voice dominating the McGrath Family Press Box as he let everyone know that the situation was “ridiculous”. Between musings of ball players of yesteryear, running the bases backwards after a milestone home run, to reminiscing about details of Oregon State games from a decade previous and obscure movie and book references that seem to fill Parker’s brain, the voice of the Beavers paints a picture with his words so clear that you almost forget you are not watching on TV.
When my Beaver fandom began in the late 90’s there was no Pac-12 Network, heck there wasn’t even a Pac-12 at the time, so it was rare that games were on TV and for me, growing up in a family that only had a pair of bunny ears, it was even rarer that games were on my TV. I lived and died OSU football at the time, and hung on every word from Parker. The magical 2001 season saw the Beavs finish second in the nation after dismantling Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, but in true Beaver fan fashion the call I remember the most was a missed kick in Seattle that could have helped the Beavs go undefeated. There are plenty of calls that I will always remember, some from big moments others from moments that just seemed big at the time, but the two that stand out more than the any other have to be the ones made from the press box in Omaha. While the games were on TV, I remember turning on my radio as the games neared the end, knowing that the voice of the Beavers would capture that moment for me, and the rest of Beaver Nation, with the passion that the ESPN announcers could not provide. Still to this day listening to Parker call the final outs of the 2006 and 2007 seasons brings me goosebumps.
Since I graduated from Oregon State in 2008, I have heard Parker less on football or basketball as it seems almost any game is on TV at this point, but the voice of the Beavers remains a familiar sound come baseball season. While most baseball games nowadays are either on the Pac-12 network or available via live feed, the best of both worlds is a home series at Goss when the Pac-12 network stays away and I can watch the live feed with Parker’s voice guiding the way.
What makes Parker so good? It could be the time he spent studying other broadcasters such as his idol Vin Scully. It could be practice making perfect as Parker started perfecting his skill set covering prep sports in the late 70’s in his home town of Cottage Grove, before spending time as the voice of Marshfield football, Oregon Women’s basketball and the Eugene Emeralds baseball team. Whatever makes Parker so skilled, the 6 time Oregon Sportcaster of the year has passed the passion for the job on to his daughter Lydia, who covers baseball games for Linn-Benton Community college as well as helping her father on Corvallis Knight broadcasts.
Oh, and about that whole being a duck thing. Don’t worry, Parker was named an honorary OSU alum in 2010 and in a recent interview with John Canzano where he stated that Parker is a duck, Mike quickly corrected him stating that he WAS a duck. It is safe to say that the former duck now bleeds orange and black.