HARLINGEN — Thirty steps above field level, sits the Boggus Stadium press box.
It’s the summer offseason and it’s the calm before the storm.
But it won’t be for much longer.
Soon, the masses will engulf the stadium, the marching bands and football teams will take the field, and the sounds from the press box will pierce the air under the Friday night lights.
It will be football season in a few weeks and for Gil Tello (pubic address announcer for Harlingen High), Jay Cantu (public address announcer and audio director for Harlingen South), Tom Bald (scoreboard operator), Donald Lantz (video board graphics operator), Andrew Cordero (spotter and assistant PA announcer), Ramiro Trevino (secondary spotter) and Javier Ariza (40-second clock operator), it’s the call to action. A call the group has been answering for years.
In fact, Bald has been in the press box since the mid 80s and Lantz since the 70s. Together the two have more than 70 years of experience in the press box.
“It’s been 40 years that I’ve been in the press box,” said Lantz. “When I started teaching at Harlingen High School, the younger male teachers were pretty much expected to work the game since they had the energy to get up and down the stands.
“I retired (as a teacher) in 2002, but I enjoy working up there with all of those guys because we are all pretty close. I keep saying I’ll do a couple more years, but I keep going back. One of them told me that if Vin Scully can keep working at (the age of) 80, then so could I.”
“I got into teaching to coach, but then I didn’t get into coaching and I think this is my way of staying in it with athletics,” said Bald. “I have always been interested in sports and I guess, in a way, it’s my way of staying in sports without going through everything that coaches do.
“We are like a family up there and we laugh a lot. Jay, Javier and Andrew just joined us in the past couple of years, but they have just fit right in and that’s great.”
Throughout the years the two have had some memorable moments, but none would compare to the game between Harlingen and Converse Judson.
It was December 1989 and the Cardinals were in the midst of making Valley history for the second time that season.
After losing their first game of the football season, the Cardinals rattled off eight consecutive wins and made history by being the first Rio GrandeValley team to win three playoffs games. And now the defending state champion Rockets had arrived in town for a fourth-round game.
Bald and Lantz said it was a game they won’t ever forget.
“I remember the entire town had come out for the game and since both teams wore red, it was a sea of red,” said Bald. “It was the fourth round of the playoffs and the winner would go to the regional finals. They were two great teams going head to head that afternoon and it was on statewide radio, and it was really neat.”
“It was on a Saturday afternoon in December, and as you would expect the stands were just packed,” said Lantz. “It was a good game, so getting to work that game was great.”
While Lantz and Bald have certainly cemented their place in the press box, Tello, the current PA announcer for the Cardinals, has certainly loved every minute of his stint in the box as well.
Tello has been the voice for the Cards since 2011 and up until last year he was also the voice for the Hawks as well.
For Tello, it wasn’t just his job that attracted him to the press box, it was the history that his family shared with the school that provided the allure of the box.
“After working 34 years for the school district, I began working for KHGN (Harlingen CISD’s TV station) calling the play-by-play and one day I got the call from Coach Randy Cretors who asked if I was interested in working the PA system,” said Tello. “Of course I jumped at the chance because my entire family was at some point in time involved with Cardinal football.
“So we all have kind of grown up around Boggus Stadium. I love doing it because Friday night football has been a part of my family since the mid 70s.”
Meanwhile, if the voice over the PA system for the Harlingen South games sounds familiar, it’s because it belongs to Jay Cantu, who was the voice of the “Jay and Amanda in the Morning” radio talk show for KISS 106.3.
Cantu got his first start in radio in Bryan in 1993 before being on the air here in the Valley from 2003-2013.
“I’m really enjoying it,” said Cantu of being in the press box. “When I first started we had a really old program system and we had a hard time playing music so I started taking my laptop. Now we have just recently upgraded to a really good system so when I’m not calling the game or playing the music, I’m spotting for them and we go back and forth so I really enjoy it.”
And for those fans that can’t make it to the games, Cordero has it covered.
For the past three years, Cordero has been spotting for the crew and at the same time he has been keeping the online fans in touch with the latest score from the game through Maxpreps.
“It’s a lot of fun. I’ve learned a lot from them and together we make sure everything is running smooth,” said Cordero. “I hear a lot of classic football stories and I update the online content and make sure it gets to the right hands.
“Anything Gil needs done, I’ll help him with it. Aside from my online responsibilities and spotting, I gather each team’s captains and get their names ready for the coin toss.”