HOT SPRINGS, Ark. (AP) - Oaklawn Park’s new track announcer, Vic Stauffer, said Monday that working at Hot Springs’ famous racetrack is “an incredible honor” because “you are truly in the big leagues here.”
Stauffer, who joked he was running late Monday to speak to Oaklawn Rotary Club at The Hotel Hot Springs & Spa because he was driving back to town after being asked to referee Sunday’s Arkansas vs. North Carolina basketball game on the spur of the moment, talked about his career and life in the offseason.
Stauffer began his career at Oaklawn Park on Jan. 13 this year but is no stranger to the world of horse racing. Since beginning his announcing career in 1985 as a backup announcer at Garden State Park in New Jersey, he has called races at Gulfstream Park, Hialeah Park, Hawthorne Race Course, and spent 13 years at Hollywood Park in California. He has also earned two Eclipse Awards for radio and broadcast, The Sentinel-Record (https://bit.ly/2nsLrIE ) reported.
At 14 years old, Stauffer said he knew he would be involved in horse racing in some form, prompting him to end his education in the eighth grade.
“But just because I’m only eighth-grade educated doesn’t mean I can’t beat you all in ‘Jeopardy,’” he said, lightheartedly. “I just knew where I was going to be. The reason I say that is because it’s so incredibly important to know when you are blessed, to have the gift that I was given of knowing what you were going to do for the rest of your life when you were 15 years old. That really was a gift from God, to be able to have that direction at such an early age.”
When Hollywood Park closed in 2013 after 75 years in business, Stauffer said his “heart was broken,” as that particular racetrack was the first one he and his grandfather had visited together when he was just 8 years old.
Stauffer recalled what may have been the scariest moment in his racing career: announcing a race at Hollywood Park during a 4.9-magnitude earthquake. “I thought I was finished,” he said.
“When they closed at Hollywood Park I thought I might never get to call another race,” he said. “Until Oaklawn Park called, and that’s just like making the transition from Yankee Stadium to Dodger Stadium because you are truly in the big leagues here.
“It has been one of the great metamorphoses of my life to hear the stories (of Oaklawn Park) and then find out that they’re true. To hear the stories about how you can’t go into a bar or restaurant or (JCPenny) or pick up your dry cleaning within a 40-mile radius of this racetrack and this city and people aren’t talking about horse racing. You can’t go into any place in this entire city and not see a smile and a ‘good morning’ and a ‘welcome’ and a ‘thank you for being here’ and all of that,” Stauffer said.
He added that while he is the current Oaklawn announcer, he will never truly be the voice of Oaklawn “because that will always be the great Terry Wallace, who was there for 37 years.”
During the off season, Stauffer is owner and president of the Pittsburg Diamonds, an independent league baseball team in Pittsburg, Calif.
“I’m the guy that gets the postgame meals ready, the guy that makes sure the umpire gets to the game. We are trying to increase our attendance this year from 175 people a game to 350. It certainly is a labor of love,” he said.
“What an incredible honor it’s been to see these horses, to see the fans, to feel the fans. (The fans) weren’t here on Saturday (for the Rebel Stakes) because we gave away a tote bag, they weren’t here because it was a special two-for-one lunch or anything; they were here to see the best racehorses in the world,” Stauffer said. “One of the things that I’ve always taken pride of in my race calling is that if I can convey what I’m feeling and what I’m seeing through the race call, then I’ve made a good race call.
“But, when I can draw upon the energy that I feel from the people that I can hear when I’m calling the races, that has a chance to be very special. You can’t do that anywhere else except for Oaklawn Park, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s truly special.”
Information from: The Sentinel-Record, https://www.hotsr.com
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