On the afternoon of the annual Sycamore - DeKalb softball game held at Northern Illinois, Andy Hampton sports a green NIU hat that contrasts with his gold Sycamore High School polo shirt.
Hampton gets to the media booth early, making sure rosters are readily available and his stat sheet is in place while going over pronunciations of players’ last names one final time.
After 12 years of being a public address announcer, the routine has become familiar and enjoyable for Hampton, but he never imagined this is where he would wind up.
“I thought I was going to be the old guy bartending at 60 years old,” Hampton said. “I would’ve never thought that at the age of 35 I would’ve had a career change.”
Hampton has become the unofficial sports announcer of DeKalb County, recognizable by his voice and catch phrases at Sycamore football and basketball home games during the school year while also announcing NIU baseball and softball. Hampton also was the P.A. announcer for the DeKalb County Liners before the baseball team folded this winter.
He grew up just outside of Louisville, Kent. before his dad moved the family to Lombard when he was 11 years old. After graduating high school – his freshman and sophomore years were done at Montini, a Sycamore football rival – Hampton made his way to Batavia before he and his wife bought a house in DeKalb 15 years ago.
While bartending at P.J.’s Courthouse Tavern in Sycamore, Hampton got to know Chauncey Carrick, Sycamore’s current athletic director and then the head wrestling coach and assistant football coach, who frequented the restaurant often. When an opening for the football public address announcer came up, Carrick thought of Hampton and asked him on a whim.
“Honestly, I just had a feling about it I guess,” Carrick said. “He had a big passion for athletics, especially football. I figured he’d be able to add a little flair to it, which obviously has proven to be good.”
Hampton said he had no experience with sports announcing when Carrick asked him. He had played football when he was younger and is a self-proclaimed fantasy football junkie, but Hampton leaned on his experience performing theatre gigs after college and convinced his good friend Mike Mendel to be his spotter.
“I had to learn everything in regards to what actually goes on in the booth,” Hampton said. “[Mendel] and I started the very first day. He has probably missed maybe two [games].”
Hampton did exclusively Sycamore football until adding basketball duties over the last six seasons and NIU baseball home games four years ago. Hampton now does NIU softball even though, admittedly, he still stumbles over the rules and procedures of courtesy runners.
“In softball I just have no clue,” Hampton said. “I just try to wing it during softball.”
Hampton said he considered giving up his P.A. gig a couple years ago, but found a rekindled love for it over the past two seasons. He noted the success of Sycamore football as one of the reasons for his second wind and even attended the Spartans’ playoff game at Montini last fall.
Does Hampton ever miss bartending? Not one bit, he says.
“We really enjoy having him. It’s interesting that he kind of started on a whim or a guess,” Carrick said. “Obviously there are other people in town that think he does a pretty good job. Someone that started just helping Sycamore High School out has kind of evolved into something that has given him some notoriety.”