Faced with the dilemma of trying to fill the shoes of his hero, Walleye public address announcer Anthony Bellino decided that imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery.
At just 26, Bellino has already blazed his own trail in a young and promising career as an announcer. When it came to taking over for popular Toledo hockey public address announcer Bobb Vergiels, he opted to maintain the status quo.
“I'm not trying to copy Bobb, I'm trying to pay tribute to him,” said Bellino, who is in his first season as the Walleye's rink-side announcer. “I'm not sure if I do anything that Bobb hasn't already done. He always sounded so cool.”
So when a game is headed to overtime, Bellino bellows the familiar phrase, “It's time, it's time, it's time for OVER-time!”
■ Position: Walleye Public Address Announcer
■ Hometown: Monroe
■ Age: 26
■ Who were some of your influences? Paul W. Smith at WJR. I interned there my freshman year. I woke up at 3:30 in the morning and would get all the newspapers and compile the news stories. Uncle Paul was huge. I got a lot of motivation from him.
■ What do you do other than your PA duties? I have a morning radio show on 1230 AM. It's called the Fox Sports Morning Blitz. It's weekdays from 7 to 9. My co-host is another local guy, Brad Woznicki. I also coach freshmen boys basketball at St. Mary and an eighth grade CYO team.
■ Greatest moment? Making it to the NFL, especially at my age. It is unheard of. My parent’s voices cracked when I told them and when I looked in their eyes I knew I made them proud.
■ Players you admired growing up: Michael Jordan, Steve Yzerman, Grant Hill, Barry Sanders, Mike Tyson, and Cecil Fielder.
■ Favorite movies: Godfather Part I and II
■ Favorite TV shows: Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones
■ Favorite video game: Call of Duty
■ Favorite Web sites: ESPN and my email
■ Do you have a Twitter account? @FS_bellino
■ Person you most admire: Father, Dan. He served in the Marine Corps and also was a Monroe police officer.
■ If you could meet any person, dead or alive, who would it be? Jesus
■ What's your superstition? My playlist on my iPod is always the same [before games].
■ What is your pet peeve? Arrogance
■ What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Work at my family’s grocery store. [Danny’s Fine Foods in Monroe].
■ What profession would you not like to do? I’d hate to be a coal miner.
■ Something nobody knows about you: How much I care and that can work against you as a negative. I have to give 100 percent.
For the first four years at the Huntington Center, Vergiels continued adding to his signature calls before stepping down after 20 season dating back to the first days of the Toledo Storm.
So when the Walleye score a power play goal and the fans win a free bowl of chili through a promotion with Wendy's, Bellino echoes Vergiels again.
“I love saying, 'You know what that means gang, you're going home with free chili!'” Bellino said. “That's all Bobb. It's too good to do anything else. I just hope I'm doing a halfway decent job.”
Both are natives of Monroe, Mich.
“There's always a little piece of Bobb with me wherever I go,” Bellino said.
Bellino has already gone on to the highest level of football when he landed the public address announcer position with the Jacksonville Jaguars last August. Bellino flew down to Florida on the weekends and announced all the home games for the NFL team this past season.
He said Vergiels was the one who initially opened “some doors” for him.
Vergiels said his protege has a bright future.
“He has 'network' written all over him and he has that drive, too, that you need to get there,” Vergiels said. “I wish I had behind me in my career what he has in front of him.”
At times, Bellino sounds eerily similar to Vergiels.
“If you listen closely, we have some of the same voice mannerisms — must be the Monroe background,” Vergiels said.
Bellino's relationship with Vergiels goes back to when the aspiring announcer was in high school. Vergiels, who continues to do PA duties for the Detroit Tigers and University of Michigan basketball and baseball teams, took Bellino under his wing.
“I went to see him work at a Tigers game,” Bellino said. “We have a personal relationship. So for him to hand over the keys was special.”
Bellino certainly has developed his own style that has served him well.
Bellino, who graduated from Bowling Green State University in 2010 with a telecommunications degree, also is the in-game host for the Toledo Mud Hens and is the PA announcer for University of Toledo’s football and basketball teams.
He also announces at the University of Michigan for soccer, volleyball, and baseball games.
“Bobb recommended me to fill in for him at Michigan [in 2011] and they said his word was gold. That was a stamp for me to have confidence.” Bellino said.
Bellino, a graduate of Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central, said he always knew he wanted to get into sports broadcasting. He said his dream job would be to call play-by-play on TV in the NFL or NBA.
“I knew from the time I was in the fourth grade,” he said. “There was a lot of heavy ESPN watching. My goal has always been to be a play-by-play announcer. But right now the PA field has given me more of an opportunity.”
Bellino beat out a field of 200 candidates to become the public address announcer for the Jaguars.
“It was an amazing five months. It far surpassed my expectations,” Bellino said. “I knew the pronunciations of all the guys because half of them I drafted them in my fantasy league.”
Jacksonville struggled to a 4-12 record much like the Walleye have struggled to a 14-24-3 record this season.
“The big thing is to keep the energy up,” Bellino said. “Even though the team may not be having the greatest season, I am paid to add atmosphere.
"I try to make it as exciting as I can.”
Vergiels said he had no qualms about recommending Bellino for “something as high profile as U of M” and to the Walleye.
“In Toledo hockey, I am yesterday, but he’s today and tomorrow,” Vergiels said.