Baseball history is filled with beloved play-by-play announcers.
There was Dave Niehaus for the Mariners. Vin Scully for the Dodgers. Harry Caray for the Cubs.
And for the Lake Stevens High School baseball program, there’s Payne Patchett.
Anyone attending a Vikings baseball game in recent years has likely heard the Lake Stevens student’s polished announcing voice drifting through the stands, complementing the on-field action with play-by-play dialogue that sounds strikingly professional.
“He’s a fixture in this program,” Vikings coach Josh White said. “He’s a staple for Lake Stevens Vikings baseball. … He has been so special to this program over the last eight years. He’s one of a kind.”
Patchett has been a constant presence at Lake Stevens baseball games over the past eight seasons, keeping score and recording play-by-play audio for nearly 200 contests. Along the way, he’s developed into an announcer whose talent far exceeds his age as a high school senior.
“He really has a knack (for) calling a game, and a vocabulary,” former longtime Vikings assistant coach Jim Willie said. “He calls the game, and he can also be color at the same time. He’s got the flair for it too, and the dramatic bit about him. … I think he (could) do it at a World Series game, and I don’t think he’d skip a beat.”
Patchett can be found at nearly every single Lake Stevens game, stationed at a table just outside the fence next to the Vikings’ dugout. With a recorder in hand — along with a very thorough scorebook and two notebooks filled with additional stats and information — he delivers an incredibly seasoned play-by-play audio broadcast of the game that he later posts online to YouTube.
“It just sounds really professional,” said Rodger Anderson, who was Lake Stevens’ head coach when Patchett first became involved with the program as an 11-year-old.
Patchett’s passion for announcing stems from a keen interest in sports — especially baseball — that he developed while growing up. He said it began with a book about Seattle Mariners legend Ichiro Suzuki.
“I just immediately fell in love with the Mariners, him and sports in general,” he said. “It started a chain reaction. … As the years went by, it kept on growing to (where) I was looking up (baseball facts) from the 19th century.”
Indeed, Patchett has an encyclopedic memory when it comes to America’s pastime. While being interviewed this past week, he correctly rattled off all five players from the inaugural 1936 Baseball Hall of Fame class.
“His memory is incredible,” Willie said.
Willie’s wife, Wendy, was Patchett’s counselor in elementary school. Spurred by his love of sports, she had the idea of involving him in some capacity with the Lake Stevens baseball team, which her husband was helping coach at the time. Patchett began going to Vikings games in the spring of 2012, and estimates he’s missed less than a dozen ever since.
“We brought him out as an 11-year-old kid to kind of belong to something,” said his mother, Roxanne Lewis. “… This gave him an opportunity to do that and grow and learn.”
At first, Patchett spent his time at the ballpark logging the action into his scorebook — as well as hanging around the players and high-fiving them after wins. But before long, he took up announcing as well.
“I started saying what was happening out loud, and then a couple people suggested that I (announce the games),” he said. “My mom and my step-dad surprised me with a digital recorder, … and I’ve used it ever since.”
Patchett gradually took on more responsibility over the years, ultimately becoming the team’s official statistician. And all the while, his announcing skills grew more and more proficient.
Patchett, a self-taught announcer, said he picks up tips from searching for clips of famous announcers on YouTube and listening to local announcers on the radio. He’s spent countless hours practicing at home, where sometimes he’ll experiment different ways to call a certain play he witnessed on television.
“To this day, you can go upstairs and hear him announcing something,” Lewis said. “… I’ll hear a relived football touchdown four or five different ways coming from upstairs.”
To assist with his play-by-play work, Patchett compiles a detailed collection of notes.
Prior to every game, he updates his scorebook with a large array of stats for every player on both teams. In one of his notebooks, he includes information such as the teams’ defensive lineups and how the opposing team performed last season. In his other notebook, he keeps track of results and other information from around the rest of Wesco 4A.
The assortment of notes allows Patchett to fill the empty space between pitches with interesting and relevant content.
“He’s got years’ worth of information on guys,” White said. “… It’s not just something that he shows up to the game and does. He puts his time and his research in.”
And when it’s time to turn on the recorder, Patchett becomes completely immersed in calling the game.
“He just gets absorbed by it, so nothing else exists for a while when he’s doing that,” Lewis said. “That’s how I knew it was something he needed to pursue. … You get him in there, and he just transforms. He’s just somewhere else.
“And I think when you’re doing your true passion — when you’re doing something that is a real calling for you — you lose track of time,” she added. “You just kind of transcend into it. You become (one) with it.”
With his razor-sharp memory, Patchett recited several of his favorite Lake Stevens baseball memories down to the precise details. He said his absolute favorite was the 2017 team’s underdog run from a .500 record in conference play to a district title and state tournament berth.
“We had this us-against-the-world mentality when we went into the conference tournament, because we were the 5-seed and we were guys that, at best, were going to community college,” he said. “And we were taking on teams that had guys going to (Division I) schools.”
That season also marked Patchett’s first year attending Lake Stevens High School with the team, which allowed him to build friendships with players.
“By all means, he was absolutely part of the team,” said Connor Olmstead, a standout senior on that 2017 Vikings squad. “He was one of the guys that was there day in and day out. His baseball IQ is just as good as anybody’s. Looking back and recalling some of my memories from my senior year and high school baseball career, … Payne’s voice is part of those memories, which I think is super awesome.”
“He’s just been a big part of the family,” Anderson added. “It’s going to be kind of sad to see him gone, because he’s been around so long. But I know he’s on to bigger and better things.”
Patchett said his ultimate goal is to become a Major League Baseball broadcaster. He said recently he’s been sending out tapes to minor-league teams and considering a college program.
“I’m looking forward to his next phase — to hear him on the radio or TV, or go to a game and hear him up in the booth,” Willie said, “because I’d bet a million dollars that’s going to happen.”