DePaul helped launch alumnus Chris Ackels’ sports announcing career
Chris Ackels (LAS MA ’17) is used to playing big rooms. Ackels, the in-stadium host and emcee for the Chicago White Sox since 2016, now also serves as public address announcer for the University of Notre Dame’s home football games. In some ways, he credits his professional success to a blue tuxedo.
As a graduate student, Ackels worked part time for DePaul Athletics writing scripts for in-stadium basketball announcers Gene Honda and Jim Riebandt, and occasionally announcing a game himself. “On a lark, I walked over to a costume store near the campus, and there’s this three-piece suit with coattails in perfect DePaul blue that ﬁt me like a glove!”
Inspired, Ackels roamed Allstate Arena as a royal-blue version of Willy Wonka for his “Chris in the Crowd” bits throughout the season. During the last game, Honda, who is also an announcer for the White Sox, told Ackels the club wanted to hire someone to interact with the fans. Ackels now meanders throughout Guaranteed Rate Field every season, working with camera operators and audio technicians to broadcast fan interactions and pitch sponsored promotions.
“DePaul put the booster jets on my professional career,” says Ackels, who just turned 30. Yet, in a sense, he spent his entire life preparing for the announcing booth.
“Growing up in Dallas, I used to lie in bed as a child with a radio under my pillow and listen to baseball games,” he reminisces. “I loved how I could ‘see’ what was happening from the picture the announcers painted.”
Ackels says that besides getting game information and players’ names correct, a good announcer needs to read the crowd’s energy, fuel it at appropriate moments, and appreciate the history and traditions of teams and fans.
“What sports are about for most fans is a connection to family and friends,” says Ackels. “Ask someone about their Notre Dame football experience. If you listen closely to their answers, they’re really telling you about their grandparents, mom or dad, kids or college buddies. Anything I can do to bring memories to the game beyond who wins or loses is sacred.”