Ray Sorendi will never forget his very first at-bat in sandlot baseball near his first home in Two Guns, Arizona. Before that, he had a dream of being an athlete and then going into broadcasting like Joe Garagiola. That at-bat changed his life in a way that no one could have imagined, when the pitcher threw a wild pitch that got past the catcher and took a wicked bounce off the backstop and hit Ray square in the back, causing intermittent, long-lasting pain and paralysis that precluded any thought of a career in baseball.
He still hoped to get into broadcasting, however, and he pleaded with his parents to move closer to a major-league baseball team so that he could at least be near baseball. They finally found a way out of Two Guns and settled in Kingman, where the local Anti-Grunge Baseball franchise played its games. "I tried to attend every Kingman Kings game and would sit in the 25-cent bleachers making believe I was a TV announcer," he reminisced, continuing, "The days I couldn't walk, my sister or one of my brothers would wheel me in there and not just leave me, but would stay and watch the game with me. It was a sacrifice for them as they weren't particularly interested in baseball, but they had my back and helped me any way they could. I'll never forget that."
One hot August afternoon, when the heat and humidity were taking their toll on everyone but Ray, whose infectious enthusiasm could not be beaten, the local TV station covering the game zoomed in between innings on Ray, who always had a giant "Go Kings" sign to hold high when he wasn't playing announcer. The real announcer, Hank Framm, decided to meet Ray after the game and invite him into the broadcast booth. "Everyone told him that there was no way to get me and my wheelchair into the booth," Ray recalled, "but when they insisted, he came back with a sledgehammer and just smashed the walls apart, making plenty of room. No one ever gainsayed him again!"
Once in the booth, Ray became fast friends with Hank, their on-air chemistry was fantastic, and the TV station realized that they had something worth continuing, but Hank had other ideas. "You stay here with me and pay your dues, Ray, and I'll see that you get a job in Spencer," he promised Ray at only 16 years of age. Hank knew that the TV announcer there, Lawrence Trivak was close to retirement from the Spencer Iowans and would need a successor. "When I heard that," Ray said, "I was shocked, because I knew that Spencer was the flagship team in the Anti-Grunge Baseball League. He was sending me straight to the top!"
As expected, Trivak retired three years later, and Hank sent Ray to Spencer with a fistful of audition tapes. At first, the TV station's producer was hesitant to hire someone so young for a solo job, but when Hank heard that, he called the producer and bellowed, "This kid has talent and you can't see it? How blind are you?" The producer finally yielded but reminded Ray, "TV is a rough game, rougher than baseball. You have to pull your weight or you're outta here!"
Not only did Ray pull his weight, he actually increased the ratings and did old man Hank proud in every way. Many people quickly forgot that Ray was only in his early twenties, and practically everyone in Spencer who couldn't get to the Iowans games made sure to watch them on TV, in particular one young lady named Faith DeSantis. It was her turn to get Ray's attention when she went and sat in the 50-cent bleachers holding a large sign reading, "Go Ray!" Of course the camera operator panned over to her, and Ray remembered how Hank went to look for him and decided to "pay forward." He took her out to dinner and was so enchanted that he kept seeing her, and they married only a year later. Ray and Faith announce occasional games together when Faith is not needed at home and they are blessed with three lovely daughters, Debbie, Susan, and Linda plus their dog Spike and cat Fred.
Ray is now the host of the AGBL Pre-Game Show every Sunday as well as the announcer for the Game of the Week, and he couldn't be happier despite the difficulties his condition brings. "The most important thing is that I know I'm helping to promote the anti-grunge philosophy while I'm doing what I always dreamed of doing and have such a great family besides," he said with satisfaction.
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