Mark was here more than 20 years ago, plotting and planning, imagining and dreaming. He’d be back here one day if he could help it, if the timing was right and he was ready. He’d be back at West Point, no longer as an intern in the sports information office but in a bigger role with a bigger voice. The voice.

Since Fratto graduated from SUNY Geneseo and his internship at Army West Point ended, he’s been in the athletic departments of Maryland and St. John’s, in enough boxing rings to fill a football field and in more press boxes than even the most well-traveled journalists. He’s the public address announcer for New York City Football Club — the soccer outfit that plays in Yankee Stadium — and has served as the voice of the Knicks, Giants and countless professional boxing bouts. His resume reads like a PA announcer’s dream, especially one who grew up in New York.

But there’s one job Fratto has always coveted.

When Gordon Deal, the current voice of the Giants, decided to step down from his position as the PA announcer for Army football to be able to watch his son Brendan play college soccer, Fratto was top of mind. It’s not simply that he has the experience.

“It’s something I’ve looked forward to for a lifetime,” Fratto said.

From pinnacle to paternal

As a baseball player at Our Lady of Lourdes in Poughkeepsie, Fratto told his teammates he wanted to try out for the junior varsity basketball team. “You should be an announcer instead,” they replied, sure he wouldn’t contribute to the team as a point guard who couldn’t drive to his left.

It was behind the microphone at high school basketball games that Fratto faced the reality that many who work in the sports industry are forced to one day confront: He wasn’t going to be a professional athlete. But that didn’t stop him from reaching the pinnacle of the stadiums of many of his favorite sports teams. (“Pinnacle” is a literal term here: Most press boxes are perched several flights of stairs above ground level.)

First, Fratto forayed into the sports information field, joining the University of Maryland as a sports information director while broadcasting games. It was there, in 2004, that he met Rich DeMarco, who was three weeks into a director of broadcasting role at Army, where he’d eventually be elevated to his current role of assistant athletic director. DeMarco was in Maryland for a lacrosse tournament when he met Fratto. The former Army intern offered to give DeMarco a tour of the campus on his off day, and DeMarco didn’t forget.

“He held the academy in such high regard,” DeMarco said.

Following a role as senior associate director of athletic communications at St. John’s, Fratto founded Linacre Media, partnering with athletic events ranging from NBA to high school.

One of Fratto’s career highlights took place in MetLife Stadium, a preseason game last August against the Browns. His wife, Kristin, was expecting their first child in two days.

“It was nervewracking for a number of reasons,” Fratto said.

But Fratto isn’t one to procrastinate. Deal said he was always impressed by the piles of notes Fratto brought to a game, pages of statistics, sponsorships and pronunciation guides filling up the desk in front of him. Fratto is so thorough, Deal said, he will ask someone how a name is pronounced, and then ask them if they’re sure. And then, once more, if they’re sure they’re sure.

What struck Deal most, however, was Fratto’s presence.

“Mark walks into a room,” Deal said, “and there’s probably somebody he knows.”

Communications connections

Fratto knows that to make it in this business, in any business, he had to value human connections above all else. Over the past year, he’s made the most valuable human connection there is, becoming a new father to his son, Jackson. It’s changed him in ways even he is not sure he can put into words right now.

All Fratto is sure he's sure of is that time is moving too fast, that Jackson isn’t even a year old yet and he’s already growing too fast. Fratto looks back at his own career, how quickly the time has passed since his intern days as a 19-year-old at Army and now, at 42, all that's happened in his life since.

“I always imagined what it would be like to be the Army football announcer,” Fratto said.

And though there are many sporting events for Fratto to call between now and Aug. 30, opening day against Rice, he is anxiously awaiting his moment to return to Michie Stadium.

So, too, is Deal, whose lone parting words to Fratto was the announcer equivalent to "break a leg."

“Get the names right,” Deal said.

 

jfedich@th-record.com

Twitter: @jfedichTHR