ST. PETERSBURG — The wit was sharpened while doing the PA for the winless University of Minnesota-Morris women’s basketball team’s games during his college days, and St. Paul Pioneers games when he was trying to put his degree in speech communications to work.
Rusty Kath was just trying to liven things up for those in attendance. He did not know he was laying the groundwork for his job as the Tampa Bay Rays’ in-game host or that it would lead to his working alongside his mentor, Jim Cunningham, at tonight’s All-Star Game at Target Field in Minneapolis.
“I’m hoping that I don’t mess this up, because, you know, it’s always a possibility,” Kath said.
The 33-year-old who was born, raised and still resides in Buffalo, Minn., with his wife, Angie, and their 7-month-old daughter, Gracie Rae, has been calling the bottle races and the hat shuffle at Tropicana Field since 2007.
In the offseason, Kath shares the in-game duties with Cunningham at Minnesota Wild games. He also has been the in-arena host for U.S. Figure Skating since 2008.
Kath originally wanted to be a TV news reporter, but working with the UM-Morris teams took his career plans in another direction, especially when Kath realized his humor played well at sporting events.
“It just kind of fell into my wheelhouse,” he said. “I’m just kind of mediocre enough at a lot of things that I’m perfect for the job.”
An all-conference wrestler in high school, Kath said his career peaked in 2007 when, while working alongside legendary wrestling announcer “Mean” Gene Okerlund, Okerlund turned to him and said, “Why don’t you take this one, Kid?”
And that’s how Kath came to call the Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake-Greg “The Hammer” Valentine match.
A devoted baseball fan, Kath scores nearly every Rays game. The last time he didn’t keep score was July 26, 2010 — Matt Garza’s no-hitter.
Kath’s own baseball career ended 20 years ago when he played right field in a Little League All-Star game.
“So I know what Derek Jeter is going through,” Kath said.
And Kath will be there tonight to witness Jeter’s final All-Star game. He’ll be sure to keep score, too. He’s just hoping the self-deprecating rapport he has with Rays fans plays well at Target Field.
“I’m used to working with the Rays staff and Rays fans, so we’ll see if I’m up for it,” Kath said. “But you know what? I’m an All-Star.”