The MPSSAA mourns the loss and passing of Mr. Al Smith. A beloved member of the MPSSAA Family, Al Smith was a fixture at countless regional and state championships, announcing high school state finals on behalf of the MPSSAA for just shy of 50 consecutive years.
From the beginning of his public address career as the voice of Old Mill High School football, the former air traffic controller has lent his voice to literally hundreds of local, regional and state championships. Al’s last MPSSAA event, was announcing the cross country state championships in the Fall of 2022.
“The MPSSAA Family is heartbroken over the passing of Mr. Smith,” said Andy Warner, Executive Director of the MPSSAA. “His professionalism, kind heart, and deliberate delivery while keeping everything in order and running smoothly was remarkable. On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of athletes Al dedicated so much time to, the MPSSAA is forever indebted to Mr. Smith’s generosity. For those who had the luxury of hearing Al announce, his voice will forever echo throughout the arenas and stadiums of MPSSAA Championships.”
In 2015, the MPSSAA awarded Al with the National Federation of State High School Associations Service to a State Association Award. The Service Award is to honor the hundreds of community members who support high school athletics by selecting one for his or her outstanding service. Al Smith’s contributions are unmatched by anyone. When this award was first announced, there was no doubt who the first recipient from Maryland should be.
The MPSSAA sends its condolences to the Smith Family.
The Capital Gazette wrote an article on Al at the time of his 2015 award, which you can read below.
Special calling: 'The Voice of the MPSSAA' honored with national award
By T.C. Cameron and firstname.lastname@example.org
Mar 10, 2015 at 5:10 pm
Announcer Al Smith calls the wrestlers to the mats. The MPSSAA held their Maryland high school state wrestling championships preliminary rounds Saturday at the University of Maryland's Cole Field House in College Park. (By Paul W. Gillespie, Staff, Baltimore Sun Media Group)
COLLEGE PARK — His name is as common as they come, and if Al Smith passed you on the way to the coffee house or dry cleaner, you probably wouldn't recognize him.
But if you're one of the thousands of current or former athletes who've competed in the annual state wrestling or track and field championships, he reveals himself quickly and succinctly with a simple, "hello."
His deep, booming voice has been the voice of MPSSAA championships for nearly 40 years. It's familiar and soothing as it resonates throughout Cole Field House at the state wrestling tournament every March. In the spring, it booms beyond light stanchions and parking lots of area track meets, reaching a crescendo at the state track and field championships at Morgan State University.
"Actually, I get that a lot," Smith says of his audible recognition. "There's no doubt I've got a very distinguishable voice – I'm not sure what makes it so – but I'll start a conversation with someone and often, they'll say to me, 'You're the track voice for Maryland.'"
Longtime county fans know Smith as the public address announcer of Old Mill football since the school played its first football game in 1975. Monday night, in front of a few thousand wrestling fans, Smith was awarded the state award for outstanding service in support of the MPSSAA and high school athletics.
Conferred for the first time by the National Federation of High Schools, each member association nominated an awardee, and MPSSAA Executive Director Ned Sparks said there wasn't any need for discussion about who Maryland's nominee would be.
"Nearly everyone looked around the room and within 15 or 20 seconds, the consensus was, ''This should be Al Smith,'" Sparks said. "He's the definition of a dedicated volunteer and Old Mill's lucky to have him."
An air traffic controller at Thurgood Marshall BWI from April 30, 1967 to Jan. 3, 2002, Smith has been the voice of the state wrestling finals for the last 20 years. He's announced track and field for the state for 37 years and has done cross country on and off for the past 20 seasons.
Sparks says he's constantly amazed at how effortlessly Smith manages to keep order of the results, including announcing the starting calls for specific heats in track, results in the individual heats as they happen and the long list of results from the brackets in wrestling.
"The way he juggles all of those balls in the air simultaneously – without dropping the ball even once, including any of the heats or final results – is a remarkable talent," Sparks said.
It's not the first honor for Smith, who was president of Old Mill's Booster Club for 12 years. In 2004, Smith was given the County Executive's Award by the Anne Arundel County Hall of Fame. Within media circles, Smith is known as an advocate for reporters working across all mediums.
"I do try to help the reporters because they're there to do the best job they can," Smith said. "They're there to put some light on a lot of athletes who don't get a lot of public recognition."
Smith says he relies on a system of index cards he prepares before every meet to keep track of the different events, make his calls and record the final results. He even puts a time stamp on every card in the upper left-hand corner.
"I do that because a coach has 30 minutes to protest once the result is announced," Smith says. "In track, you have to have a system or you can get lost."
Smith turns 74 in May but time hasn't slowed him down. He hasn't missed an Old Mill football game since 1998 — the last time the Patriots missed the state playoffs — and has missed just five games in 40 years. As one can imagine, a lot's changed since Jim Dillon, Old Mill's first athletic director, asked Smith to announce the games.
"Back then, Old Mill played on a grass field on Saturday afternoons. There was a speaker system in place, but not like what you see now. There were bleachers, but no press box and no lights," Smith said. "I worked on top of scaffolding and a Winnebago. Today we have an outstanding press box and public address system compared to what we had then."
The current press box, replaced in 2012, was named in Smith's honor at Old Mill's first home football game of 2012, a 35-7 win over Broadneck.
"I'm a sports nut and I enjoy doing it, but I don't want to stay too long," Smith said. "When I start failing, it'll be time to give it up, but I still enjoy it and I think I do a pretty good job."
He's no homer, either – he gives credit to an outstanding play or record-setting effort no matter which school benefits – and he's always in high demand. In addition to calling Old Mill's football games, Smith announces at least a dozen regular season track and field invitationals annually spread across Anne Arundel, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
He announces the indoor championship meets for Anne Arundel, Howard and Prince George's counties and the championship meets for the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference, Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association and the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland.
Smith also announces the outdoor championships for Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties, the regional meets in Anne Arundel and Howard and the three-day state championship at Morgan State University.
This year, he also announced the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) indoor championships.
"The best meet I ever saw was 1983 at Annapolis, when every class had their own championship at a different location," Smith says. "I watched Rodney Giles from Northern (Calvert) get the baton in sixth place and run a 1:47.8 split in his leg of the 3,200-meter relay before he came back to run a 4:17.8 in the 1,600 and a 47.8 in the 400 to beat Aziz Abdur-Ra'oof from Northeast. Then he ran a 1:51 in the 800 open, and it's still the state record today."
Smith recalls a pair of dramatic football games among his favorites. The first was Old Mill's 58-55 win over Arundel in the 2009 4A East Region championship, and the other was a 36-35 overtime win over Quince Orchard in the 2011 4A title game.
"Old Mill scored and went for two on the final play of the game," Smith said. "Rob Chesson took a pitchout around the left end and dove into the end zone. A gutsy call and incredible play to win a state championship."
Smith says his wife, Maria, celebrated their 50th anniversary in November. Smith says his wife's support affords him the opportunity to successfully ply his craft.
"I'll leave the house at 6 a.m. Saturday for the wrestling finals and won't get back until close to 11 p.m.," Smith said. "There's no way I could do any of this if she wasn't so supportive."