Odds are you have heard his voice.
Prescribed with the ‘voice of an angel’ – though that has been disputed depending on the state of the scoreboard – Columbus Crew public address announcer Josh Poland’s relationship to the Club reaches back to its origins.
From childhood-fan to employee, to now season-ticket holder and matchday PA announcer, Poland sat down with ColumbusCrewSC.com ahead of the Club's 25th birthday on June 15.
For Poland, it all started in 1994 when it was announced that Columbus would be awarded Major League Soccer’s first franchise.
“I was in eighth grade when the team was announced,” Poland recalled. “I remember one of my buddies on my junior high soccer team, he had the Columbus Dispatch and there was an article about Columbus landing the first-ever MLS franchise. I remember him saying, ‘Look, we are getting a team!’
“I said, ‘What, we are getting a professional soccer team? I didn’t even know there was professional soccer in the United States.’ My friend said, ‘Yeah, we are getting the first team!’ And we were like, okay! So we kind of started counting down the days.”
Fast forward to 1996 and Poland was at the Horseshoe with his family to attend the first Crew match.
“I vividly remember the first game because my dad took me and my two younger brothers to the game. I had never been to a professional soccer game before and I didn’t know what to expect,” Poland said.
“I thought there’d maybe be a couple of thousand people there. I walk into the Horseshoe, and the entire lower bowl is full. I think 25,000 people. It was just an amazing experience and something I’ll never forget.”
From there, Poland’s “staff” connection to the Club started as being a ball kid the very next game.
“Then, before the next game, one of my buddies from my soccer team got invited to be a ball kid and he said, ‘I think I can get you to be a ball kid too,’” Poland said.
So, for the next three years, Poland was a ball kid for virtually every home match.
Notably, one of his favorite memories, aside from the very first match, came during that tenure. Down 2-0 to the New England Revolution, the Crew posted three unanswered second-half goals, including two in the final three minutes of regulation to win 3-2 as the excitement spilled onto the field.
“All the fans rushed the field. There were like 15 to 16 thousand fans on the field. It was cool. I was working as a ball kid, so I ran on the field too,” Poland said.
From there, Poland’s connection to the Club took shape as a locker room liaison in the 1999 season, where he skipped his high school prom to work the inaugural match at then-Crew Stadium.
“That was more important to me,” Poland said in jest.
Then, in 2002, Poland landed a full-time job with the Club as the assistant equipment manager, a capacity in which he worked for three years before putting his broadcast journalism degree to use outside of professional sports.
For the next eight years, Poland remained close to the club by volunteering with the event staff on home matchdays, and in 2013, he was asked to apply for the position of public address announcer, a position which he holds to this day.
While the Club’s prestige and professionalism have changed throughout the past 25 years, when asked about the common trait that’s stuck with the Crew for the past quarter-century, it is family, Poland said.
“I would say the thing that has stayed the same, the common thread throughout the years has been the family-type of experience, where everyone associated with the Crew has treated it as one big family. I think that will never change,” Poland said.
When the Crew are away from MAPFRE Stadium on matchdays, Poland is always with friends and family ready to tune in and cheer on the Original Club.
“The fact that the team serves as a catalyst for my family to get together and do something together to watch games,” Poland said. “We get together to watch the away games. We get together to watch during the playoffs. We have parties. It is just the whole family component that makes it so special.”
Never truly in need of season tickets as a staff member or volunteer, that all changed in 2019.
“I never had a need for season tickets because I am working the games. I really didn’t have much of a need, but the fact was that the team meant so much to me and I wanted it saved,” Poland said. “When the Save the Crew movement put out the pledge to buy tickets, I signed up right away.
“When we saved the team, I wanted to follow through to save the team so I bought two tickets…I plan to be a season ticket holder for years to come, especially in the new stadium.”
From ball kid, locker room liaison, equipment manager, volunteer, PA announcer, and of course, supporter – he’s really seen it all, including a pyre in the shape of a scoreboard.
Poland’s first day as PA announcer was the day of the infamous scoreboard fire at Crew Stadium, which occurred just prior to the match.
After making his pre-match reads, Poland got an encouraging text from his brother, who worked for the event staff on matchdays.
“So we got to the first break and we are sitting there and I look up and I see something flickering,” Poland recalled with a smile. “Then I see a little bit of smoke coming up. I turn over to my friend Manny, who was the PA announcer for Spanish at the time and said, ‘I think there is a fire.’
“We kept watching, and then more and more smoke, and before you knew it, it was engulfed. It was funny because my brother – he works gamedays – he texted me after the first set of announcements, “Ah the voice of an angel,” and then it catches fires. Then he goes “The voice of the devil.”
Jokes aside, when it comes to the Black & Gold, the past accomplishments makes the anticipation for what it is in-store that much for exciting, Poland said.
“We have so many firsts in our past and we are about to be another first by being the first team to open a second soccer-specific stadium. That is extremely exciting for me,” he said.
“I am pumped about the new ownership and their vision for the club. The new leadership that we have in place. There is so much excitement around the team and there is so much untapped potential here on the market. I think we are just sitting on the verge of something huge about to happen.”
Be sure to join the rest of the Black & Gold family on June 18 as the Crew host Atlanta United FC on Tuesday, June 18 in the Round of 16 of the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at 7 p.m. ET | TICKETS
Following that, come to MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday, June 23 as the Crew return to MLS regular-season play against Sporting Kansas City at 5:30 p.m. ET. | TICKETS