And, now, the circle is complete for Mike Baiamonte.
Baiamonte, whose signature voice and catchphrases have become Miami Heat home game trademarks over the last 21 years, began working the public address with the first FIU men's basketball team in 1981-82. This season, the FIU '86 grad will assume the PA for FIU's home football games.
Baiamonte said he "absolutely loved" doing the PA for last season's opener against Rutgers and was thrilled when athletic director Pete Garcia approached him recently about doing it permanently. So far, there are no scheduling conflicts with the Heat game schedule. The Heat special community events might be another story. Baiamonte said Garcia, "has been gracious about understanding the priority if there is a conflict." (The Heat trump).
As you'll find on this blog (probably to a nauseating degree), little fascinates me like time's passage and the changes it brings. Sometimes, I sit in the office of my South Beach apartment and count the buildings that didn't exist when we moved in here or when I first moved to South Beach. I did the same thing sitting in the FIU stadium press box during Monday's scrimmage with the buildings on campus. I counted 10 buildings that weren't here when I covered FIU before. I asked Baiamonte if he gets similar feelings.
"Every time I go back to the campus, usually for a sporting event, I think, 'This is not the same place I went to school,' he said. "When I went to school, there were five buildings on campus. There's more parking garages now than there were buildings then. And I'm at a football game at an on campus facility...people used to fly airplanes there. You used to park your car there so you could walk to class."
And as for sports, Baiamonte had the mike for the first 12 years of FIU basketball. They used to play at Miami-Dade's Kendall campus, then called Dade-South, and that was probably their best home court before Sunblazer Arena/Golden Panther Arena/US Century Bank Arena/Whatever Too Big Too Fail Buys US Century Bank Arena.
"We'd play about anywhere we could find a place," he said. "We played at Miami Christian High School in Sweetwater. We played at the James L. Knight Center. That was the most surreal venue I've ever worked."
Because the Knight Center was set up for concerts, the crowd was behind Baiamonte, the court in front of him and a curtain across from him.
Give Garcia credit for stomping the gas when the engine looks strong. With a potentially fantastic football season on the horizon, Garcia pushed for the Hilton4Heisman campaign; brought in Rick Sanchez as radio color analyst, a move guaranteed to get attention and could be at least fun; got the Mario Cristobal extension done; and hired Baiamonte to add a sound many South Florida sports fans now associate with winning and a cool, party atmosphere.
It could all wind up like Senna at Imola. Hilton could get injured or just have a blah season. The close games that went FIU's way last year could go the other way. Sanchez could get too blustery, or, worse, just be flat and boring. But you don't go from outsider to out in front without putting yourself out there somewhat.