Meet the die-hard fan behind the Phillies' commercials
Steele's friendly 'guy-next-door' voice has earned him a life as a voice actor
PHILADELPHIA -- Baseball in Philadelphia is near.
Signs of spring are everywhere. The Phillies just completed their winter tour through four Minor League affiliates, their annual junket designed to drum up interest in the team during baseball's slowest month. They will load up their equipment truck at Citizens Bank Park in the coming weeks and head to Clearwater, Fla., in preparation of pitchers and catchers holding their first workout Feb. 19.
And Dennis Steele's voice will be soon hitting TV and radio.
Don't know Steele? If you are a Phillies fan in the Delaware Valley, you actually probably do. He has been the voice for the Phils' TV and radio commercials for at least 15 years.
"I never get recognized," Steele said with a chuckle. "People say, 'So what do you do?' I say, 'I'm a voice actor.' They say, 'What is that?' I tell them I do voices on commercials. I narrate movies and TV shows and things like that. They ask where they have heard me, or what station I'm on. I say, 'Well, I do the Phillies.'"
Steele's guy-next-door voice suddenly clicks.
"You're the Phillies guy? Say something!"
Steele says the two words that finish nearly every Phils commercial.
... "You are the Phillies guy!"
Steele also is a voice for the Pennsylvania lottery, so he might throw in "keep on scratching" for good measure.
Steele, 58, grew up in Cincinnati and received a fine arts degree in radio, TV and film from the University of Cincinnati. He moved to Philadelphia in 1980, where he spent time at WYSP. Steele worked on syndicated radio shows with Rolling Stone for two years and with John Madden for 11 years. He once produced a countdown show for rock radio with Billy Crystal and produced a special about Monty Python, hosted by Philly's John DeBella. He wrote the commercials that promoted a "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" box set, which John Cleese read.
Steele, who lives in Villanova, Pa., with his family, often worked behind the scenes, producing and writing before he got going as a voice actor.
"Several people who I considered to be important told me I would never make it as an announcer," he said.
That is because Steele's voice is not deep like John Facenda's or Harry Kalas'. His voice never would have made it into the 2013 movie "In a World," starring Lake Bell, which is about voice actors in Hollywood. (Steele has seen the movie and liked it.)
Steele has the voice of the guy next door. His voice is friendly.
It is one reason why Steele does about 600 message-on-hold recordings a year. You know the ones. Call a company, get put on hold and a friendly voice tells you to be patient, someone will be with you shortly, thanks for holding.
It is why when Steele is hired to do political ads -- he does a lot of them -- he is not asked to be dark or sinister.
"I don't think they bring me in when they want to be mean and nasty," Steele said. "They kind of bring me in for the soft negative. You know, this guy said he did something, but he didn't do it. My stuff is generally a little less hardcore.
"When people say the guy next door, that was a choice I made because I don't have that deep announcer-type voice. Lucky for me, that kind of went out of style. Some of it is timing. My kind of voice was the right thing at the right time, so I've worked pretty steadily since the '80s. I have a lot of people to thank for that."
Steele records Phillies commercials about once a month during the season, typically beginning sometime in February. He gets a look at the script, takes a look at any videos or graphics, gets direction on how the scripts should be read, and an hour or two later, Steele has recorded commercials. He repeats the process during the season.
"It's a pretty nice way to make a living," Steele said. "I'm pretty grateful for the opportunities I've had. I've been able to stay here and raise a family. It's pretty cool."
And, yes, Steele is a Phillies fan. He returns home after reading the scripts and often asks family members about going to a game with a particularly cool promotion.
"Die-hard," he said. "I love them. I'm a big fan."