Over the years and seasons, Mark Farina has provided the public league sports soundtrack.
An impromptu meeting with a Chicago public school athletic official led to concerts advertising football, basketball, baseball, and soccer at venues such as Lane Stadium, Kerry Wood Field, and Chicago State.
Farina worked his scheduled games at Lane in Week 9. Later that weekend of October 23-24, he developed what he assumed was a bad case of the flu. A few days later, he was hospitalized for COVID-19.
For a while, it seemed that Farina’s health was improving. He posted on social media and reached out to his friends.
But on Monday, November 15, Farina died of complications from COVID. He was 61 years old.
Tributes have poured in on social media and from those he has worked with at CPS and beyond.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Jason Tucker, former basketball coach of the Taft boys, whom Farina worked with before the pandemic.
The Eagles, like other teams, played an abbreviated spring season this year, but without the usual attributes of a PA announcer.
“The guy was such a great guy,” Tucker added. “He messaged me during the COVID season: ‘Hey coach Tucker, how many wins will you get? Can you reach the White North? Just consistently in support of everything we’ve done.
“The children loved him. He was made for this job: the voice, everything.
Mickey Pruitt saw him when Farina approached him to tell him about CPS. Now deputy director of sports administration, Pruitt was then supervisor of football and several other sports.
At the time, CPS was looking for a PA announcer for football in Lane. “We listened to him, [and thought], ‘Oh, he can be pretty good,’ ”said Pruitt. “He was very nice, very nice.
But there was more than the voice. Farina has spent hours preparing her concert announcements, researching sometimes hard-to-reach coach rosters, and writing her own match notes.
His play by play was peppered with the kind of information one would hear on a broadcast: recent team results and upcoming games, CPS scores and schedules, and all the other nuggets his research uncovered.
This crusher approach to a part-time gig came naturally to Farina, who had a quintessential Chicago biography. He graduated from Steinmetz on the northwest side. His father Lou was a city councilor and his cousin Dennis was a Chicago cop before becoming one of the most respected actors of his generation.
Farina attended Columbia College before moving to the state of Illinois, where he earned a degree in communications. He played 16 inch softball, worked for the city for a while, and got a variety of PA concerts.
Dominic Scianna, who now works in CPS sports communications, met Farina in Columbia 40 years ago and was a softball teammate. They’ve been quick friends ever since.
“When I met him he had this big one. booming voice, ”said Scianna. “It was definitely the life of the party. He was a larger than life character, making people laugh, telling silly jokes.
Longtime Chicago Bandits softball PA announcer Doug Meffley recalled a day when Farina replaced him when opening a day-night double schedule.
“He then waited until after that game was over just to meet me in person and shake my hand,” Meffley said. “I was so touched that he walked away from his family and everything he had to do just to meet me. It seems normal to him.”
Farina’s interests went beyond sports. He also wrote a book about his stepfather’s experiences during World War II: “Casey & the Flying Fortress: The True Story of a World War II Bomber Pilot and the Crew”.
But maybe he’ll be best remembered for all the Public League games he’s called up.
“He grew up at CPS,” Pruitt said. “He took care of the CPS students. He had passion.