Wayne Fuller, the voice of Batavia sports, passed away this morning at Strong Memorial Hospital after a lengthy illness.
Fuller was 70 years old.
With a perfect baritone broadcast voice, Fuller became a local legend over the decades, serving as a public address announcer for the Batavia Muckdogs as well as Batavia High School sports. He worked for WBTA at various times since 1967.
Fuller was well known for not only his talent as an announcer but also his encyclopedic knowledge of sports and pop music and his photographic memory.
"Wayne Fuller was blessed with a marvelous voice and a considerable talent, and we were blessed with Wayne Fuller," said Bill Kauffman. "For somewhere between three and four decades, he was the voice of Batavia baseball — of the Trojans, the Clippers, the Muckdogs.
"His voice perfectly fit Dwyer Stadium; Batavia baseball sounds like Wayne Fuller. I think of Wayne as the voice of Batavia, a voice that will never stop echoing."
Batavia gave Fuller a place to excel -- plenty of local sports, but also a locally owned AM radio station that gave him an outlet for sharing the pop music of the recent past that he loved and knew as well as he did baseball history.
Dan Fischer, co-owner of WBTA, said Fuller was a perfect match for the station throughout so much of the station's history.
“Wayne was a unique on-air personality," Fischer said. "He had a perfect voice for AM radio, clear and distinctive. That voice served him well for his public address work as the stadium announcer for the Muckdogs and in the gymnasium for BHS basketball.
"Wayne could weave a story in such great detail. He knew what the weather was on the day his story was set; he could tell you what song was popular on that day. He had a passion for trains and memorized schedules and could describe railroad stations along most any route.
"He was a great friend and a wonderful and talented employee who will be missed by his colleagues and fans alike.”
Fuller was dedicated to the youth of the community and loved being the voice of so many Batavia sports. Both Buddy Brasky, head coach of Batavia HS basketball, and Michael Bromley, the school's athletic director, said he will be missed.
"Wayne was a very important part of Batavia Athletics for many years," Brasky said. "As the PA announcer for the varsity boys' basketball games, he added a sense of professionalism to the games. His enthusiasm, the way he played the music, the way he introduced the players in the starting lineups, always added to the atmosphere at the games."
Fuller was a 1965 graduate of Batavia HS. He was inducted into the school's Hall of Fame in 2013. Bromley also noted the press box at Dwyer Stadium is named after Fuller.
"More than that, Wayne was a friend to everyone," Bromley said. "He was a friend to many of our coaches, many of our athletes. He's going to be deeply missed. We tried to replace him for the season but there's still a big absence without him on the sidelines for basketball."
The impact Fuller had on the region goes beyond sports and broadcasting, however. He was also passionate about his longtime job with Empire Trailways.
Fuller was fascinated by bus schedules and fairs and he was instrumental in pushing bus companies across the Northeast in adopting computerized ticketing, according to his former boss Jack Barker.
"He was promoted to traffic manager in 1974 for Empire Trailways and he held that position for many years, taking care of bus schedules and fares," Barker said. "His contribution to the bus industry was exemplary. He was a friend of mine for probably over well over 50 years and he will definitely be missed."
Ironically, Fuller's broadcast career almost got derailed before it started. He had been hanging around WBTA as a teenager and the station manager one night blamed him for an announcer's on-air mistake. He thought that was the end of his connection with the station.
"I got thrown out of the station by the then-program manager," Fuller told Lucine Kauffman last year during an interview for her WBTA show, Genesee Life. "His name was Bob Folkler. He thought that I had broken up the announcer one night on the radio and it was somebody else. But I got thrown out. So I thought I was done hanging around BTA.
"This was in '67. About a week later, he called me up and said, 'Wayne, could you work tonight?' So here I went into this with no training because I was already pretty well trained because I'd been hanging around so much. I knew exactly what to do. So I just sat down did it."