Returning Home: 315 Games into My Career

It’s hard to believe that in just over a month, I will begin my eighth season as a baseball broadcaster. Honestly, it seems like just the other day, I was standing against the of the home dugout at Bazemore Field when I got the opportunity to broadcast my first game, but we’ll dig back into the vault and pull that out later.

In these eight seasons, I’ve been on hand for 315 games, had you asked me eight years ago if I would be fortunate enough to still be living out my dream 315 games later, I would’ve probably told you, “This is probably just a one time deal.”

But here I am, eight years later and I haven’t been kicked out of the press box yet. And I couldn’t think of a better school to serve as a broadcaster for. I’ve been a member of this program in some capacity, for nine years.

With every passing season, every passing game, every passing minute and second, this program becomes more and more etched into my heart.

When I look back on the previous 315 games of my career, I realize just how blessed I am to live out my dream as a broadcaster. But not just any broadcaster, but the “Voice” of Wetumpka High School Baseball. Over the course of my time as a broadcaster, I’ve seen highs and I’ve seen lows, but I’ll always be thankful for everything that has come my way.

No matter where this industry takes me, I’ll always be proud to say that it all started at Bazemore Field in the small town of Wetumpka, Alabama.

Here’s to the next 315 games of my career. 315 more games worth of memories. I’ll be back home in a little over a month.

Remembering the Life of one of Baseball’s Greatest Pitchers: Phil Niekro

Known for his unhittable floating knuckleball that seemed to approach the plate like a balloon, Philip Henry “Phil” Niekro was a trailblazer, an icon, a legend, a Hall of Famer and so much more.

But most of all, he was a genuinely good soul. While most people will remember him for his daunting knuckleball and his ability to strikeout some of the best hitters the game of baseball has ever seen, I will remember him for his kind, generous heart. They just don’t make them like Phil anymore.

Niekro was born in Blaine, Ohio, and grew up in Lansing, Ohio. He attended Bridgeport High School In Bridgeport, Ohio, and was a boyhood friend of basketball Hall of Famer John Havlicek.

The baseball field on which he played at Bridgeport High School’s at Perkins Field athletic complex was renamed “The Niekro Diamond” in 2008 after both Phil and his brother Joe Niekro, whom was also a Major League pitcher.

Their father was a coal miner who pitched semipro baseball and had learned how to throw a knuckleball from another coal miner. He later taught his sons how to pitch in the backyard when they were kids.

During his 24 big league seasons, Phil Niekro rode his knuckleball to 5,404 innings pitched – the most of any pitcher who started his career in live ball era. Unlike most pitchers, Phil was more than simply durable.

His 318 wins and 3,342 strikeouts are a testament to a pitcher who was often untouchable. By the time he turned 40, Niekro had already won 121 games, the most wins by anyone that age in baseball history.

During his career Niekro, who became known as “Knucksie” due to the dancing movements of his famous pitch, appeared in 864 games, gave up 5,044 hits, 2,337 runs, in 5,404 innings pitched. Totaled 318 wins and 274 losses, starting 716 games, had an ERA of 3.35, pitched 245 complete games, 45 shutouts, earned 29 saves, surrendered 2,012 earned runs, 1,819 walks, and 3,342 strikeouts.

He spent time with the Milwaukee Braves (1964-65), Atlanta Braves (1966-83, 87), New York Yankees (1984-85), Cleveland Indians (1986-87), and Toronto Blue Jays (1987).

He was also a five-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove Award winner, the 1980 Roberto Clemente Award winner, led the National League in wins twice, pitched a no-hitter on August 5, 1973, had his number 35 retired by the Braves, is a member of the Braves Hall of Fame, and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York in 1997, alongside Nellie Fox, Tommy LaSorda, and Willie Wells.

He died of cancer at age 81.

Rest well Knucksie, I’ll see you again on the other side. Thank you for not only your contributions to the Atlanta Braves organization, but also for your contributions to Major League Baseball, your name will live on forever in the book of baseball lore.

(Picture: Atlanta Braves Twitter)

An Homage to My Broadcasting Idols

There have been many great voices that have echoed over the airwaves of radios and through the televisions to the living rooms of sports fans over the years.

Many great calls, sighs of relief, and painstakingly heartbreaking sounds of defeat.

Even though many of those great voices have since passed on to their eternal lives, sports fans everywhere still hear the voices of those legendary broadcasters and forever identify those voices with certain teams or schools.

For me, those remarkably renowned voices belong to none other than Skip and Chip Caray. This father-son duo will always stand the test of time when it comes to Atlanta Braves baseball.

Sadly, Skip Caray’s voice is no longer present with us here on Earth, but make no mistake, he is definitely giving God a play-by-play of Braves game, whether home or away.

But Chip is still with us, and he calls all Braves games. While his voice is great, it can’t compare to that of the late Skip Caray.

There’s just something about Skip’s voice that conjures up memories of years gone by inside my mind. So many of the most famous calls were described vividly by the word wizard that was Skip Caray.

One of my favorite Skip Caray calls came when the Braves won the 1995 World Series Championship at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, when Skip so elegantly described the final out.

“The wind, and the pitch here it is, swung, fly ball deep left-center, Grissom on the run…..YES! YES! YES! The Atlanta Braves have given you a championship! Listen to this crowd!!! A mob scene on the field!!!!”

What a great call. It echoes through my mind even though I wasn’t alive in 1995. I can just imagine what it must’ve been like to hear his voice describe the last out of the 1995 World Series.

What great men, what great personalities, what great voices, what great memories. Thank you, Skip and Chip Caray for so many great calls together.

Source: Reddit.com

In Loving Memory of Paula Caray, 1946-2020

Saturday afternoon, the Braves family lost a treasured member when Paula Caray, the wife of longtime Braves broadcaster, Skip Caray, passed away after a brief illness.

Paula Caray moved to Atlanta with Skip in 1976, when he was added to the Braves broadcasting team, a position he held until his death in August of 2008.

While many of us knew and loved Skip, to know Skip and to love him, was to love Paula too. Because after all, behind every great man, is an even greater woman.

In addition to being the wife of a broadcaster, she was also the stepmom to a broadcaster and his siblings.

She was the stepmother to current Atlanta Braves broadcaster, Chip Caray, Josh Caray, Shayelyn Caray Woodbery, and Cindy Caray Hines.

Rest In Peace, Ms. Paula Caray, we love you, your life and legacy will never be forgotten.

Source: Twitter.

The Coronavirus Cut My Seventh Year of Broadcasting Short

Last night, it was announced that the Coronavirus had a confirmed case in Elmore County, Alabama, which is the county I live in.

But that’s not all that was announced. In between middle school baseball games last night, one of our coaches told me that all Alabama public schools had been forced to cancel school and athletics until April 6 after Wednesday.

When he told me, I immediately responded with, “What about the area games that we have to play, because playoffs start during the second week of April?” “Does this mean that nobody will go to the playoffs?”

The coach responded “We’ll see what happens man, we appreciate what you have done in the past and continue to do for this program.” I then gave him a fist bump and assured him that I would be back as soon as possible and in 2021.

This comes on the heels of the following cancellations/postponements: NHL canceled their season Thursday, NBA canceled their season on Thursday after two Utah Jazz players tested positive for COVID-19, MLB canceled remaining spring training games and delayed opening day by at least two weeks as a precaution to the virus, NASCAR announced Thursday that no fans will be allowed in attendance for tomorrow’s race, NCAA canceled all basketball conference tournaments and March Madness, as well as delayed baseball and softball for two weeks, which is scheduled to resume on March 30.

That’s not all but that’s all that I felt like listing.

Because of this virus, I have been robbed of the remaining home games until April 6th.

With that being said, no I do not have the coronavirus, so I’m not to blame.

Y’all be safe out there, wash your hands, stop buying all the toilet paper in stock and hope that sports will be back to normal sooner rather than later.

I’ll see y’all soon, God Bless and stay safe.

Remembering Sports Broadcasters/Journalists Who Gained their Wings in 2019

2019 was a rough year to be a sports broadcaster and journalist, I can’t remember a more deadly year surrounding one industry.

Sure, there have been more deadly years in the past, but I can’t remember when they were.

Maybe it’s because I am still in shock at the amount of sports broadcasters and journalists whom were welcomed into heaven over the past 365 days.

2019 started out pretty smooth, and then on May 25, 2019, things took a turn for the worst when then-Auburn Baseball, Basketball, and Football Voice, Rod Bramblett, and his wife Paula were killed by a teenage driver who was under the influence at the time of the crash and topped out well over the speed limit.

Rod was just 53, while Paula was 52.

On December 24, 2019, ESPN’s Edward “Ed” Aschoff passed away after a brief battle with pneumonia at the young age of 34.

On December 28, 2019, Louisiana Sports Journalist, Carley McCord, the daughter-in-law of LSU OC, Steve Ensminger, was killed in a plane crash in Lafayette, Louisiana while on her way to Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, to watch the Tigers in the College Football Playoffs Semifinals against Oklahoma.

McCord was just 30-years-old.

While 2019 was a trying year for sports journalists and broadcasters like myself, I hope 2020 takes it lighter on this industry too many people with bright futures in this industry were lost in 2019.

God Bless.

Pictures: Daily Mail, Saturday Tradition and The Wrap).

Shut up, Gary: SEC Reportedly Cutting CBS Ties After 2023 Season

We all have that one person that we just can’t stand to hear talk. We also have those people who just won’t shut up during sporting events.

CBS’ Gary Danielson is one of them, according to a report made public by Saturday Down South, the Southeastern Conference will part ways with Danielson and CBS after the 2023 season.

Believe it or not, it used to be worse than it has been recently. How? Well, when you put Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson together in a booth together and let them call games together, you’ll understand what I’m saying.

Thankfully, Lundquist retired on December 10, 2016 after the Army-Navy game. They replaced Verne with ESPN’s Brad Nessler, which I thought would be better than Gary and Verne, but all it did was make Gary talk even more.

Thankfully, the days of hearing Gary Danielson will come to an end soon.

Shut up, Gary! Picture: Saturday Down South.

A Man and A Cracker Barrel Microphone

I don’t often write pieces about myself, simply I try to keep things focused on sports, with an occasional twist in the middle. But today, I feel like writing about how a microphone that I bought from Cracker Barrel when I was eight-years-old, led to me being able live the dream that I’m living today. Almost my entire life, I’ve known that I wanted to be a broadcaster, but it didn’t begin to take shape until 15. When I was eight years old, my family and I were headed to Spanish Fort, Alabama to visit with my grandparents, as my grandad was in his last few months of life and we stopped by the Evergreen Cracker Barrel where I purchased a plastic microphone as we were leaving. My mom said “You don’t need that, it’s a waste of money.” But to me, it wasn’t a waste of money, so I convinced my mom to let me get it. As we rode down the road, I was talking into it constantly, I kept talking into it when we arrived at my grandparents’ house in Spanish Fort. I used it constantly after that, at that point just to prove to my mom that it wasn’t a ‘waste of money’. I picked up old media guides from various sporting events and began to practice, which was always several hours. Multiple times I was told to be quiet because somebody was watching TV, but I knew if I stopped, I would never reach my dream. So I continued to practice with the Cracker Barrel microphone for years until it broke. Then, I was given my first real microphone several years later and my brother had an electric guitar amp that he didn’t use much, so when he wasn’t using it, I would sneak it into my room and use it for hours. I’m often asked “How do you sound so much different when you’re not behind a microphone,” and “How does your voice get so deep on the microphone?” I’ve been asked this millions of times over the seven years that i’ve been a broadcaster, and I often reply with “One time, I went to Cracker Barrel when I was eight.” I know people are often left wondering what Cracker Barrel and broadcasting have to do with each other but it’s all about that plastic microphone from Cracker Barrel in 2006. If you want to be a broadcaster, go to Cracker Barrel and convince your mom to let you get a plastic microphone, they make dreams come true.

Auburn Football Radio Broadcasts Will Take Some Time to Get Used To

For the first time since 2003, Rod Bramblett, the longtime Voice of the Auburn Tigers, will be absent from the broadcast booth at Jordan-Hare Stadium. You may remember Rod by his many memorable calls or possibly by a personal interaction with Bramblett. Whether Rod was on the air or not, he never seemed to change a bit. Bramblett was always so sincere and energetic. Rod genuinely cared for every person he came in contact with over the many years that he broadcasted Auburn Athletics. He treated you like family and made sure you felt at home during your time with him. When you left, you would feel as if you had known Rod the entire time. There was just something about him that caught the attention of people from all over the country. His raspy, versatile voice was like none other. He didn’t try to imitate anybody, Rod simply had a velvet voice. Regardless if you were a fan of Auburn or not, you knew the sound of Rod’s voice. This Saturday, hearing the voice of Andy Burcham, although we are familiar with Burcham, will take getting used to as we were welcomed into radio broadcasts for years by the late, great Rod Bramblett. Nevertheless, Auburn Football broadcasts will take some getting used to.

Passing The Headset: Andy Burcham to Assume Duties as Voice of the Auburn Tigers

Just after mid-day on Monday, the news broke around the State of Alabama that Andy Burcham, the longtime color analyst for the late Rod Bramblett had been named the new ‘Voice of the Auburn Tigers’. While I’m sure that this move had to be a tough one on Burcham, it just seems fitting. As Rod and Andy had just celebrated 25 years of broadcasting Auburn Baseball games alongside each other a few weeks before Rod and Paula Bramblett’s untimely and sudden death. Andy has been in the broadcasting industry since 1988. The 2019-2020 season will mark Burcham’s 32nd year in the industry. Personally, I don’t think I could’ve taken the job under these circumstances, but somebody has to do it and I know without a doubt, that Rod is smiling down from heaven knowing that his longtime friend and colleague, Andy Burcham, has been selected to assume the role that Bramblett held for so many years. While you will never be able to replace the silky, southern voice of Rod Bramblett, now is the time for Andy Burcham to cement his legacy alongside Bramblett and Jim Fyffe as ‘The Voice of the Auburn Tigers’ and Rod wouldn’t have it any other way. In a sense, Rod is simply passing the headset to his right-hand man, Andy Burcham.