Oh, the stories I could tell about the place that I often refer to as “my home”. Though it’s not really my home, it is a place where I can go and feel like I have escaped reality. I’ve been there off and on for the past six years. It’s the place where I embarked on this ongoing journey that is my dream of broadcasting. I’ve called a countless amount of names out from the microphone and speakers of what I consider a sacred place because it’s where I took my first step as a broadcaster. I’ve seen tons of games won and tons of games lost from that press box. So it’s only fitting that I call it home. There’s just something special about this place that gives me a feeling that I don’t experience anywhere else. It’s a safe haven to me. I feel like I’m on top of the world when I climb the press box stairs and enter the press box. It’s where I’ve met a countless amount of people and most of those people have remained in touch to this day. If you were to ask me what my favorite call has been during my time at Bazemore Field so far, I’d have to say it’s when we swept arch-rival Stanhope Elmore to win the Class 6A Area 5 Championship earlier this year. After all, it was the first area championship in baseball in 24 years. My call was: “Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, for the first time in 24 years, your Wetumpka Indians are Class 6A Area 5 Champions!” While playing Queen’s “We Are The Champions” over the speakers. It was so electrifying in the ballpark that day. Granted we weren’t 6A in 1995, the last time we won the area championship, I feel like that was my signature call from this year and I can’t wait to make more memories at “home” next year. While I am anxiously awaiting new memories next year, nothing can replace the memories that were made on that diamond in 2019. Until next year, take it easy Bazemore Field, I’ll be home before you know it.
The year was 2014 and I had recently been on visits with the Jacksonville State Gamecocks and the Auburn Tigers. I was sitting at home when my mom got a Facebook message from a mutual friend whose son I went to high school with asking if I would be interested in visiting with the Biscuits. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Montgomery Biscuits, they are the Double-A affiliate of Major League Baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays. I couldn’t believe what I had just been told, I was 16 at the time and I knew might only get the opportunity once, so I took the offer up. I would be in the press box at Riverwalk Stadium, the same stadium which at one time saw the likes of Evan Longoria, BJ Upton and David Price grace its diamond. I would attend the game on June 3rd, 2014 vs. the Huntsville Stars and I could hardly wait. The Huntsville Stars were the Double-A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. I had been to Riverwalk Stadium before but I had never been in the press box there. When the day finally got here, I was thrilled and headed to the stadium as soon as I could. When I got to the press box I was greeted by Aaron Vargas, who was The Voice of the Biscuits at the time. The Biscuits went on to win the game that night. If you have an opportunity at chasing your dream at a higher level, take it you never know if you’ll get that opportunity again but also remain grateful and humble.
Next piece: A Visit with the Auburn-Montgomery Warhawks.
Days after my visit to Jacksonville State for the Murray State game, I received a message saying that Auburn University Baseball wanted me there for a game…little did I know that this would be my first of two visits with the Tigers. While I was there I got to tour the Auburn football facilities and baseball facilities including the locker room and team laundry room. I even got to go down on the field before the April 22, 2014 game vs. South Alabama. I also got to meet The Voice of the Auburn Tigers, Rod Bramblett, former MLB star Gabe Gross, get my picture taken with Cam Newton’s Heisman Trophy, have my picture taken beside Bo Jackson on the outfield wall (no, not the real person, although I wish it would’ve been). etc. Auburn ended up defeating the Jaguars 8-0 that night. My second trip to the Plains came on April 4, 2015 for the Auburn-Arkansas game. Auburn ended up losing that game 5-4 in extra innings. I will always be grateful for the opportunities that Jacksonville State, Auburn and numerous other colleges and universities have given me. Thank you for believing in me and seeing the passion that I have not only for announcing but also for the game of baseball. I’ve heard it said many times that “If you don’t love what you’re doing, why are you doing it?” Always be grateful for opportunities presented to you, it will pay off in the end.
Next entry: A Visit with the Montgomery Biscuits.
Around this time in 2014, I received a Facebook message from Randy Belyeu, the Wetumpka High School Softball coach at time. I knew it must’ve been important because he never messaged me out of the blue. The message read: “Hey Braxton, it’s Coach Belyeu give me a call when you get the chance.” Immediately I picked up my phone and dialed his number. He picked up and we talked for a while and then he said “I’ve been in touch with Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama, and they would love to have you up there for a baseball game, just pull up their schedule and pick the home game you want to attend.” I knew this was the start of something special. I glanced at the schedule and chose the April 13, 2014 home game vs. Murray State Racers. Once I had the game picked out I immediately started practicing. Before I knew it, the weekend was here. We left Wetumpka on a Saturday in time for the Sunday game. We spent the night at University Inn just miles from Rudy Abbott Field. Sunday morning, I woke up quickly and rushed out of the hotel room as I had to meet former Jacksonville State Baseball coach Rudy Abbott that morning and I refused to be late. After I met Coach Abbott, we headed over to the baseball field. I was only expecting to announce half the game at the most, but I ended up announcing the entire game. Never give up on your dream, even when times get rough God might have something great right around the corner.
Next entry: A Visit With Rod Bramblett and Auburn Baseball.
I started practicing to be announcer at an early age, I think I was somewhere around the age of five or six…I can’t remember exactly. But one thing I can remember very vividly is my mom yelling from the living room back to my room where I would practice constantly, using sports game day programs. Mostly those of the Atlanta Braves, my favorite sports team of all-time. I grew up watching them as a young kid while my parents were working. My mom, a school teacher and my dad worked on conveyor belts and later went on to start his own sealcoating business before retiring in somewhat recent years, so that he could assist my grandmother who needed him there for her. While I was watching the Braves, I wouldn’t just watch them like a regular fan. In fact, I would study the game and the players. Not just the Braves players but also the opponents players. I would get the programs, sit down and practice for several hours at a time on different microphones trying to find the “perfect” one for my voice. While I would be practicing in my room, mom would be watching tv in the living room. She would come to the back of the house and tell me “Turn that down.” As I was using my brother’s Fender DSP guitar amp as a speaker. If that didn’t work, she would text me the same thing in capital letters. If that didn’t work, she would yell at the top of lungs the same thing. I have always been fascinated with microphones. Often referring to them as “my friend” and I felt sorry for the ones that I didn’t use because I was using other ones. My very first microphone came from the Cracker Barrel gift shop in Evergreen, Alabama in the early to mid 2000s. We stopped at Cracker Barrel to grab a bite to eat on the way to Spanish Fort, Alabama, to visit with my grandparents and spend some time with my grandaddy, (I will write a piece on him at a later date) who was ailing from pancreatic cancer. At one point in my life, I could sit and tell you everything you wanted to know about the Braves franchise, players, their pets etc. and I still can. Who knew that those hours and years of practicing would lead me to where I am today? To my fellow aspiring broadcasters. Heed your mother’s advise and “Turn that down” at least while she’s watching TV.
Next entry: My first trip to Turner Field.