In 38 days, on Saturday, February 18, 2023, I will begin my 10th year as the Voice of Bazemore Field. When I look back on the past ten years I am provided with the greatest memories of my life.
I have announced just short of 550 baseball games in those 10 years. I’ve celebrated jubilantly after many monumental wins and I’ve felt the pain of losses along with the team throughout the past decade.
For many, my voice serves as a reminder that baseball season has returned and another year is about to begin. I have been blessed to have had several great mentors over the past ten years who have helped me cultivate my voice into what it is today.
The list of those mentors is far too long to list here. But if I have stepped into your press box or sat in with you during a game, just know that you have played a huge role in my career.
In 38 days, I will call the 551st baseball game of my career. There have only been a handful of games that I have missed in my career because, well, life happens, things pop up, sickness occurs. But as long as I have breath in my body, I can promise you, I will be inside of the press box at Bazemore Field, providing commentary for those in attendance.
It all began on the afternoon of December 12, 1997 at 1:50pm, I saw the world for the first time. To see me now, you probably wouldn’t know that I’ve stared death in the face and denied it.
You see, at three weeks old my small intestines had ruptured a few days before arriving at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham from Montgomery. At six weeks old, doctors diagnosed me with mild cerebral palsy. Shortly after that it was discovered that I had gangrene that was contained in knots from my intestines having ruptured.
While I was in Birmingham, Alabama, where I spent the majority of my early life, they gave me little to no chance of survival. They told my family that I probably wouldn’t make it out of those four walls of that cold, dark hospital.
At this point in time it was all a waiting game. and I was clinging to life I had also suffered a stroke, all within the early part of my life.
The medical staff had all but written me off. Basically telling my family to prepare to be called in for one final goodbye. They had thrown in the towel on my life. When little did they know, God had bigger and better plans for me. Also within my near 25 years on this earth I have suffered seizures, but because of His mercy and faithfulness, on Monday, December 12, 2022, I will celebrate 25 years of living for Him, walking with Him, and standing on His Promises.
I share this in hopes of reaching somebody and leading them to have a closer relationship with Him. He led me through the fire, imagine what He can do for you.
This afternoon at about 12:15 p.m., I got the notification that I thought I would never have to get. The Atlanta Braves public address announcer, Casey Motter, passed away early Thursday morning in his sleep.
Casey Motter got his start in broadcasting announcing youth football and baseball games in nearby Peachtree City, Georgia, where he would often bring his own sound system and music.
His big break came on one November night in 2006, when the Braves assistant general manager, Frank Wren was blown away by the talent that Casey possessed. Frank videoed the youth football game that Casey was announcing and turned it into an invitation to try out for the Braves PA spot.
Casey, a Smyrna, Georgia native and avid Braves fan, made the most of the opportunity, ultimately winning the job over a dozen other finalists with professional experience.
The voice of Casey Motter, is one that will always hold a special place in my heart. The way he delivered himself during games. The enthusiasm he showed for his Braves will now and forever remain unmatched. I looked forward to one day being able to work alongside Casey in the Braves booth. In fact, he’s the one whom I model my deliverance after. There won’t ever be another Casey Motter.
My heart goes out to the entire Motter family at this time. Rest In Peace, my friend, save me a seat in the greatest booth of them all!
Friday, February 18, 2022 may seem like just any other random, ordinary date to you, most readers. But to me, it’s a very important date. Why you may ask?
Because on Friday, February 18, 2022, I will embark on my ninth year as a baseball broadcaster and call my 400th baseball game as a broadcaster. This microphone has taken me so many places that I would’ve never seen if I hadn’t decided to pick up the microphone nine years ago, back in 2013.
I’d wanted to be a broadcaster long before 2013. In fact, its been my dream since I was a six-year-old little boy from central Alabama.
This microphone has caused me to cross paths with some of the most-decorated, highly-acclaimed broadcasters in the industry. Like former Voice of the Auburn Tigers, Rod Bramblett and current Voice of the Tigers Andy Burcham.
As well as Voice of the Troy Trojans, Barry McKnight, former Auburn Tigers quarterback Charlie Trotman and Doug Amos.
It’s been an absolute blessing to be able live out my dream for going on nine years, and I couldn’t ask for a better school or program to represent other than Wetumpka High School Baseball.
If you come to Bazemore Field, on the campus of Wetumpka High School this spring, be sure to stop by and say hello. To me, this industry is about more than a microphone, it’s about providing the fans with the best gameday atmosphere possible.
Here’s to 400 & counting. See you soon, Bazemore Field. I’ll be home before you know it.
Often times, specifically this time of year, between mid-to-late February and mid-to-late April with a possibility of early May, depending on how the playoffs shake out, I’m the busiest I’ll be all year.
I’m away from home more times than not this time of year, whether it’s at my day-job or my night-job as a broadcaster, this time of year is always more hectic than any other time of year, but honestly, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
I’d rather be busy anyway, it keeps my mind and hands busy, as a mentor of mine once told me, “Idle hands are the devil’s playground.” There’s a lot of truth in that statement.
It’s so hard to believe that I’m a little over half way to my ninth year as a broadcaster, honestly it seems like just yesterday I was broadcasting my first game.
I guess the old saying ‘Time flies when you’re having fun,” is true. Except for me, I’m not just having fun, I’m living my dream and embracing the chaos one pitch at a time.
For as long as I can remember, Don Sutton has been a member of the Atlanta Braves broadcast team. I can clearly recall standing in front of TV as a little kid and listening to Don, along with Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren, and later, Skip’s son Chip, call the action.
The trio of Skip, Pete, and Don have now been reunited in Heaven and I’m sure that they will be calling the Braves’ games from the vantage point of Heaven, the greatest vantage point of them all. Not only was Don Sutton a great broadcaster, he was also a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher.
A 1998 inductee into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, National Baseball Hall of Fame Chairman, Jane Forbes Clark said “Don Sutton’s brilliance on the field, and his last commitment to the game that he so loved, carried through to his time as a Member of the Hall of Fame, I know how much he treasured his moments in Cooperstown, just as we treasured our special moments with him. We share our deepest condolences with his wife, Mary and his family.”
Sutton, a Clio, Alabama native, began his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers with whom he played from 1966-1980, and again in 1988. From 1981-82 Sutton was traded from the Dodgers to the Houston Astros, from Houston he left and went to Milwaukee to join the Brewers club from 1982-84, from Milwaukee he went out to California to join the Oakland Athletics where he stayed for less than a year in 1985. Later in 1985 he moved across California and joined the Los Angeles/California Angels with whom he stayed until the end of the 1987 season. In 1988, Don returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
During his career, he won 324 games as a pitcher and earned a spot in the hallowed halls of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Following his playing days, he joined the Atlanta Braves broadcast team where he served for all but two years from 1989-2018. He spent the 2008-09 seasons with the Washington Nationals’ broadcast team.
Tuesday afternoon, Don’s son Daron released the following statement on social media, “Saddened to share that my dad passed away in his sleep last night (Monday night). He worked as hard as anyone I’ve ever known and he treated those he encountered with great respect…and he took me to work a lot. For all these things, I am very grateful, Rest in Peace.”
The Braves subsequently released a statement that read, “We are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend, Don Sutton. A generation of Braves fans came to know his voice…But despite all (his) success, Don never lost his generous character or humble personality.”
I would have to agree, every time I ever heard the voice of Don Sutton over the TV or radio, I always learned something new about the game. His knowledge for the game of baseball is what I credit for my obsession with the sport.
While sharing his unmatched wisdom, he would often find just enough room to squeeze in one of his corny jokes about either the game the night before or a personal experience with his family in which he found great humor. I could go on and on for hours about the memories that I have and will carry with me for the rest of my time here on Earth that include Don Sutton, but I don’t want to keep you here all day.
Even when he was on the mound, Don wanted to be a broadcaster, specifically with the Braves. In 1976, when the Dodgers were in town playing the Braves at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Sutton, in his usual casual-but-humorous style told Pete Van Wieren: “Someday Pete, we’re going to work together.” Little did he know he had just predicted the future.
It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t wrap this up with Don’s signature sign-off call, “That’ll do it here in Atlanta, for my broadcast partners, Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren, so long and Go Braves.”
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.
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.
On Wednesday night, it was announced that Auburn University officials had finalized a deal which would bring Bryan Harsin, a Boise State University alum to the Plains.
This comes just nine days after former Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn was relieved of his duties on December 13. 2020, following a regular-season ending win over Mike Leach’s air-raid offense at Mississippi State.
He is 1999 graduate of Boise State University, where he was a three-year letterman with the Broncos from 1995-99.
Coach Harsin got his start as a football coach at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, Oregon, where he coach running backs and quarterbacks during the 2000 season.
In 2001, he returned to Boise, Idaho as a graduate assistant under first-year coach Dan Hawkins. He was hired as the Broncos tight ends coach in 2002 and remained in that position until 2005. During this period, the Broncos led the nation in scoring twice and remained in the top ten scoring offense all four years.
In 2005, four Broncos tight ends combined to catch 27 passes for 298 yards and three touchdowns. When Hawkins left for Colorado, offensive coordinator Chris Peterson was promoted to head coach for the 2006 season.
Harrison was moved up to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and guided the Broncos offense to an undefeated season. Running back Ian Johnson rushed for 1,713 yards and led the nation in rushing touchdowns.
From 2011 to 2012, Harsin served in Austin, Texas as the Texas Longhorns co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. In 2013, he moved to Jonesboro, Arkansas to take over the Arkansas State Red Wolves football program and from 2014 to December 22, 2020, he served as the Boise State Broncos head coach.
During those six seasons as the head man in Boise, Idaho, Bryan Harsin owned a record of (69-19). Overall his head coaching record is (76-24) and his teams are (3-2) in bowl game appearances.
During his career, he has won one Sun Belt Conference Title (2013), three Mountain West Conference Titles (2014, 2017, 2019) and five Mountain Division crowns (2014, 2016-2019). He was also a 2009 Broyles Award finalist.
Well, here we are nearly a week removed from the firing of Gus Malzahn at Auburn. We’re also 24 hours removed from the early National Signing Day, and yet the Tigers are still weighing their options to replace the Arkansas native Malzahn.
It was said Thursday morning that if the Oregon Ducks didn’t make any moves with head coach Mario Cristobal, we could’ve very well been welcoming the former Saban assistant to the Plains.
But late Thursday, the Ducks signed Cristobal to a six-year extension worth $27 million. So there goes that candidate.
That leaves the Tigers with a more limited list of candidates. The list includes: Hugh Freeze, who is currently the Liberty Flames head coach, current Auburn defensive coordinator and interim head coach, Kevin Steele, Clemson defensive coordinator, Brent Venables, current Louisiana-Lafayette head coach Billy Napier, Alabama offensive coordinator, Steve Sarkisian, current UAB Blazer head coach, Bill Clark, and current Ole Miss head coach, Lane Kiffin.
Sure, the names on that list have some experience and carry some weight, but do they have what it takes to get Auburn back to the competitive level of football that the fans are used to?
Over the last few days, I’ve been asked several times who I think the next head man on the Plains will be and now is when I will answer that.
I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Hugh Freeze will return to Power Five Football and the Southeastern Conference in 2021.
If a coach can win at Liberty, surely they can win at Auburn right?