It was 2013 and I had no clue, at the time, that the place I had always loved visiting for baseball, and even just passing by on the road would close to baseball operations just three years later, in 2016. This game and season was a little bit on the weird side for me, as my favorite player, Chipper Jones, had just retired in 2012. I wasn’t sure what I would do with myself since Chipper had gone into retirement. I realized one day that the Braves would be hosting the San Diego Padres on August 13, so I told my dad that I wanted to go since it was summertime and I didn’t have school. He agreed and ordered the tickets immediately. When August 13th got here, I woke up quickly and reminded dad that it was game day. He rolled over and nodded his head, half asleep. I went back to my room and quickly got dressed. When we arrived in Atlanta, we went to the stadium in time to catch batting practice for both teams. We were walking towards our seats and an usher walks up behind us and says “Do y’all need any help finding your seats?” Dad and I looked at each other and agreed that we needed assistance in finding our seats. The usher led us to our seats just above the Braves first base dugout and we thanked him. I recognized all of the stickers that were on the nice usher’s name tag but didn’t ask what they were for. In fact, I didn’t have to ask, as he quickly explained the stickers to us before introducing himself. “I’m Walter Banks, I’ve been with the Braves since they moved here, to Atlanta in 1966.” Walter said. “Ask me a number.” He said. So instinctively, I went with 10 because of Chipper Jones. Walter said “I attended my very first Braves at age 10 when they were the Milwaukee Braves.” I was at a loss for words. “I’ve never watched TV,” Banks said. “I’ve only read books.” While the Braves were taking batting practice, he said “I’ll be right back, stay here.” So I sat in my seat watching Walter head down to the Braves dugout just rows away. He came back with a baseball and said “This one’s for you.” I immediately thanked him and asked if I could have my picture taken with him, delightfully, he agreed and then said he has to get on his way. So I thanked him again and settled into my seat still in awe of what had just taken place. If you ever get the chance to go to a Braves game, ask for Walter Banks, you won’t regret it.
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.