About two weeks ago, I was heading to Alpharetta, Georgia and I passed the place where I spent a large amount of my time growing up, Turner Field, now known as Georgia State Stadium, since it is the home of the Georgia State Panthers football. I still call it Turner Field, though, because that’s what I’ve always known it as. I witnessed many victories inside those friendly confines and very few losses. In fact, a few months ago, I did the math, and I realized that I had been to 42 Braves games, 41 of which game at Turner Field. The Braves home record when I attend is 31-10. I like to think of myself as the Braves ‘good luck charm’. Because they almost never lose when I’m in attendance. As I passed the stadium, I was suddenly taken back to my childhood, I felt the thrill that I felt as a little kid, I felt like a kid in a candy store all over again. I’ve seen so many Braves greats take the field there. I was taken back to when I was little and we would pull up to the stadium and I would blurt out the ESPN theme song, I could hear Crazy Train over the PA system in my head as I passed it. So many great memories were made there. I never visited the stadium when I didn’t thoroughly enjoy myself. It was like I was a little kid again for that split-second. So many life-long friends were made inside those four walls. I haven’t been inside SunTrust Park yet, but I did pass it as I was headed home that weekend and I plan to visit in 2020. Nice to see you again, old friend.
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.
This past Saturday, I went over to Alpharetta, Georgia with family friends where we met my aunt, who is from Charlotte, North Carolina for a Hank Jr. and Kid Rock concert. I had been looking forward to this concert for weeks, maybe even years before I knew I was going, because my grandmother always told me “If Kid Rock ever comes close, you go see him.” So I heeded her advice and went to see him and Hank Jr in Alpharetta. On the way over, it took what seemed like an eternity. I think that’s because of how long I had looked forward to this night. I didn’t see an Alpharetta sign the whole time until we reached the northern part of Fulton County, Georgia. When we reached the hotel, my aunt met us in the hotel lobby, anxiously waiting to go to the concert. We arrived at the 48 minutes before show time, so I understand why she was in a hurry, because I was too. When we got to the amphitheater, we waited in a line that wrapped around a curb, which meant we would miss Bocephus’ first two songs. But when we passed the metal detectors and entered, I could immediately feel the energy in the place even though Kid Rock wasn’t on stage yet. I knew I was in for a treat. At first, we accidentally sat in the wrong seats. (which didn’t turn out well for the actual seat owner, at all.) I’m not sure he knew who he was talking to. But while we were in the midst of the confrontation, I just sat back in his seat and enjoyed the show, because I knew he wouldn’t do anything, so I wasn’t worried in the least bit. My aunt had gone to buy merchandise so it was just the family friends and myself. I sat back, looked at him and crossed my arms while one of the family friends handled the situation. After we found our seats, which were a lot better than the seats we originally sat in, the energy kept building. When Kid Rock, an avid American, from Romeo, Michigan, a Detroit suburb, took the stage, I screamed my head off. In fact, I screamed every lyric to every song he sang that night. Which resulted in me completely losing my voice, but I was okay with that because I had a blast doing it and I know that my grandma was looking down from heaven with that innocent smile on her face and my grandad was doing the same. On Sunday, we met my cousin for lunch in Atlanta before heading back home where we sat, talked, laughed and enjoyed every minute. But then, on Sunday night, it dawned on me that I had a football to announce the next day and I had no voice. I thought “Well, this should be fun.” But I didn’t worry about it. I knew it was all worth it. If you ever get the chance, go raise hell with Kid Rock, you won’t be disappointed.
Today seems like just another normal Tuesday to most of us. But for several former Atlanta Braves, it’s the day that their dreams became realities. 17 years ago today, in 2002, Atlanta selected current catcher Brian McCann and former Atlanta Braves right fielder current Atlanta Braves broadcaster Jeff Franceour in the first round of the 2002 MLB Amateur Draft. What makes this day even more special for McCann and Franceour is that at one point they were college roommates as both of the played baseball collegiately at Clemson University. Franceour spent six years with the Braves (2005-2009, 2016), three years with the Kansas City Royals (2011-2013), two years with the New York Mets (2009-2010), one year with the San Francisco Giants (2013), one year with the Philadelphia Phillies (2015), one year with the Texas Rangers (2010), one year with the San Diego Padres (2014) and one year with the Miami Marlins (2016) all in his 12-year career. McCann has spent time with Atlanta (10 years), New York Yankees (three years) and the Houston Astros (two years). Also on this day, 29 years ago in 1990 MLB Amateur Draft, the Atlanta Braves selected the man who some including myself still refer to as the “poster child” of the Atlanta franchise for 19 years from 1993 to 2012. Chipper spent his entire career donning an Atlanta uniform. It may seem like just another day to us, but to them it’s the day their lives changed forever.