Thirty years ago this baseball season, my life changed forever.

Thirty years ago this baseball season, my life changed forever.

 

Fresh out of college, I had applied for many minor league baseball play-by-play jobs.  I got one response.  It was from Greensboro in the South Atlantic League.  The “Hornets,” as they were known at that time, were the Class A affiliate of the Yankees.  I was offered the job, and off I went to chase my dream.

 

I got more than I anticipated.  In Greensboro, I met my soon-to-be-wife, Lois.  We were married on Saturday June 6, 1981.  It was a small ceremony, the baseball team was there, and we had to rush out of the church so I could call the Hornets’ game that night.

 

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Lois threw out the first pitch of the game; and the team won.  I was a perfect night.  The next day we had a 1:00 p.m. Sunday game and then headed out on a road trip to Charleston and Florence, SC. 

 

Ah, a honeymoon with the baseball team.  We wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

It was a magical year.  Being in love and calling baseball games on the radio is quite a combo for a rabid baseball fan of 23. 

 

It also became a year of two rings.  The Hornets won an incredible 98 games that season and went on to sweep the Greenwood Pirates in the SAL Championship.  So along with my wedding band, I got my first championship ring.

 

Thirty years, five kids, and an experiment in pro wrestling later, Lois and I began this Gwinnett Braves season together again.  She traveled with me to the opening series in Durham, Norfolk and Charlotte.

 

Sometime this season, I will broadcast my 1,000th baseball game (three of which have been major league games).  Lois has been with me every step of the way.

 

Ten years ago, World Championship Wrestling folded, leaving me without a job.  Naturally, I panicked.  But Lois, true to form, picked up my spirits with some logical advice.

 

“You have always wanted to leave wrestling,” she said.  “But because of the money, were afraid to.  Now you are forced to leave, and you have your chance to go back to baseball.”

 

She was right.  Thanks to WSB, I was on the Atlanta Braves Radio Network for four years; and thanks to WDUN and the Braves, I am back behind the microphone doing what I enjoy more than anything else.

 

Thanks, Lois.

  

 
 


 


 

 

 

Tales From the Road 2010: Goodbye Freddie

Unless it’s a rehab assignment, Freddie Freeman will never play in the minor leagues again. 

That thought hit me as we embarked on the last road trip of the season, and Freeman stayed behind in Georgia to join Atlanta.  Freeman is special.  Not just as a player, but as a person.  He never looked 20 years old at the plate, but he was every bit the 20 year old kid in the clubhouse.  He joked a lot.  He laughed a lot.  He smiled a lot.  He had reason to.  I remember during our four game trip at Lehigh Valley, Freddie was so hot it was getting silly.  Everything he hit seemed to drop in; ground balls had eyes; pop-ups fell beyond the reaches of infielders.  It was incredible.  I walked into the clubhouse after one of the games and looked at him.  He looked back and we both burst out laughing.  No words exchanged, we both new what was going on.  A hitter does not get that lucky with out a combination of talent and hard work.  And that’s what Freddie Freeman has.

As this 2010 season draws to a close, I will remember it as the year Freddie Freeman, the International League rookie of the year, took his first step toward super-stardom.  And I was there for every swing.  As any 20 year older would says:  “Like, pretty awesome, man!” 

Tales From the Road 2010: Goodbye Freddie

Unless it’s a rehab assignment, Freddie Freeman will never play in the minor leagues again. 

That thought hit me as we embarked on the last road trip of the season, and Freeman stayed behind in Georgia to join Atlanta.  Freeman is special.  Not just as a player, but as a person.  He never looked 20 years old at the plate, but he was every bit the 20 year old kid in the clubhouse.  He joked a lot.  He laughed a lot.  He smiled a lot.  He had reason to.  I remember during our four game trip at Lehigh Valley, Freddie was so hot it was getting silly.  Everything he hit seemed to drop in; ground balls had eyes; pop-ups fell beyond the reaches of infielders.  It was incredible.  I walked into the clubhouse after one of the games and looked at him.  He looked back and we both burst out laughing.  No words exchanged, we both new what was going on.  A hitter does not get that lucky with out a combination of talent and hard work.  And that’s what Freddie Freeman has.

As this 2010 season draws to a close, I will remember it as the year Freddie Freeman, the International League rookie of the year, took his first step toward super-stardom.  And I was there for every swing.  As any 20 year older would says:  “Like, pretty awesome, man!” 

Tales From the Road 2010: Buffalo and the Big Leagues

BUFFALO, NY–We have had some exciting baseball in New York as the Braves and Mets Triple-A team square off at vast Coca-Cola Field. 

I mentioned this during my broadcast on Saturday, but it is worth putting in print:  I think Buffalo should get a Major League team.  Cleveland and Florida are drawing barely over 16 thousand fans a night.  Yes the Indians and the Marlins.  Hey, we had a legit 13 thousand in Buffalo on Friday night for a Triple A game. 

So I say, why not Buffalo?  The Sabres and the Bills do well.  And if you are my age, you might remember the Buffalo Braves of the NBA.  It is a major league sports city.

The Bisons, or as they like to say, the “Bizons,” do well at the gate.  Coca-Cola Field, when it opened in 1988, was built to be able to expand to a major league stadium.  I am sure now, if the opportunity ever came their way, they would have to totally rebuild, but the city certainly could support the big leagues.

There has been a lot of noise coming from the Tampa Bay area about either getting a new ballpark or leaving for another city.  I say leave.  Major League Baseball does not work in Florida.  Never has, never will.  Florida is for Spring Training, and drawing 500 fans a night to minor league Florida State League games.

Let’s see the Rays move to Buffalo where real sports fans are.  Not San Antonio, not Las Vegas, but Buffalo. And if not the Rays, let’s finally put to rest the miserable Marlins franchise and move THEM north.  

Let’s check with the Commissioner of Baseball, Fox Sports and see if it agrees.

Tales From the Road 2010: Buffalo and the Big Leagues

BUFFALO, NY–We have had some exciting baseball in New York as the Braves and Mets Triple-A team square off at vast Coca-Cola Field. 

I mentioned this during my broadcast on Saturday, but it is worth putting in print:  I think Buffalo should get a Major League team.  Cleveland and Florida are drawing barely over 16 thousand fans a night.  Yes the Indians and the Marlins.  Hey, we had a legit 13 thousand in Buffalo on Friday night for a Triple A game. 

So I say, why not Buffalo?  The Sabres and the Bills do well.  And if you are my age, you might remember the Buffalo Braves of the NBA.  It is a major league sports city.

The Bisons, or as they like to say, the “Bizons,” do well at the gate.  Coca-Cola Field, when it opened in 1988, was built to be able to expand to a major league stadium.  I am sure now, if the opportunity ever came their way, they would have to totally rebuild, but the city certainly could support the big leagues.

There has been a lot of noise coming from the Tampa Bay area about either getting a new ballpark or leaving for another city.  I say leave.  Major League Baseball does not work in Florida.  Never has, never will.  Florida is for Spring Training, and drawing 500 fans a night to minor league Florida State League games.

Let’s see the Rays move to Buffalo where real sports fans are.  Not San Antonio, not Las Vegas, but Buffalo. And if not the Rays, let’s finally put to rest the miserable Marlins franchise and move THEM north.  

Let’s check with the Commissioner of Baseball, Fox Sports and see if it agrees.

Tales From the Road 2010: Freezing in July

Toledo, OH-Fifth Third Field in Toledo, Ohio is still my favorite place to go on the road in the International League, even though they tried to freeze me out during our recent four game series.

The weather in Toledo was perfect; mid 70’s, very few clouds if any, and low humidity.  It was a four game series that was wonderful.  The fact we swept the Mudhens made it even better.  However, life in the press box was another matter.  It was freezing.  The air conditioning vent above my head was stuck on high.  Full blast high.  And it wasn’t until the final game of the series did they fix it.  So, during the first three games, I was on the air in a hooded sweatshirt.  The good people at Toledo (and I am NOT been sarcastic, they are good people), did their best to tinker with the system to warm things up.  It was only during the last game, did the temperature become bearable. 

But once the temperature in the radio booth warmed up, so did my insides.  The final day of the series, I made the big mistake of going to Packos.  It’s the restaurant made famous my Jamie Farr during his years on M*A*S*H.  Packos has great food.  Great Hungarian food.  It did not sit well on my system.  So the final day at Fifth Third Field was a day of warming up on the inside and the outside.  Whatever was in the food that I ate at Packos At The Park covered every canal in my body for the entire day. 

That was a shame.  Toledo is great.  Play by play guy Jim Weber is one of my favorites, and merchandise director Craig Katz is a good friend and a first class guy.  But to them I must have seemed like a wimp from the south.  Either freezing to death, or complaining about my belly.  It was a series I would like to forget on a personal level, but one that hopefull put this team back in the right direction for the rest of the season. 

Tales From the Road 2010: Freezing in July

Toledo, OH-Fifth Third Field in Toledo, Ohio is still my favorite place to go on the road in the International League, even though they tried to freeze me out during our recent four game series.

The weather in Toledo was perfect; mid 70’s, very few clouds if any, and low humidity.  It was a four game series that was wonderful.  The fact we swept the Mudhens made it even better.  However, life in the press box was another matter.  It was freezing.  The air conditioning vent above my head was stuck on high.  Full blast high.  And it wasn’t until the final game of the series did they fix it.  So, during the first three games, I was on the air in a hooded sweatshirt.  The good people at Toledo (and I am NOT been sarcastic, they are good people), did their best to tinker with the system to warm things up.  It was only during the last game, did the temperature become bearable. 

But once the temperature in the radio booth warmed up, so did my insides.  The final day of the series, I made the big mistake of going to Packos.  It’s the restaurant made famous my Jamie Farr during his years on M*A*S*H.  Packos has great food.  Great Hungarian food.  It did not sit well on my system.  So the final day at Fifth Third Field was a day of warming up on the inside and the outside.  Whatever was in the food that I ate at Packos At The Park covered every canal in my body for the entire day. 

That was a shame.  Toledo is great.  Play by play guy Jim Weber is one of my favorites, and merchandise director Craig Katz is a good friend and a first class guy.  But to them I must have seemed like a wimp from the south.  Either freezing to death, or complaining about my belly.  It was a series I would like to forget on a personal level, but one that hopefull put this team back in the right direction for the rest of the season. 

Tales From the Road 2010: Broadcasting Outside In Columbus

Columbus, OH–In this modern sports era of get-as-much-money-as-you-can-and-give-the-media-the-shaft, the Columbus Clippers have come up with a novel idea.  They decided to not put the press box behind homeplate at Huntington Park.  They split it into two boxes, one down the first base line and the other down the third base line.  However, someone must have come in right at the end and said:  “Hey, what about your radio broadcasters?  Will they be able to see the game?” 

The answer of course, was:  “Who cares?”  However, they did decide to come up with something that they thought would work out just fine.  In Columbus, we broadcast outside from the bar.  That’s right in Columbus; you can get a beer, get drunk, get loud and bother the radio broadcasters.  They are sitting right next to you. 

Before I go further, I need to say that we have option to work inside in the box down the third base line instead of outside with the patrons.  In 2009, I decided to stay inside.  This season, I made the decision to go outside.

Big mistake.

Game one in Columbus was just fine.  As a matter of fact, the ambience was great.  Good crowd noise, exciting game.  But game two and three were different.  To my immediate left is a place for two or three people to sit and enjoy the game.  There is also a ledge for fans to sit their drinks and food on.  They can also bang on that ledge if they wish.  And they usually do.  It is made of cast iron and it makes a heck of a sound.  It also is horrible for broadcasters, like me, who try to use a stick mic on a stand instead of a headset.

Sunday night in Columbus, Grandma and Grandpa Jones decided to come to the game with their two grandchildren.  The little boy, let’s call him Johnny, apparently had tourette’s.  He banged on the ledge all night.  I should have said something, but I didn’t.  My mistake. 

Not as big as a mistake as I made by broadcasting from that location.  The next time in Columbus I will go back inside.  The location from the bar, although good in theory, and a great vantage point, is a horrible idea.  Let them drink the beer and baby sit the kids without me.  I am going to the press box.

Tales From the Road 2010: Broadcasting Outside In Columbus

Columbus, OH–In this modern sports era of get-as-much-money-as-you-can-and-give-the-media-the-shaft, the Columbus Clippers have come up with a novel idea.  They decided to not put the press box behind homeplate at Huntington Park.  They split it into two boxes, one down the first base line and the other down the third base line.  However, someone must have come in right at the end and said:  “Hey, what about your radio broadcasters?  Will they be able to see the game?” 

The answer of course, was:  “Who cares?”  However, they did decide to come up with something that they thought would work out just fine.  In Columbus, we broadcast outside from the bar.  That’s right in Columbus; you can get a beer, get drunk, get loud and bother the radio broadcasters.  They are sitting right next to you. 

Before I go further, I need to say that we have option to work inside in the box down the third base line instead of outside with the patrons.  In 2009, I decided to stay inside.  This season, I made the decision to go outside.

Big mistake.

Game one in Columbus was just fine.  As a matter of fact, the ambience was great.  Good crowd noise, exciting game.  But game two and three were different.  To my immediate left is a place for two or three people to sit and enjoy the game.  There is also a ledge for fans to sit their drinks and food on.  They can also bang on that ledge if they wish.  And they usually do.  It is made of cast iron and it makes a heck of a sound.  It also is horrible for broadcasters, like me, who try to use a stick mic on a stand instead of a headset.

Sunday night in Columbus, Grandma and Grandpa Jones decided to come to the game with their two grandchildren.  The little boy, let’s call him Johnny, apparently had tourette’s.  He banged on the ledge all night.  I should have said something, but I didn’t.  My mistake. 

Not as big as a mistake as I made by broadcasting from that location.  The next time in Columbus I will go back inside.  The location from the bar, although good in theory, and a great vantage point, is a horrible idea.  Let them drink the beer and baby sit the kids without me.  I am going to the press box.

Tales From the Road 2010: My This is a Wonderful Life

NORFOLK, VA–Sitting here in the press box at Harbor Park, looking out to the field, watching the G-Braves take batting practice makes me think how lucky I am to be doing the thing I love the most:  baseball.  But what makes this even more special is being able to broadcast the games in the information age.

My first year of minor league baseball was 1981.  Fresh out of college, looking to begin my journey to the major leagues I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep.  The bus rides (and the bus, itself) were horrible.  The hotel rooms on the road were sub-par, and the press boxes and broadcast booths were in terrible shape.  They quickly made me realize how far away I was from by dream. 

But that all paled in comparison to the lack of information and stats that we had at our disposal.  Basically, we had none.  The South Atlantic League back in 1981 only published stats once a week.  Many times, there was never a roster provided.  And many times, I just made up stuff to talk about (a skill that helped me years later in Pro Wrestling).

I tell you this not to make you feel sorry for poor ole Tony Schiavone.  I tell you this to remind you (and myself) how wonderful it is to be doing G-Braves baseball in this era.  The internet is an incredible tool.  I can find information on just about every player I see with a click of the mouse.  I can keep up with scores from all over in many different leagues.  Back in 1981, the scores were provided on a long yellow ribbon called SPORTSTICKER.  It printed out the inning by inning score and you kind of had to add up the score in your head to see who was winning or losing.

But more than that, I feel that radio is the single finest medium for baseball ever created.  This is a leisurely game.  And the pace works well for our industry.  I do 144 regular season games a year, and each and every day I get such a rush to be able to do the broadcast.  I feel a real connection to the greats before me.  Because what made them great is not that they did the game on television, but that they did the game on radio.  They “described” the action. 

So how can I lose? Mounds of information, great accommodations, and getting PAID to watch a baseball game.  George Bailey was right, this is a wonderful life!    

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