Forget the miles between Evansville and Atlanta, Georgia. Brandon Gaudin was destined to be a Braves announcer.
An aspiring broadcaster at the tender age of 13, Gaudin had the audacity to write longtime Braves play-by-play announcer Skip Caray for guidance. Caray answered his letter with words of advice — and all these years later, Gaudin has replaced Skip’s son, Chip, as the Braves’ play-by-play announcer for Bally Sports. Chip left after the 2022 season to become the lead announcer on St. Louis Cardinals’ television broadcasts.
Gaudin describes becoming a Braves broadcaster as “sort of surreal.”
“I grew up idolizing the Braves in the ’90s, watching them every night on TBS, sneaking down to watch their late-night games on the West Coast when I should’ve been asleep,” says Gaudin, a 2002 William Henry Harrison High School graduate. “I would play make-believe games in the foyer of our Evansville home every day after school as a kid.”
He announced as if he were impersonating the late Skip Caray, himself the son of famed Major League Baseball caller Harry Caray.
“I learned how to broadcast by listening to him … and trying to emulate him,” Gaudin says. “When I got the job, it took a while to sink in. The childhood dream of calling Braves games had somehow come true. Because I listened to Skip every night for so many years, I naturally find myself using a good deal of his baseball vernacular. It’s forever ingrained in my mind. A moon-shot fly ball to the outfield is a ‘Hiiiighhh, lazy fly.’ When the Braves win, I typically always say ‘Braves win!’ after the final out. When I sign off the air, I do so as Skip did by saying ‘So long, everybody.’ It’s not necessarily because I planned to copy him. It just feels natural. It’s what I’ve been doing since I was seven years old.”
Gaudin debuted on March 30 in an Opening Day away game against the Washington Nationals, and it didn’t take long for him to develop chemistry with broadcast partner Jeff Francouer.
“By St. Louis for games 4, 5, and 6, we had a pretty good flow,” Francouer says. “Washington was tough on opening weekend. It was freezing up there. One thing Brandon does not like is cold weather. He held his hand over hot coffee trying to stay warm.”
While Gaudin was a Braves fan from afar, Francouer grew up in Atlanta and later played outfield for the Braves. Both are 39 years old.
“The story has come full circle for him,” Francouer says. “A million people are Braves fans who would love to broadcast the games. He has capitalized on it by doing a great job. You can’t be over the top, be a fanboy. He has a great balance.”
On the Clock
A typical game day as a Braves broadcaster depends on whether it’s at home or on the road.
“At home, I wake up and update my notes on both the Braves and their opponent,” Gaudin says. “If it’s the first game of a series, it’s a longer process, especially due to preparing nuggets and storylines on the opposition. I break for lunch, do a little more work, then work out around 2 p.m. Then I shower and head to Truist Park, which is about 15-20 minutes from my home. I set up my spot in the booth, enter the lineups, then head downstairs to watch batting practice.”
Announcing for a specific team requires different preparation than doing a network game where you are a “neutral” announcer, he says.
“Our audience is probably 90 percent Braves fans, and they are regular viewers,” Gaudin says. “They know the team inside and out. The normal bio bullet points become stale to them. Batting practice — and the bus/plane rides — is a great time to gather new, fun, and fresh information to pass along to the listener. Plus, I’m still in the ‘get to know you’ phase. I’ve only been doing this a few months. So, I’m also using that time to build relationships and trust.”
After batting practice, Gaudin heads back up to the booth and adds final updates to his notes. He keeps score the old-fashioned way, by hand, but uses Microsoft OneNote on his MacBook to keep his player and team notes.
“It’s an ever-growing catalog of info,” he says. “After I feel fully prepped, it’s time to grab a bite in the press box, walk around and chat with beat writers and the opposing announcers. The analyst (Francoeur) and I typically have to do a pre-game segment from 6:30-6:35 p.m. Then we come on the air for our true ‘broadcast open’ around 7:10 p.m. At 7:20, it’s time for the Toyota starting lineups, Ford keys to the game, and first pitch. Play ball!”
Before the Braves, Gaudin did play-by-play work for FOX and Big Ten Network, calling NFL, MLB, college football and basketball. He will continue a majority of that work when his Braves schedule allows. He has also been the play-by-play voice of EA Sports Madden NFL video game since 2016. One of his breakthrough jobs was calling games for the Evansville Aces from 2008 to 2010. His uncle Mike Espenlaub noted that Gaudin announced Harrison baseball games back in high school.
“All that prep work from the time he was a child really paid off,” says Espenlaub, also a Harrison grad. Espenlaub himself moved to Atlanta after graduating from Purdue University in 1977. Through him, the Gaudin family was able to attend the Braves’ home games during the 1991, ’92, and ’95 World Series.
He says Gaudin is humble and treats everyone around him with respect.
“His game prep and research is evident in his delivery — it seems like statistics and side stories run off of his mouth like he has known the information and statistical analysis for years,” Espenlaub says.
Francouer appreciates that Gaudin gives the broadcast time to breathe. They rarely talk over each other. Francouer says Gaudin has a great voice and doesn’t inundate the viewer with an inordinate number of stats.
New ‘Firsts’ and Navigating MLB Changes
Gaudin says there were three “firsts” in describing what has been most memorable to witness in his maiden season with Atlanta.
“My first true Braves telecast was in the final week of spring training,” he says. “A good warm-up. Then Opening Day in Washington on March 30 was another first — the first official game. Lastly, the first game at our home park on April 6 also felt like a first. All three felt different, new, and fun for various reasons.”
But the April 6 game against the San Diego Padres takes the cake, he says.
“It’s different being in the home environment, with 40,000 people screaming for your team,” Gaudin says. “They help drive the broadcast. I had dreamt of my first ‘layout’ after a Braves walk-off win. That’s where the announcers shut up after punching a call and let the crowd do what only it can do.”
He didn’t have to wait long. In that home opener on April 6, the Braves and Padres were tied at 6 entering the bottom of the ninth. With two outs and a runner on second, Braves shortstop Orlando Arcia singled to center to give the Braves a 7-6 victory.
“The crowd was deafening,” Gaudin says. “I finished my call quickly, threw my hands in the air, and listened to the roar. I’ve never sounded better! It’s a moment I will carry with me forever.”
As for the perks of being a Braves announcer, Gaudin appreciates a free ticket to watch his childhood team on a nightly basis.
“There’s also a thrill in bringing passion and energy to each broadcast,” he says. “I want the Braves fans to know that I’m in their corner. I’m a fan just like they are. When things are going well, I hope they feel and hear the excitement in my voice. When things aren’t so hot, I hope they know I’m striving for a glass-half-full approach and waiting anxiously for things to turn around.”
In an effort to increase the speed of play and keep games from endlessly dragging, MLB implemented several rule changes for the 2023 season. The pitch clock is what affects broadcasters the most. Instead of having time to meander a bit with their stories between pitch-es, now they need to get to the point faster.
“It’s a pretty significant difference,” Gaudin says. “Certainly, it feels more normal with each passing day.”
In retrospect, the games he broadcast for FOX/FS1 in 2021 and ’22 seem like they were in slow motion.
“You had 5-7 extra seconds between most pitches, which may not seem like much, but it adds up,” Gaudin says. “In 2023, you have to be more aware. I have found myself trying to be more concise with my words. I try to not launch into a story after the second out of an inning, whereas last year I wouldn’t have second-guessed that as much. I also want to be mindful that viewers desire to hear the analyst. So, I’m talking even less to ensure there’s plenty of room for him to jump in. Since it’s on TV, the folks at home can see what’s going on. So, you can sit out a pitch or two. I think that’s especially important this year. If the game is moving fast, you don’t want your announcing to seem rushed. To me, that makes it a harder listen.”
He hasn’t heard one MLB announcer say they want to turn back the clock.
“There’s a consensus that Major League Baseball in 2023 is significantly more enjoyable for everyone involved,” Gaudin says.
Espenlaub says his nephew is very comfortable on camera, and if you notice, is always asking the color analyst questions about what is taking place. He quite frequently gets them to talk about their playing days.
“That is how he is in real life — he always asks interesting questions and provokes good conversations,” Espenlaub says.