Caray twins put fourth generation of family in baseball broadcast booth

Twin brothers Chris Caray (left) and Stefan Caray (right) are in the broadcast booth at Hodgetown stadium in Amarillo, Texas. They are the new radio announcers for the Amarillo Sod Poodles minor-league baseball team. (Photo by Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC)

Credit: Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
Twin brothers Chris Caray (left) and Stefan Caray (right) are in the broadcast booth at Hodgetown stadium in Amarillo, Texas. They are the new radio announcers for the Amarillo Sod Poodles minor-league baseball team. (Photo by Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC)

Credit: Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC

They are the great-grandsons of Harry Caray, the grandsons of Skip Caray, the sons of Chip Caray.

And now identical twin brothers Chris and Stefan Caray, 22 years old and soon to be University of Georgia graduates, are the fourth generation of their family to broadcast professional baseball games.

While taking their final few UGA classes remotely, they have started new jobs as the radio announcers for the Amarillo (Texas) Sod Poodles, just two rungs below the major leagues as the Double-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“We want to create our own style,” Stefan said. “That way, we’re not Chip 2.0 or Skip 2.0 or Harry 2.0. We want to be independent of our family’s legacy while also continuing it in a way that is unique.”

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Their great-grandfather called MLB games for five teams across more than a half-century, from 1945 until his death in 1998, starting with the St. Louis Cardinals and ending with the Chicago Cubs. Their grandfather called Braves games for more than three decades, from 1976 until his death in 2008. And their father is the Braves’ current TV play-by-play announcer and in his 32nd year as an MLB broadcaster.

Now, the next generation has entered the family business.

By moving 1,200 miles from Athens to Amarillo on short notice this spring, Chris and Stefan Caray answered the question they’ve been asked pretty much their whole lives: Do you want to follow in your family’s legendary broadcasting footsteps?

“I think we always kind of knew we wanted to do this,” said Chris, who was born 17 minutes before his brother on Nov. 8, 1999. “It isn’t something that was pushed on us by any means, but this was always the central focal point of what I wanted to do with my life -- at least from about 8 or 9 years old.”

His brother’s interest surfaced later. “Up until early in college, I wanted to play lacrosse professionally,” Stefan said. “But when it came time to find a somewhat traditional and stable job, not that (baseball broadcasting) is either of those things, this is what found us.”

A week before the Braves’ season opener, Chip and Susan Caray were in Amarillo, helping their twin sons with the move.

“We’re over-the-moon happy for them and proud of them,” Chip said. “You know, a Caray has been doing baseball since 1945, so we’re up to 77 years. We’re hoping to make it to 100 while I’m still alive.”

You know what Harry Caray would say about that: Holy cow!

“What I feel now is, there is so much genetic involved here,” Susan Caray said. “Because they just all do it so well. I think extemporaneous speaking for most people is very difficult, and to not repeat yourself and not have the affectations of the ‘um’ and ‘you know’ and ‘like,’ especially in this generation, that’s pretty amazing. They just naturally seem to know how to do it.”

Combined ShapeCaption
Twin brothers Stefan Caray (second from left) and Chris Caray (third from left) are joined by their parents Chip and Susan Caray at Hodgetown Stadium in Amarillo, Texas. (Photo by Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC)

Credit: Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC

Twin brothers Stefan Caray (second from left) and Chris Caray (third from left) are joined by their parents Chip and Susan Caray at Hodgetown Stadium in Amarillo, Texas. (Photo by Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC)

Credit: Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
Twin brothers Stefan Caray (second from left) and Chris Caray (third from left) are joined by their parents Chip and Susan Caray at Hodgetown Stadium in Amarillo, Texas. (Photo by Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC)

Credit: Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC

Credit: Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC

Like his father and grandfather, Chris – full name: Harry Christopher Caray IV – was named for the iconic broadcaster who started this family legacy. Chip is Harry III, and Skip was Harry Jr.

On their early broadcasts of Amarillo games, Chris and Stefan – both blessed with an announcer’s voice and both by their own admission with much to learn – have sounded comfortable and polished beyond their years. They alternate play-by-play and analyst roles. They are, according to the Sod Poodles, the first set of identical twins to broadcast pro baseball games together.

Their path to this point may have begun at birth, but it was accelerated by a random encounter at Truist Park before Game 5 of the World Series last fall.

While their father was at work elsewhere in the stadium, Chris and Stefan joined their mother and 13-year-old brother Tristan, who already calls games on an iPad, in the Chop House seats beyond right field. Also there: Tony Ensor, who grew up in Chattanooga as a Braves fan and now is the president and general manager of the Amarillo team. An usher pointed out “Chip Caray’s wife” to Ensor.

“He came down and introduced himself and told me he had met Harry and Skip and hoped to meet Chip sometime,” Susan Caray said. “Being a mother, I said, ‘Well, this is Harry Caray IV right here, and he’s also got an identical twin.’ Christopher was rolling his eyes at me.”

“My mom was trying to sell him on us, being the supportive mom that she is,” Chris said.

The conversation continued: Ensor talking about the Sod Poodles – that’s said to be a long-ago nickname for prairie dogs, by the way -- and the Caray twins talking about their broadcasting aspirations.

“In that moment, my marketing wheels were already turning,” Ensor recalled. “I was taken with what good guys these two were. I said, ‘Here’s my (business) card. Let’s stay in communication.’

“I was thinking even then, ‘How cool would it be to have the twins be our broadcasters someday?’ But I was thinking 2023, 2024 or 2025,” by which point he figured the Sod Poodles’ announcer of the past three years, Sam Levitt, would land a major-league job.

The opening came sooner than expected when Levitt was hired last month by the San Diego Padres’ radio network as a pregame and postgame host.

Immediately, Ensor thought of the twins from the Chop House.

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Amarillo Sod Poodles President and General Manager Tony Ensor (standing) introduces his team's new broadcasters Stefan Caray (seated on left) and Chris Caray (seated on right). (Photo by Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC)

Credit: Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC

Amarillo Sod Poodles President and General Manager Tony Ensor (standing) introduces his team's new broadcasters Stefan Caray (seated on left) and Chris Caray (seated on right). (Photo by Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC)

Credit: Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
Amarillo Sod Poodles President and General Manager Tony Ensor (standing) introduces his team's new broadcasters Stefan Caray (seated on left) and Chris Caray (seated on right). (Photo by Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC)

Credit: Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC

Credit: Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC

“I knew hiring them would be something Amarillo would be excited about,” Ensor said. “This community understands baseball and understands legacies. Family is extremely important to this community.

“So I knew from that perspective, it would be a big hit, a home run. But then I had to start doing my homework because I’m not just going to hire names.”

He listened to “seven or eight” tapes of broadcasts the Caray brothers had done while attending UGA, including Cape Cod Baseball League games last summer for the Cotuit (Mass.) Kettleers and NAIA games at Georgia Gwinnett College. He found Chris to be more analytical and statistics-oriented and Stefan to be more the entertainer.

“I thought they were very good as a tandem,” Ensor said. “I thought, ‘They are young, but they are developing, just like our players are developing.’”

He offered them jobs March 21. “There were tears in my eyes and tears in Stefan’s eyes,” Chris said, “because our dream was to work together.” Nine days later, they arrived in Amarillo.

They are scheduled to call the Sod Poodles’ 138 games on a local radio station, with their home broadcasts also streamed online by MiLB.TV and 12 Sunday games simulcast on an Amarillo TV station.

“I don’t expect them to come in and be Harry Caray, Skip Caray or Chip Caray,” Ensor said. “I expect them to create their own brand and style. I think the sky is the limit for them, I really do.”

Before this opportunity arose, Chris had accepted another job: No. 2 announcer for a lower-level minor-league team, the Fayetteville (N.C.) Woodpeckers. But the chance to work at the Double-A level alongside his brother changed the plan.

Combined ShapeCaption
Twin brothers Stefan Caray (left, in blue cap) and Chris Caray (right, in red cap) after a press conference introducing them as the broadcasters for the Amarillo Sod Poodles minor-league baseball team. (Photo by Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC)

Credit: Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC

Twin brothers Stefan Caray (left, in blue cap) and Chris Caray (right, in red cap) after a press conference introducing them as the broadcasters for the Amarillo Sod Poodles minor-league baseball team.  (Photo by Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC)

Credit: Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
Twin brothers Stefan Caray (left, in blue cap) and Chris Caray (right, in red cap) after a press conference introducing them as the broadcasters for the Amarillo Sod Poodles minor-league baseball team. (Photo by Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC)

Credit: Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC

Credit: Isaac Galan / Special to the AJC

Their uncle, veteran broadcaster Josh Caray, grandson of Harry, son of Skip and half-brother of Chip, also is calling games at the Double-A level for the Rocket City Trash Pandas in Madison, Ala.

Nearing graduation from Georgia with degrees in journalism and certificates in sports media, Chris and Stefan are finishing this semester’s classes remotely with the blessing of their professors, using the long bus rides of the Texas League for schoolwork. Chris is scheduled to graduate next month, while Stefan plans to complete his degree with three online classes this summer.

They transferred to UGA as sophomores – Chris from Valdosta State, where he called radio play-by-play on baseball games as a freshman, and Stefan from Wingate University (near Charlotte), where he played Division II lacrosse. Chris was the public address announcer for Stefan’s lacrosse games in high school.

The brothers enter the baseball broadcasting business aware of both its glamour and its sacrifices. They grew up at their family’s home in Florida – first in Winter Park (near Orlando) and later in St. Augustine -- with their dad gone for work six months of every year. And they know the competition is fierce for MLB jobs.

“That’s where we hope to be one day, but that’s a long road ahead,” Chris said. “We’re like every other minor-league broadcaster in that we all share the same dream.”

They also understand that some people will attribute whatever opportunities they get to their famous last name.

“No matter what we do, some are going to think our dad did it for us or our grandfather did it for us or our great-grandfather did it for us,” Stefan said. He read a few such comments on social media when they were hired and replied to one: “Just give us a chance.”

“The worst type of person would be someone who could come from our background and not recognize that they had help. We had a ton of help,” Stefan said. “But when that red light comes on, it isn’t my dad calling the game, it isn’t Skip calling the game, it isn’t Harry calling the game, it’s us two calling the game. The culpability begins and ends with us when we are on the air live with each other.”

“There is pressure on us,” Chris said. “There is more pressure we put on ourselves because we owe it to our family and the people around us to prove that not only can we hang with the other three, but that we can make a different product and make them proud, not just with what we do in the broadcast booth but with what we do in the community.”

And someday, if all goes well, maybe Chris and Stefan will get a chance to broadcast a big-league game with their father.

“That would be the pinnacle,” Susan Caray said. “Chip’s fondest memory is the (1991 Braves-Cubs) game he did with Harry and Skip. So that would be incredible, something I sure would love to see.”