For Braves play-by-play broadcaster Brandon Gaudin, preparation is everything

Braves broadcaster Brandon Gaudin, formerly of Georgia Tech. (Photo by Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

Braves broadcaster Brandon Gaudin, formerly of Georgia Tech. (Photo by Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics)

Brandon Gaudin has two recurring nightmares. Both are frightening in their own ways.

One is that he’s at the airport and witnesses a plane crashing.

“That’s just very morbid,” Gaudin said, “and I wake up in a cold sweat.”

The other is that he’s called to do a broadcast for which he is not prepared.

“And I show up, and I’m trying to fill in the scorecard, and the game’s getting ready to start, and I don’t even know who the first batter is,” Gaudin told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And I think the reason that is a recurring nightmare for me is because I know that I never want to be in that spot.”

As Gaudin begins calling Braves games as the new play-by-play announcer for Bally Sports South and Bally Sports Southeast – a journey that began with four spring-training games in North Port, Florida – he is armed with hours of preparation. In his job, passion and preparation are equally important. Since the networks hired him for his dream job (he grew up a Braves fan), he has carved out time during his busy days to continue digging into the team he’s now covering.

Before Gaudin arrived in North Port, he was calling college basketball games as the sport entered its postseason. Oh, and while he did that, he found three to four hours to do Braves prep each day. Gaudin would prepare for his college basketball calls in the morning, then use the latter half of the day to become more acquainted with the Braves. And he called college hoops games.

“Yeah, it’s been a little bit of a whirlwind,” Gaudin said, chuckling. “But it’s one of those things where if you ask me 99 times, do you want to do this again? Ninety-nine times, I would say yes.”

To Gaudin, the Braves play-by-play job is a dream role because he grew up a fan of the team. He idolized Skip Caray, the longtime play-by-play man. But rooting for a team and covering that team are much different. Gaudin has sought to develop a large knowledge base about the Braves and their current players.

“I think a lot of times, there’s this assumption that, oh, you know, (broadcasting) baseball, you show up and you talk baseball,” Gaudin said. “But there is so much more, no matter what the sport is, that goes into that I think.”

He first learned this lesson as a sophomore at Harrison High School in Evansville, Indiana. During the school year, Gaudin talked the local radio station into allowing him to call high school baseball games with his chemistry teacher as the analyst.

These were his first-ever broadcasts.

“You’re calling a high school team, so it’s not like you have a lot of notes and information at your resources, right? I barely had the names of the opposing team,” Gaudin said. “But a lot of the guys that were playing from my high school, Harrison High School, they were my friends, they were my buddies. I remember sharing stories about our team, but getting done with that first broadcast and thinking, ‘Man, I need to prep more on the other team. I barely even knew these guys’ names.’”

Since graduating from college, Gaudin never has felt unprepared for a call. He won’t let himself be in that spot – especially because, you know, he has nightmares about it.

If you’re watching Braves games this year, know this: Gaudin came prepared.

Gaudin uses Microsoft OneNote, a digital note-taking app, to build a massive (digital) book of notes on the Braves and their players. A couple of years ago, Joe Davis and Adam Amin, two Fox Sports broadcasters who were Gaudin’s colleagues, mentioned this program to him. “Turns out, it’s wonderful for baseball,” Gaudin says now.

In Gaudin’s OneNote library, each team and player have a tab. Of course, the Braves and their players have the more robust sections. During a game, when he has his laptop or iPad out, he can click on “Michael Harris” or “Spencer Strider” and see a bunch of notes he’s gathered during his prep work.

“It’s just a great way to organize teams and players and put their notes down and a typed-out format,” Gaudin said. “Because even though you keep your scorebook and the scorecard in front of you during the game, it would be hard to have all these printed-out papers of research notes, and so forth.”

On a given day this spring, Gaudin’s Braves preparation would begin with reading the articles written by local beat writers because he wanted the up-to-the-minute pulse on the team. Then he would search out something specific. He would, for example, search Harris on Google to read all that has been written about him, scanning for anecdotes he could use in a broadcast this season.

Gaudin tried to strike a balance. He sought out evergreen material – for example, stories about Strider’s ascent in baseball – but he also understands fans want to know what’s happening at that moment.

He’s immersing himself in everything related to the Braves.

“When you’re going around and calling different games like I was the last couple of years, you really only need to know those teams at more of a 40,000-foot view,” Gaudin said. “But I think as you get into being the voice of a specific team, the fans watching, they know most of those bullet points at a 40,000-foot level, right? So they want you to dig a little deeper. And I think that’s where it’s just going to take time for me to develop the relationships with the players, get the conversations in the clubhouse, on the plane, at dinner. That’s where the good stuff comes out, and I think it’s just going to take time for me to hammer down to that level.

“And I realize Chip (Caray) before me and his father (Skip Caray) before him, they had been in it so long that they have years of those stories and talking points built up. And right now my can is empty, and I got to start to fill that up. … But it’s just going to take me awhile. I think it’s going to take a few months. Not necessarily a few months before the broadcast sounds good – I don’t want to give excuses or a mulligan. But I think it’s just going to take a few months before you feel like you’re really here and settled, and you’re fully entrenched and you’ve got the prep down like you want it.”

After graduating from Butler University, Gaudin’s first job was doing play-by-play for the Orem (Utah) Owlz of the Angels organization. He called 76 games in 80 days, complete with the entire minor-league experience – the long bus rides, the grueling hours and more. He always remembers what broadcasters told him: If he got through that and still loved sports broadcasting, then, well, he was really meant to do it.

Gaudin uses the story of his first gig to educate younger broadcasters. They can learn from it.

The first lesson is this: Sports broadcasting isn’t always glamorous. Very few people reach the level of Jim Nantz and Al Michaels.

The second lesson: Preparation is paramount.

“Whatever your first job is, when you’re making no money, make sure you prepare hard and put everything into it so you have the full knowledge base of, OK, I’ve been through this, do I like it? Do I really want to do it? Or did I just think in my mind that, Oh, it’d be cool to cover sports, but I don’t like the grind?’” Gaudin said. “It’s not like you’re digging ditches, but the travel schedule, and how often you’re away from home and missing friends’ weddings and all of that, it can be just a different feel.”