“It’s still surreal, honestly,” Kaney, 42, said of her job. “This is not something I ever envisioned.”
After graduating in 2000 from Emory University, where she majored in Spanish and international politics, she was seeking an intern-type job for a year. “Because I’m such a huge fan, I thought, ‘Let me see what the Braves have,’” she recalled. She became a trainee in the team’s media-relations department. “That sort of changed my course. I ended up going to grad school (at Georgia State) for sports business.”
The trainee position opened doors to a production job at Turner Sports. Kaney moved to the Fox regional networks in 2007.
Over the years, she has worked in various roles on the production teams for Hawks and Thrashers games, worked some college football and basketball games, did some golf tournaments for Turner, but her primary assignment throughout her career has been the Braves.
“That’s my passion,” she said. “That’s what I’ll always choose over anything if given the option.”
Fox Sports South/Southeast promoted Kaney to the producer’s role on Braves telecasts shortly after the end of last season. She was “thrilled” and “immensely grateful to everyone that helped me get there.” She knows of only one other woman who is the lead producer of an MLB team’s telecasts this season.
“I don’t know if I’m the first woman to produce Braves baseball full-time, but I’m certainly in a small group if I’m not,” Kaney said. “And I’m proud of that.”
When she got the producer’s job, she could hardly wait for the 2020 season to begin. “I wanted it to start the next day. I wanted to get going.” She had no idea then, of course, that the season would be delayed until late July by a pandemic and how different the season would be.
Gretchen Kaney (left), then in middle school, and two friends pose for a photo with Braves stars Ron Gant and David Justice in 1991.
Credit: Courtesy of Gretchen Kaney
Credit: Courtesy of Gretchen Kaney
In a typical season, Kaney and the rest of the broadcast crew would work from the game sites, home or road. But amid the coronavirus pandemic, they are working all games from Truist Park because broadcasters aren’t traveling to road games in this shortened season, instead putting together the telecasts from camera feeds provided by the home team’s TV rights holder.
“It presents a unique set of challenges,” Kaney said. “I’d also say it has gone a lot better than I thought it would.
“There have been some things we wanted to do (on the telecasts) that we were not able to do, but nothing you’re going to hang your head about. We’re all figuring it out together. The 30 producers around the league and the 30 directors around the league are all in the same boat.”
Even at home games, the telecasts have COVID-related restrictions. The networks’ access to the team is much more limited than in past years, confined to Zoom conferences, remote interviews or phone calls. The crews are smaller in the production trucks, where masks are worn and social distancing practiced. Movement around the ballpark is restricted.
“I have not physically laid eyes on (Braves manager) Brian Snitker in person since February,” Kaney said. “I haven’t physically laid eyes on (announcers) Chip (Caray) and Jeff (Francoeur) in person this season. All of the communication is either on the phone or on headsets. Chip and Jeff can go to the booth and from the booth back to their cars. I can go to the (production) truck and from the truck to my car.
“I’m not complaining. I get it. I’m glad they’re doing all of this for safety reasons.”
Through her work in recent years, though, Kaney has gotten to know some of the stars she cheered as a child. She hasn’t been disappointed by the real-life versions.
“You’re scared sometimes to get to know your idols or the people you look up to,” she said. “I had a life-sized John Smoltz poster in my room for years, right on my closet door. And when I get to know him, he’s great. Chipper Jones, Tom Glavine, same thing. I would like to say for the record I don’t have the same obsession I had as a 13-year-old middle-schooler, but I cherish those relationships.”
>> NEXT BRAVES TELECAST: 7 p.m. Friday at Philadelphia, Fox Sports South