April 16, 2011
By George Lane
For the four announcers of Georgia Tech baseball, every day is a learning experience and a chance to improve their craft. This week they had the unique opportunity to sit down and learn from one of their biggest fans, Atlanta Braves general manager Frank Wren.
Wren has a vested interested in this year’s Georgia Tech team. Two of his sons, twins Kyle and Colby, are freshmen for Coach Danny Hall’s squad. Kyle, the leadoff hitter for the Jackets, has had an immediate impact, leading the ACC in hits and runs scored and ranking in the top ten in batting average, on base percentage, triples, and total bases. Even with his busy schedule managing one of the most successful franchises in all of professional baseball, Frank Wren makes sure to tune into WREK for every single one of Tech’s games.
With the help of Associate Athletic Director Wayne Hogan, Tech announcers Leo Keselman, Wade Rogers, Will Long, and Nolan Alexander had the chance to learn from Wren and the voice of the Jackets, Wes Durham. For 90 minutes, the group talked the joys and difficulties of baseball and how to become better broadcasters.
“Sitting in a studio and talking about highlights, I can do that,” remarked Wren. “But to be able to watch a game and get that message across and paint the picture for the people that are out there and can’t see, that is such a talent it is unbelievable.”
His main tip was to simply slow down. When the bat hits the ball, announcers will sometimes try and fit too many words into the call when simplicity is the best route. An example of how to do it well: “The pitch…line-drive…left field…drifting back…He’s got it for the second out.” After a chance to breathe and assess the play, then more analysis can be used: “Dove made a good play on a bullet right at him.”
“When a hit comes off the bat, you don’t have to rush through it, you just have to slow down and say how it happened,” said Long of the most important message he learned in the meeting. “Sometimes when you rush through things you don’t describe the action but when you slow down it is a lot easier to describe it.”
Another point that was emphasized by both Wren and Durham was the importance of preparation. Wren commented that “you can always tell when a broadcaster is winging it,” and that even though the Tech announcers are full-time students, it is still important to do the due diligence to get the preparation done.
Durham made sure to stress the point of word variety and expanding their vocabularies. “It’s not just grabbing a thesaurus, it is simply challenging yourself. It’s a mind game as much as it is anything else.”
“This is a really hard game to play, and unless you are down there trying to hit that slider or the 95 mile per hour fastball, you really don’t know what those players are going through,” said Wren. “That’s the number one complaint I get from players and other people is that broadcasters can be too critical.”
One last piece of advice from Wren was to understand what words provoke certain images in a listener. Anytime an outfielder is said to be “looking up,” a person not at the game will think home run and should be avoided if the ball will be caught. “Got him!” indicates a strikeout and shouldn’t be used before that point.
The four announcers were very appreciative of the meeting with Wren. “He took the time to speak with us I am very appreciative of that,” said Alexander afterwards. “He did a great job, gave us a few pointers here and there on stuff that he has heard. We picked up a lot of things and will use them. I just felt very privileged to have him here.”