Powell hired as Braves broadcaster
Atlanta negotiating with Washington to bring back Sutton
ATLANTA -- While still working to bring Don Sutton back to Atlanta, the Braves already have brought a native son home to potentially serve as his broadcast partner.
The hope of simultaneously announcing Jim Powell and Sutton as their new radio broadcast team was erased by the fact that the Braves are still negotiating with the Nationals and the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, the entities who have Sutton under contract through the end of the 2010 season.
Instead of waiting any longer to officially announce his dream come true, the Braves have confirmed that Powell has been given one of these two spots in their radio booth. The confirmation came when he was introduced to those attending the Diamond Gala that was staged at Buckhead's Intercontinental Hotel on Friday night.
"Jim has a long history in baseball and grew up listing to Ernie [Johnson], Skip [Caray] and Pete [Van Wieren]," Braves executive vice president of sales and marketing Derek Schiller said. "He has an extensive knowledge of the game, and I think our fans will welcome him as a member of our strong broadcasting tradition."
Hopeful that the negotiations had reached a point in which he would be released from his contract with the Nationals, Sutton actually was at the Intercontinental Hotel on Friday. But he was forced to remain in the shadows as the Braves were only able to announce Powell's hiring.
According to one source familiar with the negotiations, the Nationals have provided their blessing for Sutton to return to Atlanta. But the Hall of Fame pitcher won't be able to do so unless a few more issues are resolved with MASN.
Powell, who was raised in suburban Atlanta before attending the University of Georgia, is thrilled with the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the announcers who brought Braves baseball to his home on a nightly basis during his youth.
"It was too much to really dream of being the Braves announcer," Powell said. "Once I got into sports broadcasting, it was hard enough just to say you want to be a big league broadcaster. There was no way I was thinking I'd get back to Atlanta. The odds of that were zero. Plus, Pete and Skip were here and I thought they'd be broadcasting for many, many years."
As a 13-year member of the Brewers' broadcast team, Powell actually was in Atlanta on the early August day last year when Caray suddenly passed away.
Two months later, when Van Wieren announced his retirement, Powell realized there was at least a chance his childhood dream could come true. At the same time, he was saddened to learn that one of his greatest influences was leaving the game of baseball.
"I wish he hadn't retired," Powell said. "I'm a huge Pete Van Wieren fan. I wouldn't be a broadcaster and I certainly wouldn't be the kind of broadcaster that I am without him. He's been a huge influence on me from afar. He doesn't know how much. I just saw him a little while ago and told him I wished he was still doing the job. But he's not, and so now the impossible has happened."
Powell's days as a Braves fan date back to the 1970s, when his parents and sisters would travel to Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium for approximately six games per season.
"We'd come to the game as a family, stop at The Varsity on the way over, sit in the upper deck to watch batting practice," Powell said. "I didn't care if the Braves were good or bad, which was a good thing back then."
While the likes of Buzz Capra, Pat Rockett and Willie Montanez didn't enjoy much success in Atlanta, they're still part of a special group that Powell considers his favorite players. In fact, he still carries a Rowland Office baseball card in his briefcase.
While spending the past 13 seasons in Milwaukee, Powell has gained a better understanding of the Braves history that was created during the organization's days in Wisconsin.
Through the years, he's had countless opportunities to be around Johnny Logan, Hank Aaron and many of the other former Braves greats who would come to the broadcast booth to visit with Powell's longtime broadcast partner Bob Uecker, who played three seasons (over two stints) with the Braves.
"It was never a design to get to the Braves," Powell said. "But if I went back and did it again, I'm not sure how I could have gone to better places or met better people that would have given me a better frame of reference to be a Braves announcer."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.