Atlanta Braves Baseball

Don Sutton excited to be back with Braves

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Getting Don Sutton back to the Braves’ radio broadcast booth was complicated, given his contractual obligations to the Washington Nationals. But it made perfect sense from the start.

At a time when Braves fans are longing for familiarity, given Pete Van Wieren’s retirement and the passing of Skip Caray, Sutton was a logical fit.

RELATED BRAVES LINKS

Spring schedule Beat blog Stats

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

It felt that way to him, too.

“I can’t give you two reasons for wanting to leave [the Nationals], but I can give you 20 reasons for being glad I’m back in Atlanta,” Sutton said Tuesday night from Palm Springs, Calif., where he makes his offseason home.

After a prolonged negotiation, the Nationals released Sutton from his two years remaining with their television partner Tuesday. The Braves officially announced Sutton would return to where he spent 18 seasons as a broadcaster, from 1989-2006.

He’ll be paired with newcomer Jim Powell, a former Brewers broadcaster and Atlanta native.

Among the 20 reasons Sutton is happy to be back?

It’s where he started in broadcasting, he said. It’s closer to family — he grew up in Alabama. It’s where his 12-year-old daughter Jackie was born prematurely and grew up with the support of the Braves community.

And there’s a sense of nostalgia, just walking into the radio booth.

“I know every time I step in the booth, I’m going to think of Ernie [Johnson Sr.] and Skip and Pete,” Sutton said. “And I think I was ready to do radio. There’s a simplicity. There’s a comfort with radio.”

Sutton was doing television for the Nationals, and only color commentary, not play-by-play.

“Taking your shoes off, rocking back in the chair, watching a game and talking about it is fun,” Sutton said. “I think I really did miss the other half of being a broadcaster.”

Sutton left Atlanta in the shakeup after Turner Broadcasting sold Turner South to Fox Cable Networks after the 2006 season. He was the odd man out when the five-man team of Van Wieren, Caray, Skip’s son Chip Caray, Joe Simpson and Sutton was pared down to four.

That was also when Van Wieren and Skip Caray were moved almost exclusively to radio.

Sutton said the circumstances of his departure didn’t have any bearing on his decision to come back. As a radio broadcaster, he’s now an employee of the Braves, not Turner.

“It was economics, it was the timing in television and TBS,” Sutton said. “It never had anything to do with the Braves. It never had anything to do with the fans. It never had anything to do with the comfort level. Coming back is to me like a homecoming. It’s like going to a family reunion.”

Derek Schiller, Braves executive vice president for sales and marketing, said even before the Braves began their official search, Sutton’s name kept coming up.

“Don Sutton’s name was on the top of everyone’s list,” Schiller said.

A month or so ago, Braves president John Schuerholz called former Braves president Stan Kasten, now with the Nationals, and asked for permission to talk to Sutton.

When the dust settled, Sutton reached what is believed to be a five-year agreement with the Braves.

He turns 64 in April. Sutton is a spry 63, and a Hall of Famer who pitched until he was 43.

“Remember 63 is the new 48,” Sutton said. “I have a 12-year-old daughter named Jackie who made me promise I’d keep going to the park as long as she wanted to, and I know she wants to for a long time.”