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'It was a whirlwind': Flowery Branch man a finalist for Braves PA announcer job
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Lifelong Atlanta Braves fan and Flowery Branch resident Cary Clayborn was a candidate to be the next PA announcer for the Braves. - photo by Scott Rogers

Cary Clayborn woke up Friday morning as a finalist for a job he might as well have dreamed up overnight. 

On Wednesday, the Flowery Branch resident auditioned against 11 other candidates to become the public address announcer for the Atlanta Braves. If selected, he’ll soon be the next resounding voice heard by more than 41,000 fans at Truist Park when the Braves take the field Opening Day. 

The road that led Clayborn, 46, to the announcers’ booth at Truist Park Wednesday began in college, when he and 10 others at Georgia Southwestern State University – without any real broadcasting program at the time – pieced together an entire operation of their own. 

“We started a student organization, and one of the things we wanted to do was broadcast our basketball games,” Clayborn said. “We literally built it from scratch…our own production van. We had to do wiring and purchase equipment and come up with the whole thing on our own, just some college students having fun. Then we got to do all of the home basketball games over live television over a few counties.”

Even back then, Clayborn’s destiny as a candidate for the loudest voice in Truist would be in some way foreshadowed during that time in the early ’90s.

“I was on one side of the gym, doing play-by-play, and on the other side of the gym was Bill Bowers – who ended up being the PA announcer for the Atlanta Braves for 10 years when they were in Turner Field,” Clayborn said. “I remember thinking, when he got that gig back then, how awesome that would be. Now, many years later, I’m in the running for it.”

Today, Clayborn is a project manager for AVI Systems, an audiovisual solutions company, but his presence behind the microphone has only evolved through the years.

He’d been a PA announcer for his daughter’s cheerleading squad when his voice reached others in the world of youth sports, and they soon took interest. He continued on as a PA announcer for youth football games, a total of six cheerleading squads, Gwinnett football league playoff games and regional tournaments for university football matchups.

Just last season, after around 30 years behind the mic, Clayborn became the head PA announcer for Buford High School’s varsity football team – a milestone he’d eyed a decade ago.

“I told my wife 10 years ago, when we went to a Buford football game, I told her, ‘I want to be in the booth doing these Friday night games.’ I just kept working toward it until the chair finally became available, and then I got the nod,” Clayborn recalled.

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Lifelong Atlanta Braves fan and Flowery Branch resident Cary Clayborn is a finalist to be the next PA announcer for the Braves. - photo by Scott Rogers

Among the most memorable moments for Clayborn as an announcer came last year, during a regular season matchup between Buford and Mill Creek: two of the top teams in the state that had never clashed on the gridiron until last season. 

Clayborn described the atmosphere as reminiscent of a college game, with Buford on defense and the stadium roaring when Clayborn announced “third down” – his voice rising louder each possession as the clock ticked down. Buford came out with a 39-27 win.

“In that game it was electric from the start,” he said. “ was just lightning in a bottle.”

Last summer, Clayborn took to the internet to research the now-vacant position at Truist Park after the passing of the Braves’ longtime PA announcer Casey Motter in June. He never found any concrete details on the hiring process and soon forgot about the whole thing.

Then, early on a Thursday morning in January, Clayborn received what seemed like a “spam email” containing job listings in the area. One of the jobs listed snatched his eye right away – Atlanta Braves Public Address Announcer. The instructions to apply weren’t complicated, he said.

Without shedding his Buford sweatshirt he wore, his hair still unkempt, he recorded a video of himself as he read the script they’d provided. 

“I submitted it and didn’t think a whole lot about it,” Clayborn said. “About a week later, I got an email that said, ‘You've been selected to move to the second round, and we’d like to do a virtual interview with you to learn more about you.”

He did the interview, speaking to members of the Braves’ staff. He received another email later that night. He’d been selected for a live, in-person audition at Truist Park on the first day of February. 

Last Wednesday, Clayborn walked into Truist Park, emptied of fans and full of seats. 

He was seated in the chair once held by Motter, surrounded by high-dollar technology perhaps alien to most humans, and then he was tasked with reading prompts over the PA system in rapid succession. 

A man “queued” him from another room as he recited starting line-ups, the names of players and phrases like, “Hey, fans, this is the racetrack home run inning.” 

Clayborn could see himself announcing on the jumbotron as he listened to his own voice amplify throughout the loudspeaker at Truist Park. He told himself to focus on the words on the screen, drowned out the noise, and he left Truist Park as one of 11 other candidates considered that day.

“It was a whirlwind,” Clayborn said. “It was kind of surreal sitting in the announcers’ chair at Truist Park. It was so fast. I didn’t get to read over what I was going to say – each one popped up individually, and you just got to go.”

Now, as Clayborn awaits a final decision, he’s content with his performance. He said he’s still savoring the experience of it all.

“Just having a chance to hear myself over the loudspeaker at Truist Park was definitely an amazing experience,” Clayborn said. “If I don’t get it, if I don’t move on, it’ll only be because someone else was genuinely better. I felt like I did the best I could, and I had no regrets about my audition whatsoever when I left there.”

On Friday, Clayborn, a longtime Braves fan, retrieved a chest of memorabilia he’s collected since he was a child. Inside is a time capsule of bits of Braves history dating back to the 1990s, from newspaper clippings to apparel tied to memories of his family, including a World Series cap his brother bought for him illustrating the Braves’ first-ever World Series appearance, which was played at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium in 1991. 

“I could tell you exactly where I was when all of the big Atlanta Braves moments happened,” he said. “If this job came down to a Braves trivia contest, I’d have it in the bag.”

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