PEORIA, Ariz. -- With a last name synonymous with baseball broadcasting and coming off a long Minor League season in the booth with a Double-A Amarillo Sod Poodles team that won the Texas League title, it wouldn’t have surprised anyone if Chris and Stefan Caray called it a season.
It was more than 140 games, after all, and there could have been the inclination to prove the naysayers right, the doubters who thought they were banking on their lineage to get ahead, and just wait for the next big call to come.
Yes, it’s that Caray family. Chris and Stefan are the sons of Chip, who just finished his first season with the St. Louis Cardinals after two decades with the Braves. Chip’s dad was Skip, also a long-time voice of the Braves. And to finish off the family tree, Skip’s father was the legendary Harry Caray.
But instead of kicking back and relying on their name, the duo headed to the Arizona Fall League to continue to hone their craft in relative anonymity. They’ll have called more than a dozen games by the time the AFL comes to a close, including joining MLB Network’s broadcast of the Fall Stars Game on Sunday and the play-in game for the Championship Game on MLB.com on Nov. 10, as well as the league's Home Run Derby on MLB.com on Saturday.
“I think there's really no amount of time that you can put into this that is enough,” Stefan Caray said. “My dad always said, ‘Go get reps, go get on air, doesn't matter how you do it.’ This is the best place where we can go broadcast games and we've been fortunate enough to have the opportunity granted to us from … the amazing people here at the Fall League.
“It helps us develop rapport with these players, it helps us to become more confident with players that hope to be in the big leagues soon. That, of course, is our goal, whether it's individually or collectively, we hope it's collectively.”
Chris Caray entered this world, nearly 24 years ago, 17 minutes ahead of his twin brother, Stefan. Since then, however, they’ve been fairly inseparable, so they come by the desire to be a package deal in the booth honestly. You know all those things you read about the connections twins have? Yep, turns out that’s true, with plenty of humor to spare.
“I think it happens a lot,” Chris said, looking at his brother. “You laugh at me, but I think that if you're going to finish my sentences, it's going to have a lot more flawed syntax than me finishing your sentences.”
“No doubt. I don’t want to jump into that mind,” Stefan said, pointing at Chris. “That’s one thing I really don’t want.”
“Come on, why?” Chris protested.
“It really is cool,” Stefan said. “I think it adds another wrinkle to our family’s story.”
While the easy banter between twins came with them the second they walked into a broadcast booth for the first time, they’ve been honing their craft with opportunities around the country with a have microphone, will broadcast mentality. High school games, NAIA college contests, the Cape Cod League have all been graced with the youngest Carays’ presence.
And they’re not afraid to get creative. They turned an inning of a Cape broadcast black-and-white and did their best 1940s transatlantic newsreel voices.
That’s definitely not something one of the previous generations of Carays have done. But much like debates that arise when sons of big leaguers make it to the big leagues or top prospects list, it’s hard not to wonder what the nature vs. nurture balance is here. Are broadcast bloodlines handed down, or did growing up around it give the twins such comfort in the booth?
“I’d love to say the stock answer is lots of vodka and Budweiser,” Chris quipped. “But no. I think a lot of people think that it is genetic. We’ve just gotten a lot of really cool opportunities and we’ve taken advantage of those. My dad always tells us you have to know what you are, but more importantly, know what you're not. And that's something that he learned from his father and his father before him.
“And I think that when you have a little bit of a touch on what you are and what you can improve on, and you always want to improve, it can give you the benefits of knowing that you're not fully there yet. And one day, we hope to be there.”
Their stint in the Fall League is just the latest of those opportunities and much like the players they’ve been talking about on air this fall, the Carays are hoping the AFL can be a finishing school for them and the other young broadcasters in booths for this Fall League season: Alex Coil, Jill Gearin, Larry Larson, Emily Messina, Will Ohman, Drew Stankiewicz and Jaden Taylor all will have called games. They’re hoping this can be a stepping stone as well, continuing to add to their family legacy while not just letting that family tree carry them to the big leagues.
“One thing that we want to make clear to everybody is that we want to be known for our first names and not our last names,” Stefan said. “And being identical twins being the first to really do this and kind of conquer that frontier, at least in the Minor Leagues, is one thing that we've been really excited and fortunate to do over the last two seasons.”