The 1991 season was arguably the most special in Braves history, certainly in the Atlanta era. A big reason for that storybook "worst to first" chapter was 26-year-old center fielder Ron Gant. He joined the very select company of Willie Mays and Bobby Bonds as the only three players -- at that time -- to have back-to-back 30/30 seasons. His 32 home runs and 34 steals in '91, along with 105 RBIs, led to a Silver Slugger Award and a sixth-place finish in the National League MVP Award voting.
Now 47 years old, Gant is trending again. On Oct. 25, he became co-anchor (with Gurvir Dhindsa) of "Good Day Atlanta," the market's long-running morning show on FOX 5. This came just over two months after former New York Giants defensive end Michael Strahan officially became co-host of the syndicated morning talk show "Live! With Kelly [Ripa]," and his name was added to the program's title. Ratings immediately jumped.
Coincidence or not, reports of Gant's appointment surfaced shortly thereafter. Former athletes and coaches have been infiltrating the sports-broadcast ranks for decades, but this may signal a new movement if athletes continue to populate host/anchor positions on general-interest shows.
Though the transition from being a baseball analyst on TBS SportSouth and MLB Network to anchoring a morning news show would seem quite a challenge for anyone who has spent his life absorbed in baseball, Gant says it's been a reasonably smooth move. If you don't include the hours, that is.
Gant has found the key to beating the bane of Atlanta commuters. Traffic's not a problem for someone who's on the road at 5 a.m.
"I'm up by 4 o'clock, and I'm on the air at 6 o'clock," said the man who hit 321 home runs, 147 of them for the Braves, in a 16-year career that began in 1987, ended in 2003 and was interrupted in 1994 by an infamous dirt-bike accident that resulted in two compound fractures in his lower right leg.
"I don't know if you ever get used to these hours, but I've kind of adapted to them," he said. "The first two weeks or so, I was like, 'You've got to be kidding me.' But since then, it's been much easier."
Gant said "lots of coffee" is the reason he's "on" when he sees the red light on the camera at 6 a.m. Coffee or not, he's not likely to see the late innings of any games at Turner Field next season. The upside to the hours is he's able to spend more time with his four children, including 17-year-old Ryan, the oldest, a speedy high school outfielder who's attracting attention from colleges.
"FOX 5 saw me on 'Braves Live' on SportSouth and on the MLB Network and must have liked what they saw," Gant said about how he landed his new gig. "As a former pro athlete, I'm always looking for a challenge, and I knew this would be a good change for me. I've never backed down from a challenge, and this is a great opportunity. It's been an easy transition, because the people at FOX 5 have made me feel comfortable from the start."
A native of Victoria, Texas, Gant has lived in Atlanta for more than 20 years, so he has a good feel for the local landscape, the stories he covers and the people he interviews. That includes cooking, one of his favorite topics, and one he's familiar with from his Texas roots.
"I'm from south Texas, so I've always enjoyed barbeque and chili cookoffs," he said. "I knew all about fried turkey years before a lot of people in Atlanta started talking about it. I always have fun with the cooking stories."
Gant has to be agile, as well as wide awake, because of the wide variety of topics he deals with on live TV. But he felt right at home when his studio guests one morning were Bobby Cox, Fredi Gonzalez and former Braves coach and current Royals manager Ned Yost. The three were promoting the huge multi-sports facility they're partners in that's under construction in northwest Georgia.
"Each day is different, but it's a lot of fun," Gant said. "I never, ever would have guessed that someday I'd be co-hosting a show like 'Good Day Atlanta.' But over time, in doing some Braves radio and TV and then the MLB Network, I guess things kind of snowballed."
What's next? Hosting "The Tonight Show?"
"That would be a really big snowball," Gant said with a chuckle.
Fans who don't get "Good Day Atlanta" on their TV can check out Gant's work weekdays online at myfoxatlanta.com/category/237922/live-video-1.