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Rod Bramblett Retrospective: Diamond Roots

Rod was Auburn baseball.

In the wake of Rod Bramblett’s passing, we’ve started to look back at some of the things that built his career. While you’ve assuredly heard of the big calls — for Cadillac, Cam, Miracles, and more — we wanted to highlight some of the everyday moments, and there weren’t any moments that were more everyday for Rod than what he did above the baseball diamond.

Earlier this season, Rod and Andy Burcham celebrated 25 years together behind the microphones describing the pitches of Auburn baseball to fans around the southeast.

Rod’s career calling baseball games started with a bang, much more so than his football tenure did. Yesterday we told you about the inauspicious start for Rod at Jordan-Hare Stadium, where it took more than nine quarters for the Tigers to score a touchdown for him to describe. Baseball didn’t wait around.

Hal Baird took Auburn to the College World Series in 1994 after the Tigers ran through the Clemson Regional (back then there were only eight Regional sites with six teams apiece). Despite the fact that the Tigers lost two straight games and finished 8th in the College World Series, it was the first appearance in Omaha in 18 years for Auburn. They wouldn’t have long to go before they were back again.

Just three seasons later, Auburn was led by future MLB All-Star Tim Hudson in the outfield and on the pitcher’s mound. They also had help from a future World Series champion as well. David Ross hit a home run in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series to help the Chicago Cubs win their first championship in 108 years. When the 1997 Auburn Tigers went down to Tallahassee for the Regional matchup against Florida State, Ross started a clutch career with the blast that mattered most.

Those voices you hear at the start are young Rod and Andy, absolutely ecstatic that Auburn pushed Florida State to the elimination brink. That game, an 8-7 Tiger win, led the way to the Tigers making their second College World Series appearance in four years. They’d do a little better in Omaha this time around, finishing 6th after a win over Rice and a couple of losses to Stanford.

Auburn would make the NCAA Tournament each of the next six seasons, with eliminations in Tallahassee coming in four of them. Punishment for daring to embarrass the Seminoles like that, I suppose. However, after 2003, Auburn made just one postseason appearance in the span from 2004-2009. They went to Tallahassee again in 2005, only to get eliminated by Florida State.

It wasn’t until 2010, with an absolute gorilla ball powerhouse of a club rolling on offense, that Auburn got back to the Tournament. This time, they were hosting for the first time in seven years. After falling 5-2 to Clemson in the winners’ bracket, Auburn rocked Southern Miss to send the Golden Eagles home, and got another date with the purple Tigers for the Regional Championship.

Down to their final strike, and the hometown kid Creede Simpson up to bat, Auburn trailed Clemson 9-8 in the top of the ninth inning. An out sends Clemson to the Supers, but if Auburn could make something happen, they’d play again for the chance to host the next round.

It’s, quite frankly, Rod’s best call outside of football. This is a man that had seen enough baseball, and he sat on the fastball just like Creede SImpson did. Rod had a flair for the big moments, and he didn’t get enough of them in baseball. That sport lends itself to a sleepier storytime atmosphere, but this was a raucous moment. Rod nailed it. Listen to the rise of his voice, like the fans getting to their feet as that ball rose over the monster. Once it was certain, he kept it simple. “IT’S GONE! IT’S GONE!” As a broadcaster, often it’s down to you to let the emotion take over instead of trying to find just the right words to say. Just like the Miracle in Jordan-Hare, Rod didn’t pontificate. He told you what happened, and somehow his inflection told the rest of the story. This was momentous.

Unfortunately, Auburn didn’t win the take-all game three after this, but the call stands. In his original sport (maybe his favorite?), Rod was the master of the craft. With a rapport like he and Andy had, it was such an easy broadcast to listen to. You gather stories and little moments to pepper in, and those two made it sing. We’ll miss Rod’s lazy Valley, Alabama timbre this upcoming season, and I hope there come more than a few moments to make the Auburn moods sing to the high heavens.