Baseball, one of Manzano´s many loves

Baseball, one of Manzano´s many loves

Atlanta's Pete Manzano is a Spanish broadcaster by trade but a renaissance man by birth.

He's an artist, and a painter, a story-teller and a poet. He plays chess for the challenge, plays with his grandchildren because he loves them and talks baseball because it keeps him young.

He's 66 going on 26 and if you ask him, he'll tell you so. For more than a decade, fans stateside have heard his familiar voice across the airwaves and now they can double the pleasure. Manzano and his partner Fernando Palacios already broadcast Braves games through Secondary Audio Programming (SAP). The pair can now be heard through the live SAP feed on the radio.

It's a dream come true for Manzano and Palacious. Baseball and expression are their passions.

"I try to bring Latinos together and create an atmosphere of family," Manzano said. "Fans are part of the broadcast because they can express what they feel about the game and the broadcast. For me this is not work. It is a way to express myself, like if I were a fan. I simply I have bigger audience than normal fans have."

Humility is one of Manzano's biggest virtues. He does not admit he might have a more interesting tale than most have, but he does.

"I feel blessed with the life God has given me," Manzano said. "I am very proud of what I have been able to do. Like I said, this is not a job. It is a pleasure."

You could also say it was fate.

The son of a first sergeant, Manzano dreamed of being an army "lifer" like his father and brothers. But three years in the U.S. Army changed his mind and set him on another path. In 1963, not long after leaving the armed services, destiny took over.

A random meeting with Eugenio Guerra, Puerto Rico's top broadcaster at the time, at a local boxing match led to a tryout. The tryout led to a part-time job. The part-time job led to a career.

"What started it all was a change in the fight card at the last minute," Manzano said. "I spoke with Eugenio about it and he liked how I expressed myself. I went on the radio the next day. I guess the fans liked it, too because here I am 43 years later, still on the air."

That's an understatement. Manzano's resume includes calls of the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal and Winter League Baseball in Puerto Rico. He also starred on Puerto Rican television, broadcasting more than 20 world championship boxing fights and serving as sportscaster at WAPA-TV.

He served on the Braves International Radio Network broadcasting team from 1992 to 1995 and still credits his mentor Rai Garcia and Pete Serrano for helping him become the broadcaster he is today. He is in his fifth season broadcasting games as part of the CNN network.

This season, Manzano and Palacios will call 30 Braves games at home. They will broadcast 40 road games from a studio and might eventually call all 162 games during the season in the future.

It's a task, Manzano sees as daunting -- especially since broadcasting baseball games on television while simultaneously broadcasting on the radio can be a challenge - but worthwhile. As long as he has his buddy Fernando by his side, Manzano says he will be fine.

"Fernando and I like a family," Manzano said. "He's been learning with me over the years, how to broadcast and he can do play-by-play. He is as good as there is in baseball."

Palacios, 52, officially first met Manzano when the pair worked together at Eastern Airlines in 1990, but you could say he has known his partner his entire life. Palacios, who is also from Puerto Rico, used to watch Manzano on television and listen to him on the radio when he was a child.

"I'm like a little kid at Disney World," Palacios said. "It's great to be with Pete and be a part of a first-class organization like the Braves. The Major Leagues are one level, but Braves another level even higher. Everybody cares about you here and it makes me really proud. It's a dream come true."

Palacios's first dream was to be a baseball player. He played baseball, basketball and volleyball at Puerto Rico's El Pilar High School and spent three years in the Red Sox Minor League system as a catcher. He also played for the Caguas Criollos in the Puerto Rican Winter Leagues before a wrist injury cut his career short.

With his playing days behind him, he went to college and eventually worked at Eastern Airlines. He also spent time at Hewlett Packard and Verizon before joining the Braves Spanish broadcast. Initially, there were some concerns about his experience in the booth, but Palacios proved to be a natural and a perfect compliment to Manzano's style.

He still is.

"Playing the game and broadcasting is totally different," Palacios said. "It's like your first at-bat as a professional. You are prepared, but you don't have the experience. Now I am getting the experience and learning how to apply what I know."

Sounds like a renaissance man in the making.