Daron Vaught, at 30 years old, is a seasoned play-by-play announcer and former producer of The David Glenn Show, a legendary sports radio program throughout the state of North Carolina. In a single calendar year, on top of his daily responsibilities with The David Glenn Show, he called games in 14 different sports. He now is the play-by-play man for Tubby Smith’s High Point University Men’s basketball team as well as the voice of USA Baseball. With all that said, he is most importantly to me, my little brother.
We grew up in an environment where sports meant everything. Myself, Daron, and his twin, Aaron, played every sport available to us at any level. When that wasn’t enough, we created new games in our backyard. It was clear, almost from day one, that baseball was Daron’s top priority. He latched onto baseball while Aaron and I were yet to focus on singular games, and largely, he can’t pinpoint why that was the case. One possibility, in Daron’s mind, is that baseball was the first sport he played competitively.
“It was the first to introduce that world of being a part of a team. My preferences have evolved over time. I love that with baseball there are both team and individual aspects to it. There’s a level of accountability with the game that you don’t see in the same way with other sports.”
I had a theory. In high school, Daron had a great relationship with his baseball coach and a bit of a tumultuous one with his basketball coach. I thought that maybe those situations contributed to baseball taking the cake for Daron, but he has earlier memories of his love of baseball being greater than any other game.
“Baseball has leaps and bounds given me more. [...] Thinking about me as a young person, too, I was really good at math and really enjoyed math as a super young kid. I think the numbers involved (in baseball) resonated to a certain degree.”
Daron recalls learning about statistics from the back of baseball cards. Obviously, there were copious amounts of cards of all sports in our childhood bedrooms, but baseball cards were the kings. For whatever reason, the baseball card feels more meaningful and valuable than picture cards of players in other sports. Mix that with Daron’s propensity for mathematics and the fact that he recalls being a good baseball player before he was a good basketball player, and you’ve got the recipe for a baseball man. Daron has made these connections as an adult as well. He is currently developing his own custom scorecard for when he calls games that factors in more analytics and advanced statistics.
After high school, Daron went to Emory & Henry College in Virginia to play baseball and study mass media and English. Before his tenure as an undergraduate student was done, his playing career came to an end. Daron tore his labrum, requiring surgery, and decided it was time to refocus his role within the game.
“It provided a really good excuse to get out of player mode and move on with something I knew I wanted to move on to in broadcasting.”
Although he had done broadcasting work for basketball and football at Emory, Daron had never had the availability to work in baseball while he was in uniform. He saw an opportunity to call baseball for the first time and started reaching out to any team he could think of. The collegiate summer Coastal Plain League made a lot of sense from a regional standpoint. The Morehead City Marlins respected Daron’s baseball acumen as a former player, and they liked the basketball demo he sent them enough to give Daron Vaught his first shot as a baseball play-by-play announcer. In Daron’s own words, “That changed everything.”
After 50 radio-style broadcasts in a solo booth, Daron returned to Emory in the Fall completely comfortable calling baseball and motivated to continue calling baseball. At the time, Division III EHC was without baseball broadcasts. The school was also a bit behind other universities in that they were not yet streaming games digitally. Daron spearheaded changing both of those circumstances. That year, he called most of the school’s baseball games and even got to travel with his former teammates to the conference tournament to announce those games. Daron created a legacy at 22 years old as the first person to commentate baseball for Emory & Henry College and also becoming the first to announce a digitally streamed broadcast.
With those feathers in his cap, Daron completed his studies at Emory and went on to pursue a graduate degree from Elon University in North Carolina. It was during this time that Daron became familiar with David Glenn by listening to his radio show on a regular basis. Upon graduating, a gift gave Daron the opportunity to first meet DG. Our parents, Gary and Lisa Vaught, bought Daron a ticket to the National Sports Media Association ceremony recognizing David Glenn as the North Carolina Sportscaster of the Year. It was there that Daron and DG initially connected, leading to Daron’s first full-time job in sports as DG’s producer.
It was around this same time that Daron realized he wanted to work towards making play-by-play his primary role in sports media, and he began to seek out freelance work. Being in Raleigh, NC, Daron was in close proximity to USA Baseball’s headquarters in Durham. He was asked to call some games in the Futures Invitational 12-U Tournament at USA Baseball’s National Training Complex in nearby Cary, NC. Since USA Baseball was using freelance announcers at the time, availability was crucial to getting work with the organization. The following Summer, Daron’s schedule with USA Baseball increased, including calling games for the 2017 Collegiate National Team, the top level of yearly national team competition.
By 2018, Daron was doing a majority of play-by-play work for USA Baseball, and Brad Young, the organization’s director of media relations had a vision for increasing USA Baseball’s content load, including videos on social media. Brad felt this called for consistency in the face and voice of USA Baseball, and Daron was offered a contract to be that face and voice. Since then, Daron and Brad shared a desire for an official USA Baseball podcast. This led to “Covering the Bases,” an interview series hosted by Daron, started in 2019 with a face-to-face conversation with former New York Yankee and newly appointed Director of Player Development for USA Baseball, Scott Brosius. Daron’s love for interviewing and USA Baseball’s vast network of players, coaches, executives, and personalities have combined for a fantastic podcast in “Covering the Bases.” Since his initial episode with Brosius, Daron has enjoyed interviewing a wide range of subjects from Chipper Jones and Jessica Mendoza to college coaches such as LSU legend Paul Mainieri and Louisville’s Dan McDonnell (who Daron interviewed during a rain delay of a USA Baseball game McDonnell was coaching). Daron has also enjoyed speaking with Malaika Underwood and Veronica Alvarez of USA Women’s Baseball National Team fame. “That’s the cool thing about it. It gets to cover various levels of baseball all across the board.” The podcast has expanded to two episodes a month, one of which features a “Prospect on Deck” and is available wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.
Because of his connection to USA Baseball and the fact that he has called many collegiate games over the last few years, I wanted Daron’s opinion on something. I asked him if there is a prospect out there that isn’t getting much attention on a national level that we should know about. Daron immediately mentioned University of North Carolina slugger Aaron Sabato, who is coming off of a monster Freshman season.
“I don’t know that at that level I’ve seen a more just raw, incredible hitter. He has polar bear strength and can hit it a long way.”
When I asked Daron about his favorite game or event he’s called as “The Voice of USA Baseball,” he waxed poetic about the Friendship Series, sellout crowds at Durham Bulls Athletic Park and Charlotte’s BB&T Ballpark, fireworks displays, and Japanese right-hander Wataru Matsumoto slinging 16 strikeouts. There was one story that stood out more than any other Daron told from his time with USAB. Adley Rutschman, a top prospect in the Baltimore Orioles organization, had just finished a record-breaking performance while winning the College World Series along with his teammates at Oregon State. Adley joined the national team for the 2018 Friendship Series against Japan.
“He hit the most effortless line drive double off the wall in centerfield that I’ve ever seen. He was a big-leaguer that night, and it was just so obvious. He just got here, flew in this morning with USA across his chest. Like it was nothing, he just handled it in front of a sold out crowd. It was a huge moment for a team he had been on for 8 hours.”
Like many others across the nation, Daron has been out of work and largely stuck at home due to COVID-19. He has stayed busy, though, recording podcast interviews from home, working on his custom scorebook, and trying to stay sharp for when games return to being played. In addition, Daron and Aaron (who live together in Raleigh, NC) have rediscovered MLB Showdown, a baseball-themed card game that was a large part of all our childhoods. There’s no doubt in my mind that when sports return to the field in this country, Daron will be ready and won’t miss a beat. He’s always been incredibly driven. As this story illustrates, he takes things as they come without just waiting on anything to be handed to him. Daron has always taken advantage of every opportunity, and I have no doubt he always will.
Daron Vaught can be reached on Twitter @daronvaught. You can also keep up with “Covering the Bases” and all the other great things going on at USA Baseball, by following them on Twitter @usabaseball.