As Brad Zager remembers it, the decision was made within hours.
On a Friday in March, news broke that Fox Sports lead MLB and NFL broadcaster Joe Buck would be leaving the network for ESPN.
By the next afternoon, Zager, Fox Sports president of production and operations, was on a flight to Las Vegas, wasting little time in pursuit of Buck’s baseball replacement.
“It was a very, very short turnaround,” Zager said. “We knew we had the guy in-house that we wanted.”
That guy was Joe Davis. And he was about to get the job of a lifetime.
“We met in the hotel,” recalled Davis, who was in Las Vegas that week working the Pac-12 men’s basketball tournament, “and he said, ‘I’m here to offer you a chance to be the voice of baseball.’”
Four months later, it still feels somewhat surreal to the 34-year-old broadcaster.
Davis had already cemented himself as one of baseball’s premier announcers, having succeeded Vin Scully as the television voice of the Dodgers in 2017 and serving as the previous No. 2 on Fox’s MLB package.
Now, however, Davis sits in the most prominent chair in baseball broadcasting.
On Tuesday night, he will call his first-ever All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium.
Come October, he’ll become the first person other than Buck since 1999 to be the lead play-by-play voice of the World Series.
“It’s an amazing responsibility to call the biggest games,” Davis said during a recent interview. “In play-by-play announcing, one of the things that’s exciting is the thought that you have one chance in the moment to pull off the call and capture the moment. And that is going to be part of the moment forever.
“That challenge has always been my favorite part of the job. And now getting to have that challenge in the biggest moments, that’s a pretty spectacular thought.”
Davis has left his mark on plenty of big moments already. As Buck’s back-up — and Fox’s heir apparent for baseball — he regularly filled in on national regular-season and playoff games the last several years. In 2020, he called Game 7 of the National League Championship Series between the Dodgers and Atlanta Braves.
“We realized we had something special here,” Zager said.
But it wasn’t until this spring, when rumors that Buck and his longtime Fox football broadcast partner Troy Aikman were possibly headed for ESPN, that Davis’ promotion to the big job began to feel imminent.
“Joe is a friend and mentor to me, but that’s not a situation where you reach out and ask, ‘What do you got? Is this happening?’” Davis recalled with a laugh. “I was just sitting on pins and needles, waiting for it to all shake out.”
Once Buck indeed left, Davis’ offer came together quickly.
He said his new contract with Fox, where he has also called football and college basketball, was agreed upon by the time he took the air for the Pac-12 title game that Saturday night.
The magnitude of the job, however, has taken longer to sink in.
“Honestly, I don’t think of myself as the voice of baseball,” Davis said. “I just continue to think of myself as somebody that loves baseball and is lucky enough to be calling games every day. I don’t know. It’s just this overwhelming sense of gratitude more than it is feeling like I have been elevated in any way.”
During the first half of the season, Davis didn’t change his routine, traveling with the Dodgers except for weekends when Fox had a national Saturday broadcast (something Davis was already doing in recent seasons).
Davis also had extensive experience calling games with Fox’s lead baseball color commentator, Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz.
“As far as his transition, it’s been pretty smooth,” Smoltz said, noting that Davis has already encountered the hardest part of the job, calling nationally televised postseason games involving his primary team.
“He did a great job,” Smoltz said. “That’s not easy.”
The All-Star Game will be the first of several upcoming marquee events for Fox’s new No. 1 duo. In August, they will work the MLB Field of Dreams game in Iowa. In October, they’ll embark upon their first full postseason — and World Series — together.
The latter is something that, even three months out, Davis conceded he can’t help but think about every day.
“It’s always there, but in a good way,” he said. “Every day I think about it. It’s still at the point where, when people ask if I’ve wrapped my mind around it and settled in, sort of. But every day, I wake up and I’m like, ‘Wow, this is real. That’s not a dream.’”
Calling Dodger games, of course, has been a different dream come true for Davis during the last half-decade.
He first joined the team to call road games in 2016, then took over full time the next year following Scully’s retirement.
He has developed a deep bond with his primary SportsNet LA color commentator, Orel Hershiser, that has been well-received by fans.
And even after his promotion with Fox, Davis is adamant about his desire to balance the roles, describing the Dodgers job as “something that’s hard to envision completely being without at any point.”
Davis did acknowledge the new challenges that have accompanied the Dodgers job this year, in which he has worked with a rotating cast of analysts including Eric Karros, Dontrelle Willis and Jessica Mendoza after Hershiser switched to a home-games-only schedule.
“It’s not ideal,” Davis said. “But thankfully the three people that have done the road games are such easy, great people to be around and to be on the air with. They’ve taken a less than ideal situation and made it OK.”
Still, he looks at the opportunity of getting to do both national and local work as a privilege.
“They knew from the start that I had dreams of continuing to do national TV and eventually, hopefully do something like this, and they’ve done nothing but help me get there,” Davis said of the Dodgers.
“I’ve enjoyed the role more than I ever anticipated. I thought I would like it. I didn’t know for sure. But there’s something about being with the team and having that connection with the fan base that’s really special, that you don’t get when you’re doing the national stuff.”
Someone who can relate: Buck, who spent the early years of his nearly three-decade run at Fox calling St. Louis Cardinals games at the same time before finally giving up the gig in 2007.
Buck, who called 24 World Series and 22 All-Star Games, still lives in St. Louis. And when the Dodgers visited last week, he met Davis for lunch to pass along the extra-large scorebook he used during his All-Star Game telecasts.
“To have that literal, physical book passed down and now be able to carry on his little tradition of using that scorebook, that’s a really special thing,” Davis said.
Count it as the latest perk to come with Davis’ new job, another byproduct of becoming the new voice of baseball.