Catching Up With Willy Daunic

Former Vandy baseball and basketball standout updates life and career

by Andrew Maraniss

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Part of an ongoing series, catches up with former Vanderbilt men’s basketball and baseball student-athlete Willy Daunic.

Daunic played 70 games for the Vandy basketball program from 1989-92 and scored 122 points. He was also drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1993.

Daunic recently took some time for a Q&A to update his life and career: What is your occupation these days?

Daunic: “Play-by-play for Nashville Predators (Fox Sports Tennessee) and sports talk show host for ESPN 102.5 The Game.”

How has COVID-19 affected you and your family?

“Fortunately (knock on wood), my family has remained safe and symptom-free as I write this. Like many, I am affected at work, but my wife, Erin, and I have been extremely fortunate to have the support of our employers. Our family is adapting to the new normal – parents working at home downstairs (I do my weekday radio show from home) and our two kids working with their teachers (virtually and online) upstairs in their rooms.”

What has been the hardest adjustment?

“The toughest adjustment is the abrupt pause in the rhythm of a sports season for a team – the competition, the emotion, the ups and downs. As an announcer those things drive you. One day the Predators were on a three-game winning streak and getting ready for a big game in Toronto and the next day we were boarding the team charter and headed home.

“All of us in the traveling party (players, coaches, staff, media) all had a look of bewilderment as we boarded the bus to the airport. I still have the notes and texts with all of our Preds’ broadcast team’s preparation for our telecast against the Maple Leafs. But here we are – and now the tough part is not knowing when the green light will come on again.”

What has been the most pleasant surprise in these circumstances?

“The most pleasant surprise is that I’ve learned that there is upside in having the pace slowed. I’ve had some great conversations with friends that I hadn’t connected with in quite some time. Some of the interviews we’ve had on our radio show have been spectacular — possibly because the subject is in a reflective mood and not in a big hurry.

“Also, with my kids not able to practice with their school teams I’ve become part personal trainer. My 17-year-old daughter Evans plays lacrosse, so we’ve duct taped a makeshift goal onto a brick wall in a vacant parking lot at the end of our street and come up with creative wall ball drills. Between wall ball, long toss and throwing batting practice to my 14-year-old son Mahoney, my pitching arm feels the best it has in years!”

Any good books, movies or games to recommend?

“Tyler Kepner’s 10 Pitches (reading it now), Andrew Maraniss Strong Inside (I haven’t read the Games of Deception yet — need to!), Jim Bouton Ball Four (always worth picking up to review). Shows: Ozark and yes (gasp) Tiger King. Games: Connect Four.”

What was your all-time favorite moment as a Commodore?

“Playing in the 1991 NCAA Tournament. My favorite individual moment was a complete game on the mound against Ole Miss in 1992. I pinch hit in the DH spot (hit for myself) late in the game and hit a solo HR for the go-ahead run and made it stand up on the hill for the win.”

Any advice or words of wisdom to Commodore Nation to help us get through this thing?

“There are so many people who are inspiring us right now. The essential workers on the front lines. They are driving me right now. Also those that are taking the initiative to keep people connected,  positive and informed during the tough times. We’re finding out what defines leadership. If you can make somebody feel good each day somehow, that’s a good day. We’ll get through it together.”