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Job Corps graduate making a name for himself in gaming

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Electronic gaming is fast becoming as popular and big a business as professional sports. Isaiah Baldonado, aka Butters, left is shown here broadcasting a Halo game along with Eric Hewitt, aka Gh057ayame (Ghostayame) at Dreamhack Atlanta in late July of this year. (Submitted Photo)

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The parent who understands how much better a child grows when their passions are supported, is the parent who ends up proud of their adult child. Isaiah Baldonado is a young man who is making his mom proud.

“What got me started,” Baldonado said, “I was 12 years old, there was a man named Chris Puckett. He was a shout-caster who moved on and left Halo. I wanted to be like him. I wanted to cast. I needed good mics, and my mom would buy me all these good mics. She’s been a tremendous help. She still is. She even bought me the plane ticket to go to Chattanooga for my first chance to cast.”
Vicky Gutierrez wasn’t so happy with her son’s scholastic accomplishments, however.
“I dropped out of high school,” Baldonado said. “I’ve never used drugs or alcohol, but I would skip school to play games… a lot. I was playing Call of Duty every day. I kept watching pro’s play on Twitch. My mom was not supportive about me skipping school.”
Gutierrez works at Job Corps, and she was ready with a “plan B” for her son’s future. Job Corps helped him to focus a bit more constructively.
“Not only is my mom working at the school,” Baldonado said, “but it’s heavily gated and you can’t just walk out. I always thought Job Corps was for troubled kids, but it’s turned out to be the best place for me. I ended up joining the student government.
“I didn’t have a high school diploma. I didn’t have a driver’s license. I didn’t know what I was going to do. Once at Job Corps I got my diploma super fast. I had an amazing driver’s ed teacher.”
Thanks to his newfound focus, Baldonado has started focusing his talents and he’s gotten some major league attention.

“I work for ESL, Electronic Sports,” he said. “I just went to Atlanta Dreamhack. We celebrated our summer finals for the Halo HCS pro league which is for the Halo Championship Series. This is the first time that Atlanta Dreamhack had something like this in America, it was huge, they had the mayor there along with economic development people.”
Speaking like someone who loves his work, Baldonado downplays the challenges.
“The job that I do is very easy,” he said. “I just comment on what I see during the game. I have to learn all the player’s names, all the new teams as well. It’s a lot of watching. They gave us journals. We have to write down what happens during a game so if we need to recap it we can.
“I was working 15 hour days. Every day started with me waking up at 8:30, being at work by 9:30 and I’d get home around 12:30 midnight.”
There are rows of players at individual consoles in a huge room. The audience is watching big screen TVs and Baldonado (known in the circuit as Butters) is calling the game like an announcer for any game would.
“At the CS Go tournament, they had 500,000 people watching livestreams,” he said. “The prize pool for Halo was $250,000 to split among five players.
Atlanta was huge. I got to talk with higher-ups about Halo. I’m really in love with Halo the story. I love the background, the books and the comics.”
Baldonado’s online friendships translated well into real time.
“It was exciting for me to meet so many online friends in person,” he said. “The thing that made it great was that Dreamhack didn’t just have Halo, they had a bunch of big title games. The community from each game would come over to support the others during the day. Any one you walked to, the people were friendly and approachable.”
When asked if he had anything he wanted to be sure got into the story about him, Baldonado remembered where his fundamental support has always been.
“I love my mom a lot.”
Features reporter Curtis M. Michaels can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.