I cannot help but be in a reflective mood at this point in time looking back at what is now over 10 years as a sports journalist. I have written a lot of articles, probably 30-40% of which on the iPhone.
It is a difficult task looking back and picking my favorites of myriads of articles I have done. I do not have an exact count of how many articles I have done in these 10 years, but I definitely have some that I felt would be special the minute they were either brainstormed or after an interview.
I figured I would make a big post with some of my favorites, a little subtext around them and the link so you can hopefully enjoy them. There are eight honorable mentions so bare with me and enjoy this post. I will post the other part shortly.
8. DeLaet finds success in first group of morning wave (June 2, 2017 DYST NOW)
Anyone who knows me knows I love covering golf, it is one of, if not my favorite sport to cover so anytime I get credentialed it gives me a sense of pride.
This year was my fifth year covering the Memorial Tournament and I got into the Muirfield Village Golf Club press room early enough that I decided to do a Friday morning wave round up. It started innocently as Graham DeLaet gave me a great 1-on-1 interview but it was Shane Lowry who made the piece.
It was a 2-on-1 as another reporter joined me and led the interview. When he was done, I asked Lowry about what he learned from his final round at the 2016 U.S. Open. The 2017 U.S. Open was set to tee off in nearly two weeks at that point and it was a chance to allow Lowry to be reflective on a four shot lead he lost to Dustin Johnson.
Lowry was not thrilled with the question, he clearly showed it but to his credit gave me an answer. I appreciated his honesty and did not follow up. It is a tough question I probably would not have asked my first or second year covering golf, but one I am more then comfortable asking.
I found out the next week that an Irish newspaper referenced this soundbite claiming I was “given an earful” by Lowry, which was far from the case, something the reporter would well have known had he showed up.
It was a piece I enjoyed putting together and my question to Lowry was the talk of the small table I sat at for our quick press dinner that night.
7. Call to the ‘pen benefits Pirates’ Comadena (August 11, 2016, Pittsburgh Sporting News)
This was a feature I mulled over for a good week to 10 days. I got the frame work started at the very end of a homestand before the Pirates went on the road.
Jordan Comadena was then the Pirates new bullpen catcher (it is now his second season) and I had a feeling no one else in the media knew who he was. Comadena did not have his name in the media guide since he came on at the start of the regular season and he did not have his picture with the other coaches on the team website.
I went the bullpen catcher route in 2015 with a lengthy feature piece on Heberto “Herbie” Andrade which was very well received and Andrade himself later called me over, complimented me and gave me a nice pat on the back.
This article was a great chance for fans to know who Comadena was and how he got to the Pirates.
I still remember going up to Pittsburgh Pirates Director of Baseball Communications Jim Trdinich as I always did whenever I needed a coach interview.
“Jimmy T, would it be possible to speak to Jordan for a feature,” I asked.
Once he realized that I was talking about Comadena, the plan was made. It was a Sunday afternoon game and we did the 14 minute interview on the field right after the pitchers threw.
It was a great interview and I ended up typing the entire thing on my iPhone on the Greyhound down to cover the U.S. Senior Open.
I was grateful that Jordan appreciated the piece and it certainly was fun to put together.
6. Rahm prepares for U.S. Open (June 5, 2016, DYST Now)
I will be honest and say that for once, I was late. I always insist on being early to things but at the Sunday of the 2016 Memorial Tournament I was completely unaware of what time the Jack Nicklaus Awards were being presented and missed the entire ceremony. The 2016 ceremony had Jon Rahm headlining the winners of that year’s Nicklaus Award. When I got inside the press room, everyone was scattered and pictures were already being taken of the winners with Jack Nicklaus.
I was extremely fortunate to be able to get Jon Rahm in a 1-on-1 situation and it made for a great first article of the day. Rahm was a great interview and we talked about the award and the U.S. Open which he would take part in.
Once we parted ways it was 45 minutes tops that the article was done.
Normally I do not use an athlete’s twitter handle on the article but Rahm was not as known 14 months ago as he is now so I decided to go for it.
I was pleasantly surprised by a retweet, a favorite and a Twitter follow that I still have to this day.
That last graph is not why this makes the list, but the process of that article, the opportunity to walk a couple of holes at the U.S. Open with Edorta his father and the answers he gave me in the U.S. Open second round flash interview. They were just as great as in Ohio.
5. Luck does not enjoy solo Memorial Tournament round (June 3, 2017, DYST Now)
This was literally a day after the DeLaet and Lowry article. Chris Dazen had come into town Friday night and we were discussing what time we were going to the course.
I saw that Curtis Luck was teeing off as a solo at 7:40 EST and knew that was the ticket. I had never followed a golfer that went out as a single and that early in the morning it was going to be interesting.
A huge thanks goes out to PGA TOUR media relations for giving me inside the ropes access during the third round which allowed me to take plenty of detailed notes which later helped bring a lot of life to this piece.
The top of my article was one of my strongest in a while and the whole thing was fun with the imagery of Luck teetering his driver after another missed fairway and of course the swearing.
It was clear that the 20-year-old Luck was not enjoying being the pacer so to speak and he did not handle the pressure well.
Luck did meet with some media after the round, myself included and other than one question I asked did not go too much into length with his answers.
He did flirt with the lead at times during Quicken Loans National this past week though but on this day his struggles made for a good read.
4. Can rise of women translate to baseball? (September 12, 2015, Pittsburgh Sporting News)
This was a fun piece to do just because of the topic. The rise of women in sports was at the time and still is a fantastic topic to discuss and write about. Frankly it is about time women get recognition and elevated in sports but my purpose was to observe how that process was going in baseball.
The piece itself was not the best thing I’ve ever wrote but I found the interviews to just be fascinating.
It is rare that I ask anything of Neal Huntington after his Sunday media availability. At that point he’s done a long radio show and then met with reporters while the ice machine and other machinery makes obnoxiously loud noises for another 15. This was one of two occasions where I asked for time after and he was more than willing to discuss the topic.
I was proud that I was able to get Clayton Kershaw to discuss this topic as well. I held onto the piece an extra day despite feeling pleased with what Huntington and Jared Hughes had given me.
All I did was approach Kershaw at his clubhouse locker and ask for an interview. I had done that two or three years earlier and after he threw gave me a couple of minutes.
This time, Kershaw had a bullpen session but told me he would meet with me after he was done.
When Kershaw was done, he first talked to a reporter about a headline and then we talked for a good five minutes, shook hands and parted ways. Just like that other time, it was a good interview, though Pirates PR seemed surprised that I was able to get Kershaw 1-on-1.
I told them when they asked how I secured the interview that I simply went up and asked, ready to accept a no if needed.
The story I believe was a well-rounded one and it is nice to see baseball is finally making some much needed strides in getting women involved in the game.
3. Dugout advice saves Hughes’ career (June 22, 2015, Pittsburgh Sporting News)
Let me preface this by saying I am very thankful for a lot of things in my time as a Pirates beat reporter, but Jared Hughes was my most dependable source, always there for a quote or a hello.
I would throw off the wall pregame or feature pieces his way and he was always game, knowing that it was a unique piece that I hoped would translate well to my readers.
When I found out about Kris Watts, a then Double-A catcher and the role he played in Hughes’ career, this immediately became a feature priority.
Upon approaching Hughes, I barely got out the words Kris Watts before a smile came on his face. It was a great interview and Hughes was his usual candid self.
What made the story even more special was that I found a way to contact Watts and we did a phone interview before a Pirates game.
It made the story so well rounded and though he was over 2,500 miles away from PNC Park, I could just feel the emotion through the phone.
Both Jared and Kris each were grateful for the article. It was one of the highlights of my 2015 season.
2. GW’s Prange working hard to shed labels (March 2, 2017, DYST Now)
I have to give credit where it is due. I am extremely thankful to Jennifer Rizzotti and Dan DiVeglio or else this piece certainly would not have been possible, or at least to the desired effect.
Both Dan and Jen allowed me into their practice at the Richmond Coliseum the day before their Atlantic 10 Championship quarterfinal game against Duquesne.
It is one thing just to do that, but it was a tremendous leap of faith, because both knew that I was a beat reporter covering the opposing team.
The easy thing to do would have been to say no, make me do the interview after the quarterfinal game, done a phone interview or meet at the team hotel lobby for the interview. None of these are what Dan and Jen did.
I was fortunate to meet both prior to the season in Richmond at Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball media day, again in January during the GW-Duquesne game in Pittsburgh and again at the end of January in Foggy Bottom.
Each time both were very accommodating to me and this time when the time of year is most stressful, they let me watch their entire practice, Jen talked to me a little after the middle of practice and I had an extended interview with Kelli Prange, the subject matter of this particular feature.
Kelli was a great interview, which made my job very easy, at least on paper.
I remember going back to the Best Western Hotel and that article was honestly the most stressed I was in writing all season.
When I finished the article it felt good and I knew it was my best piece of the season, not even close.
Kelli was nice enough to retweet and favorite it, Jen retweeted it by mentioning and promoting it and the George Washington Women’s Basketball Twitter account also retweeted and mentioned it.
When GW did lose to Duquesne, Jen and I had a nice moment after the postgame press conference where we thanked each other and we hugged.
I have nothing but respect for Jen and of course Dan. I consider both of them to be friends and know I will see both soon.
1. Pirates headed to wild card game after loss to Cardinals (September 30, 2015, Pittsburgh Sporting News)
This one just misses the cut but this piece easily was my biggest learning lesson. It was the day the St. Louis Cardinals won the National League Central at PNC Park.
Being my first year on the beat, I had always wondered what the experience would be like to cover a clubhouse celebration.
I had someone help me get quotes from the Pirates side and went over to the Cardinals clubhouse. There, reporters all had raincoats on, except for me that is.
All I had to defend myself was the stick of peppermint gum that I was chewing.
When we were let inside the clubhouse, it was loud and both beer and champagne was everywhere.
I quickly surveyed the scene and after we all talked to Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, I was able to secure a 1-on-1 interview with Cardinals Senior Vice President and General Manager John Mozeliak and Mark Reynolds got him with a little bit of beer, but “Moz” hung in there and got the interview in.
The other person I wanted to interview was Adam Wainwright. Wainwright has been a leader of this Cardinals team and made what a lot of the team would consider the ultimate sacrifice.
His season was supposed to be over after getting an Achilles injury in late April but was able to battle back and return to the team in a relief capacity the rest of the season.
The day Wainwright came back was the day the Cardinals secured the division and I believed it to happen for a reason.
Upon asking Wainwright for an interview he looked me square in the eyes and offered the following.
“I will only let you interview me if I can pour this beer on your head,” Wainwright stated.
I processed the situation very quickly offering a stern “hit me” in return.
It was a pound of ice cold Budweiser and I was very fortunate to have that stick of gum in my mouth because I never shivered or flinched. At this point most of the coaching staff and at least five Cardinals players were watching.
After Wainwright finished pouring the beer on me, he granted me permission to start the interview. As I asked the first question, he started pouring another cold Budweiser on me. My voice of course went up but I still did not react.
Mind you my glasses were on at the time and my voice recorder was also in the line of fire. Risks I felt were worth taking.
I wanted a chance to experience what the celebration would be like, but I ended up way more involved than I ever would have thought.
A couple or so years before I was a beat reporter, I actually was a very big Wainwright fan. I loved his curveball and thought it was the best non-Kershaw curveball in the league. So to have someone I respected pour two full pounds of beer on me, was quite interesting to say the least.
After the interview, Wainwright gave me a handshake and a pat on the back while complimenting me on handling things so well.
I ended using one of Wainwright’s quotes in the article. Yes getting doused with two pounds of beer for one quote was well worth it in my book. I was more impressed I could actually hear any of the quotes to be honest.
Still I did learn a lesson in 2016 as the Nationals clinched when I was covering. I brought a raincoat, change of pants and shoes.
It was an experience that became way more interactive than I would have liked but one which I believe captured the moment very well for both teams.