My favorite articles I’ve written Part 2

This is the second and final part of this list which allows me to go back and look at some of my favorite articles I have written in 10 years as a sports journalist. There will be all kinds of information on each article as well as a link to the piece if it allows.

I also wanted to include two more honorable mentions that I forgot to place in the first post.

1. Mazeroski Statue symbolic for engaged Pirates co-workers (July 7, 2016, Pittsburgh Sporting News)

This piece actually was written a year to the day I wrote this blog post.

Thomas Leturgey actually told me this story, his own about the unique circumstances behind his and his now-wife Marion’s proposal and the events that led up to it.

Tom trusted me to tell his story and this was part of a surprise for his wife, with the two having their wedding ceremony at the Mazeroski Statue located by PNC Park’s right field entrance.

It was a fantastic, heartwarming story to tell and of course went well past the sports bubble I normally confine myself to.

I was privileged to be invited to the wedding and gladly accepted. It was a short ceremony with just some family and friends in attendance. Even though there was a post-race party for the Color Run in a parking lot very close by which had blaring music, that was no match for the power of love.

The ceremony was a very enjoyable one and it was nice to meet both Tom and Marion’s family and friends.

Both bride and groom alike thanked me for the story and the whole ceremony was very emotional for everyone.

I cannot thank Tom enough for trusting me to be the one to tell his story. He has been a great friend.

http://www.pittsburghsportingnews.com/mazeroski-statue-symbolic-engaged-pirates-co-workers/

2. Pirates draw parallels with Bryant’s hype (April 21, 2015, Pittsburgh Sporting News)

This feature piece was suggested by my editor Michael Waterloo and was one I really dove into.

The occasion was that Kris Bryant was enjoying the early stages of his rookie season and the series was his first one on the road with the Chicago Cubs.

A lot of times when an article is not about a player themselves let alone the team they are on, a lack of interest is shown, but when I told Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker about this piece, both were more than game to contribute.

I was pleased to get a couple of quotes from Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s pregame media availability but the thing I worried about most was if Bryant himself would be willing to be quoted.

To gauge Bryant, I spoke with Mark Grote, who does the pre- and post-game shows for the official Cubs radio affiliate. I still keep in touch with Grote, though I am no longer on the Pirates beat and Mark told me I should be fine.

Sure enough, I talked to Kris in a 1-on-1 interview and had no issues. It was a great interview and he could not have been nicer.

Though I published the article, I updated it again the very next day because his agent Scott Boras was in town and spoke to reporters.

http://www.pittsburghsportingnews.com/pirates-draw-parallels-with-bryants-hype/21796/

With those articles now having been discussed, it is time for the top-10 list itself.

10. Column: Many pros and cons for Ferry’s dismissal but the wrong decision was made (March 14, 2017, DYST Now)

I will be honest and say that once Duquesne men’s basketball lost to Saint Louis in the Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Championship first round, that I knew Jim Ferry’s time with the team would almost certainly end.

I also knew that with Duquesne serving as the host school for the tournament that the school knew better than to part ways with Ferry until the event was over. Massachusetts fired Derek Kellogg after its second round loss at A-10’s but that was a different circumstance.

Sunday night when the tournament was over, I was at the Hard Rock Cafe waiting for my friend to perform when the itch came to start writing the Jim Ferry parts ways with Duquesne article.

When the news officially came the next day, I added quotes from the university press release and was the first to publish the straight news article. By no means was I hoping for Jim to be fired, I got along very well with him and his staff, but it was to be expected.

While other news outlets reported the firing and offered little analysis, I decided to wait a couple of hours, feel the temperature and then write a comprehensive piece on the news.

It was a column so to speak with positives and negatives for Ferry. Ultimately I determined at the time that Ferry should have stayed.

This was without knowing who would be the coach would be and not offering much if any speculation on that.

Fans on social media, message boards and those who talked to me were almost unanimous that they wanted Ferry to be fired, so my column was not going to be well-liked, but I did not care about that.

In my time as a student at Point Park University, I served as a student apprentice in the sports information department and it helped me understand a lot of things from an administrative, coaching and student-athlete perspective and I believe had that not occurred, I would have been right there with the fans. There is more than what the fans see though.

My column was to articulate both sides and what everyone had to way. It certainly was not cut and dry like everyone thought.

This piece easily took an hour to comprise my thoughts and another 2-3 to write. I did not finish writing this until around 2:30 AM but I wanted this piece to be clear on my thought process in my time on the beat and being aware of each side to this issue.

http://dystnow.com/2017/03/14/column-many-pros-and-cons-for-ferrys-dismissal-but-the-wrong-decision-was-made/

9. Duquesne’s Waskowiak finally ready to play (December 15 2015, DYST Now)

Covering Erin Waskowiak was one of the biggest honors during this time I have spent on the Duquesne beat.

Erin was supposed to redshirt her freshman season but her basketball career was jeopardized when her brother accidentally ran her over with the family car.

I talked with Erin at this point for an article I was doing for my class so I was familiar with her story and she sent me several pictures that I could use with the article, so I certainly saw the crash caused.

Erin was set to return to the court in December 2014, but suffered an ACL tear which delayed her return a whole year.

I talked to Erin a couple of times in between that year and coach Dan Burt gave me an update of sorts with the injury and when he told me she would be in uniform for a December 2015, non-conference game against Seton Hill, I knew it would be a good idea to revisit this story.

Erin and I sat at the press conference podium and for 10-15 minutes revisited the story and discussed the future.

It was clear throughout that season that Erin was not 100%, but it was not about that. It was about her inspiring journey onto the court. She even scored a 3-point basket during the team’s NCAA Tournament victory against Seton Hall.

Though Erin did not play during the 2016-17 season and her time as a Duquesne Duke is done, her impact is just as big if not larger than any women’s basketball player to wear the team’s uniform.

This article is behind a paywall.

https://www.dkpittsburghsports.com/2015/12/15/duquesnes-waskowiak-finally-ready-to-play/

8. My experience covering The Summer King (April 24, 26, 27, 29, 30, DYST Now)

Never in a million years did I ever think that covering an opera would be something that I would do, but when Liz Fetchin sent me an e-mail about The Summer King and if this would be something the website wanted to cover, there was no hesitation.

The Summer King dealt with Josh Gibson who had played for Pittsburgh’s Homestead Grays and Pittsburgh Crawfords of the Negro Leagues and how he helped break baseball’s color barrier. So there was a sports angle, a Pittsburgh angle and of course figuring out how baseball and opera could form a nice marriage throughout the libretto.

When Liz told me who I would be able to interview, the nerves began to kick in but when she told me I would be talking to the lead performer, Alfred Walker, who would play Josh Gibson the very next day, I was extremely worried.

I knew absolutely nothing about opera and within 24 hours, I would be doing an interview. It was trial by fire so to speak and I do not ever remember being that nervous with any interview I had ever conducted.

When it was time to call Alfred, the nerves went away and we talked about The Summer King and his thoughts on Josh Gibson. Soon after the Pittsburgh Steelers came into conversation and Alfred told me about his dislike for Jerry Jones. It was the most free flowing interview I ever had. It was enjoyable and transcribing it was a true joy.

I also got to talk with librettist Daniel Sonenberg, Gibson’s great-grandson Sean Gibson and Christopher Hahn of Pittsburgh Opera.

Part of my experience included tickets to the dress rehearsal and opening night, which helped me better understand the piece, its intent and form a review based on my findings.

After the dress rehearsal, Dan took me backstage to meet the cast and interact with them.

Upon attending opening night, I was actually a row in front of Bob Nutting, the Pittsburgh Pirates Chairman of the Board, something which amused me, but more importantly I observed things from the dress rehearsal and this helped me have a clear vision for my review piece.

This was easily the biggest challenge I ever faced as a writer and though it was three articles that came out of it, this was a month long process.

I educated myself on opera, read Rob Ruck’s Sandlot Seasons to upon Dan’s recommendation to better feel his vision and wrote three pieces which I felt were not too intimidating for any audience with this piece, since so many different types of crowds potentially could have read these articles.

http://dystnow.com/2017/04/24/pittsburgh-opera-set-to-host-the-summer-king/

http://dystnow.com/2017/04/26/josh-gibsons-life-featured-in-the-summer-king/

http://dystnow.com/2017/04/30/review-the-summer-king-hits-a-home-run/

7. Dambrot brings optimism, energy to Duquesne/One-on-one with Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot (March, 31, 2017 & April 2, 2017, DYST Now)

While everyone else was catching up on Keith Dambrot’s hire and getting all of his background information, I already had done that in a column and on social media.

Duquesne’s coaching search really was lampooned by media, both on a local and national scale. This is not meant to pat myself on the back, but I did not break any news unless I knew it to be 100% factual. Some listed 3-6 other names Duquesne supposedly interviewed and then offered them the men’s basketball job (they offered the position to anyone but Dambrot).

It sent many reporters on a spin while I knew exactly what I wanted to ask Dambrot. I was pleased to ask the first question of Duquesne’s Director of Athletics David Harper and of Dambrot.

On a couple of occasions Dambrot praised me for my questions and after the press conference when I had a chance for a 1-on-1 interview, he did so again.

After the interviews were all done, other reporters either left to write their articles or stayed in PPG Paints Arena to write them.

I already had written the article on Dambrot’s hire, so I enjoyed the chance to talk with coaches, administrators and fans.

My intent was to write another in-depth piece on the hire and include a separate piece with the 1-on-1 interview, which is what I did.

These highlighted the press conference and the atmosphere which was a very positive one, something which was needed for the program.

Again, both pieces were 2:30 AM specials and captured the excitement from everyone really. It was almost as if a party was being thrown and my writing conveyed that scene.

http://dystnow.com/2017/03/31/dambrot-brings-optimism-energy-to-duquesne/

http://dystnow.com/2017/04/02/one-on-one-with-duquesne-coach-keith-dambrot/

6. Duquesne women rout Seton Hall in NCAA debut (March 19, 2016, DK Pittsburgh Sports)

This was a pleasure to cover as it involved a 6 AM flight from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. and then a final connecting flight to Hartford as the game was played on UConn’s campus. In women’s basketball there are four teams that play first and second round games at a best seed’s venue.

I had covered Duquesne before Dan Burt took the women’s basketball head coaching position but not necessarily in a beat reporting capacity.

I was a student at Point Park University and as a sports information student apprentice, that was my first priority. When I was not at Point Park, I would cover either a Pitt Panthers or Duquesne Dukes game.

Certainly the familiarity was there with the team.

I actually wrote the online article breaking Burt being named the team’s coach and I have been covering the team both home and sometimes road in the process.

I saw what the team would consider the lows of the first year and what this team has become.

For a while Dayton and George Washington were always the consistent powerhouses in Atlantic 10 women’s basketball, but Duquesne has placed itself on this list under Burt’s tenure.

I remembered the disappointment on the team’s faces after it fell to GW in the conference tournament finals and then the excitement during Selection Monday when Duquesne found out it had done enough to make the NCAA Tournament.

Flying to Dayton I was covering both Duquesne and Robert Morris for DK Pittsburgh Sports.

Robert Morris lost its first round game and that was two articles, a pregame piece and postgame recap.

Duquesne played in the second game that first round and when they won you could not help but feel the emotion they had.

I was the lone reporter at the time who went to the locker room after the players finished their press conferences and did a few interviews and just the smiles did not leave anyone’s faces.

This beat may be the one I enjoy the most because everyone is always thankful when I write something and there is a trust and respect that is there. That goes both ways.

They are an easy team to root for and they make my beat reporting job easy. This article is behind a paywall.

https://www.dkpittsburghsports.com/2016/03/19/duquesne-hoops-family-makes-history/

5. Snow stranded Dukes ‘came a long way’ (January 24, 2016, DK Pittsburgh Sports)

Everyone asks if I wanted to be on the bus during the Duquesne men’s basketball bus debacle and each time, I answer that I did.

The Duquesne Dukes were stuck on the Pennsylvania Turnpike after trucks jackknifed around Breezewood.

I was one of the last to report in locally and I was basically challenged by Dejan Kovacevic not just to catch up, but to surpass everyone covering it.

That day I specifically remember there was a Duquesne women’s basketball game and I had several responsibilities I was preparing for with that game, when SID Dave Saba got back to me and stated that Nick Foschia, a senior on the men’s basketball team would be able to do a phone interview with me.

At this point Micah Mason and Foschia had done some media rounds. While waiting to confirm that I would speak with a Duquesne player, I reached out to the Atlantic 10 to either obtain an interview or statement with Bernadette McGlade, the conference’s commissioner and rather quickly got a statement.

As I kept a very active scorebook for the women’s basketball game, I was also furiously writing a story and updating the process of the men’s bus situation.

When the women’s basketball game was over, I was able to get video of Dan Burt, the team’s coach as well as April Robinson and Deva’Nyar Workman to speak of the men’s situation, a nice nugget that went with the piece.

I also called the spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and AD David Harper for continuous updates and kept updating my story.

After I did this and wrote my piece on the women’s basketball game, it was time to call it a night.

It seemed as though the men would be stuck on the turnpike for a second day so I comfortably took a 40 minute bus ride to Bravo, an Italian restaurant when a source told me that the team was moving once again and set to make it to Duquesne.

As I ate a chicken parmesan dish with one hand, I updated on the other hand and did more interviews from the table. My poor parents and brother were with me at the dinner table, but knew I had to work and that even dinner would not come between that.

When I got home, I called a friend and Ed Thompson who had taken pictures of the women’s basketball game with me earlier in the day. I had found out through a source what time the team would be back and if both wanted to go.

My friend picked me up and we drove together and met Ed. It was myself and the three local TV stations who sent camera people only to ask stock questions, so really I was the lone reporter there.

Ed got pictures of everything and I was able to talk with Mason, Saba, coach Jim Ferry and play-by-play man Ray Goss.

Going to the event was a chance opportunity where I got footage of the bus arriving back on campus and of the interviews.

What started out as a day where I lagged behind but the way I was able to get interviews while covering another game, get this coverage and then write a totally different article.

After edits, I did not go to sleep until after 4 AM that next day.

There were two articles written but one has been taken down. This is the other article, though it is behind a paywall.

https://www.dkpittsburghsports.com/2016/01/24/snow-stranded-dukes-came-a-long-way-2/

4. Pirates Stewart a creature of habit (April 23, 2015, Pittsburgh Sporting News)

One of the first things I learned on the Pittsburgh Pirates beat was that manager Clint Hurdle has a lot to say, and sometimes when you listen, a story idea comes together.

That certainly was the case with this piece.

Hurdle was discussing Chris Stewart and his routine as a catcher. He complimented Stewart’s professionalism and was detailing some of the routing.

While other more experienced beat reporters either ignored this or decided to focus on something else, I am unsure but I immediately saw a story.

When I took the Pittsburgh Pirates beat reporting position with Pittsburgh Sporting News, I knew that my creativity with feature ideas could be what set me apart.

This was my first real feature that I came up with and presented a chance to allow my work to stand out.

From the beginning quote of Stewart diagnosing himself with ADHD, I knew this story would be a winner.

I also asked another catcher David Ross for some insight on this and I still have the opening to our conversation recorded.

Me: “I’m doing a feature on catching, the routine involving catching and being able to have a high IQ to manage guys”

David Ross: “I think you might be asking the wrong guy, but go ahead”.

Ross’s lighthearted sense of humor made the story flow a whole lot more and it really provided an excellent look into the daily life of a catcher.

Back to Stewart for a second. Aside from Jared Hughes, Stewart was my most valuable resource for player quotes in the Pirates clubhouse. This piece helped establish a positive relationship with him.

http://www.pittsburghsportingnews.com/pirates-stewart-a-creature-of-habit/

T2. Catchers easily transition into becoming manager (July 25, 2015, Pittsburgh Sporting News) & Speed kills: is a steal more on a pitcher or catcher (July 10, 2015 Pittsburgh Sporting News)

A tie for second seems like a cop out, but I am equally proud of both of these pieces and how they came about.

As mentioned above, each piece was part of features that were different than what any other Pirates reporter was doing, and this is a very difficult task. It was one I replicated in the 2016 season with the thought process of a hitter at the plate. These two pieces came first though and to paraphrase WWE wrestler Chris Jericho that’s why they made the list.

The speed kills feature was the first of these two and if it were not for my trip to Detroit with Tom Singer, this piece probably does not happen for two reasons.

The first was that the idea again came from listening to what Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said in a pregame press conference. A lot of the questions the Tigers beat reporters asked were not pertinent to my story and Ausmus kind of brushed them aside, but all of a sudden he talked about stolen bases and the idea of who was accountable for them.

Ausmus being a catcher, and a respected one at that maintained it depended on the variance of pitcher’s deliveries.

It was this that got me thinking about the story. Of course I was able to talk to Chris Stewart about it and Clint Hurdle appreciated the question. It was something he’s probably never been asked before, or if it had been, it was something not brought up for quite a while.

What really made the story for me though was the second point, which was getting Dave Roberts and Joe Torre quoted in this piece.

The series played at Comerica Park occurred June 30-July 2 but the article was dated July 10 for a reason.

That first day at Comerica Park, I heard former Pirates and Tigers manager Jim Leyland talk to broadcaster Greg Brown. Leyland told Brown that Joe Torre would be at PNC Park for that game. I was the only reporter that could hear that and immediately I began brainstorming, trying to find a way to get that interview for both of the above features since Torre was a catcher and of course a manager.

When July 4 came, I talked to Greg to confirm Jim’s words and then talked with Pirates¬†Director of Baseball Communications Jim Trdinich to see if there was any way he could help me secure the interview. Unfortunately there was not since any interviews with him would go through Major League Baseball’s office, but he did tell me that I could try.

Before the game, I had an idea of where Torre would be and I decided it was best not to knock on the door but wait to see if he would come out of the door and then talk to him.

Sure enough within minutes he was on the phone and he did see me. I was gesturing with my hands and tried to mouth to him what I was trying to do, but he went straight inside.

I updated Trdinich and he said it was best to try one more time. So back over I went and again after a few minutes of pacing, he was again on the phone. After Torre took a bit longer, his handler with him came out. I was able to explain who I was and what I was looking for. I was told I had three minutes and I got to ask Joe questions for both features in the allotted time.

Joe’s answers were detailed and could not have been better. He did not seem agitated and probably would have talked longer, but I did not dare push the envelope. I thanked both with a handshake and then went to update Trdinich who seemed pleased that I was able to get what I wanted.

I only told Singer and my friend Alex Stumpf after what I did until the next day.

Even then, I wanted to keep the story going since the San Diego Padres were in town July 6-8 and Roberts, who then was the Padres bench coach was my target.

His steal in game four of the 2004 ALCS helped the Boston Red Sox overcome a 3-0 series deficit to the New York Yankees.

I knew his quotes on what he looked for when stealing a base would be the last piece to what would be a great article.

It would have been easy to post the article after the Tigers series but I am so glad I waited. The piece had more integrity to it and I could not have been prouder of the end result.

http://www.pittsburghsportingnews.com/speed-kills-is-a-steal-more-on-a-pitcher-or-a-catcher/

As far as the catchers transitioning into managers, that piece came about when I was talking after my seemingly daily interview with Jared Hughes.

I was able to gather Hughes’s thoughts in addition to asking Brad Ausmus about it after his pregame availability on July 1.

As stated above I was able to get Joe Torre’s thoughts on it from his unique perspective and Brad Fischer who was coaching the Pirates catcher followed shortly after.

The last piece to the puzzle was talking to St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny after a pre-game media availability and he spoke of himself and the example Red Schoendienst set.

This piece was just as enjoyable because I took my time with it and just enjoyed these two pieces.

http://www.pittsburghsportingnews.com/catchers-easily-transition-into-becoming-a-manager/

1. Bison Break: Alphabetical Disorder (February 17, 2014; The Globe)

This article, which came with Point Park University’s student newspaper, did a lot of things for me.

First it proved to me that I could write strong opinion based pieces with the facts guiding the opinions. I owe a huge thank you to Alex Stumpf who let me have his column for the week and the next semester, I became The Globe’s sports columnist.

I had a Potter Box of sorts to deal with when I found out that the Point Park men’s and women’s basketball teams were denied hosting the conference tournament because of what was deemed an unwritten rule.

For some background, Point Park is in what then was the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (now the River States Conference) and the right to host the basketball conference tournament was done on an alphabetical, rotational site process.

For the 2013-14 basketball season it was Midway’s turn to host but due to facilities and a new athletic director it was determined that they would pass on their turn to host, which meant the next team alphabetically, Point Park was due to host.

To make a long story short, Point Park was passed over as they were viewed as a “new” school, even though it was their second year as a program in the KIAC.

I had to report on the topic because I knew it was possibly the most controversial topic for Point Park, an NAIA D-I/D-II institution but had to be careful because of my position as a student apprentice in the athletic communications office.

If I did not properly report this then there easily could be repercussions not just on myself but the athletic department as well.

I informed sports information director Kevin Taylor in person of my intention of doing this column but not interviewing either him or Dan Swalga, the athletic director, that way there was no conflict of interest attached with the column so that all of the fault, if any would be attached would be directed to me. Kevin agreed but told me to be careful.

I had most of the information together the day before I had to submit the column and then decided to contact women’s basketball coach Tony Grenek.

I knew that Grenek was upset about the bylaw and previously told me he wanted to participate in this piece but I called him, warned him of any potential backlash that came from this and asked if he still wanted to be quoted on record. He told me that yes he wanted to go for it.

Grenek already was a good friend of mine and for him to stick his neck out there for my piece was an amazing gesture and him standing up for his team.

Finally, Monday came, the day the piece was due and I tried to get a hold of Bill Melton, then the KIAC Commissioner. Sure enough I was able to connect with him and in the library I did the phone interview. It was ironic that in what should be the most quiet place on a university campus the silence was there but the implication was louder than any sports story to date in my time on campus.

Melton explained his side, which I depicted verbatim in the column.

When I got to the computer to transcribe and write Melton’s quotes, I had maybe 90 minutes until deadline.

Finally when everything was done, I was well over word count and had 20-25 minutes before deadline.

I finished the column with 10 minutes to spare and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

When the article came out, Swalga later told me that he wished he had been quoted but never did he or Kevin ever criticize me for the article.

Tony was pleased that in his words I had “the stones” to write the article.

Melton emailed me disagreeing with the article but we left the conversation very cordial after meeting face-to-face at Alice Lloyd during the KIAC Tournament, in which he was nothing but nice to me, we texted throughout the summer.

When I was in the stands before I was a credentialed Pirates reporter, Melton was with some of the Point Park athletics department, I was invited to come down and we all took a group picture together. Pictured from left to right is myself, Point Park SID Kevin Taylor, Point Park Baseball Coach Loren Torres, KIAC Commissioner Bill Melton and Point Park AD Dan Swalga

IMG_7658

This piece allowed me to trust in myself and my instinct and break some news.

As it turned out, during the next athletic directors meeting, the AD’s all met and the basketball KIAC Tournament procedure was put to a vote and the rule was changed to where the top seed in each matchup would host throughout the tournament.

While I am hesitant to take credit for the rule change, I believe my column certainly opened some eyes and one of the Point Park women’s basketball parents printed out several copies of my column and handed them out to anyone who wanted a copy, something which embarrassed me.

A follow-up column was done the next year and Melton again took part and explained the process.

This is my favorite article I have written and occurred during college. It will be difficult to top because of the changes this column helped create.

The new rule gave each team something to play for, a chance each year to show off their school to fans during the playoff time. Now a top seed would have a home court advantage instead of going to a road gym. It rewards regular season play and while it is tougher for a commissioner to attend it can provide less of a travel strain to some teams, brings more universities more money and gives more seniors a chance to play a conference tournament game at home in front of family and friends.

http://ppuglobe.com/2016/06/word-from-the-weiss-15/

 

 

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