I’ve been very fortunate in my adult life to have experiences and opportunities that few others have. That’s not a feeble attempt at bragging, that’s just my view of the situation. In 2010, after graduating with a journalism degree from what was then Northwestern College, I was afforded a fantastic opportunity — an internship with Baseball Prospectus.
One of the many perks I earned with Prospectus was the chance to cover my very first big league game as a credentialed media member. I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the final homestand of the first season for the Twins at Target Field, and I was tasked with two different operatives: take in a managerial presser with the retiring Cito Gaston, and ask a few Twins players and coaches about the effects of moving from the Metrodome to Target Field.
I must have asked a million questions of existing media members with whom I’d forged a relationship prior to this opportunity, from what to wear, to where to be and when to pretty much anything else you can imagine. People like David Laurila — then with Prospectus and now a colleague at Fangraphs — were invaluable resources so that I wouldn’t look completely green out there.
I remember standing in the Jays dugout waiting for Gaston to address a small gaggle of reporters, and I leaned against the foam padding on the side closest to the Champion’s Club to the right, looking out and watching as Orlando Hudson held court with some of his former teammates during their batting practice round. I’ll never forget the feeling of being exactly where I wanted to be, and I vowed then to make sure it wasn’t just a one-time deal. Whatever it took, I told myself, but I needed to find a way to make this a regular thing.
Through one-off opportunities the next few years, I found myself growing somewhat proficient with how to conduct myself around the ballpark. I was given great advice early that I should simply watch and learn. “Don’t step on the toes of the beat guys and gals who are there with real work to do,” someone advised me, and I took it to heart. I watched, I studied and I like to think I learned. “Wait until they’re done, and you can have your turn.”
I at least learned enough for 1500 ESPN to reach out before the 2013 season when the need for a beat reporter came up. They reached out to me to express interest, and I think I replied to the email about four seconds later. After a couple meetings they agreed to hire me on a temporary basis — the month of April to see how it went — and from there I covered for the entire season.
But one thing was made very clear to me by one of the bosses. And that was to understand that I wasn’t going to be a fan anymore. If I had Twins decals on my car, take them off. Wearing Twins shirts in public? Not a good idea. In the interest of impartiality, I was simply moving on from that part of my life.
As a 20-year Twins fan to that point, it was actually much easier than I thought. When a potential career and your reputation is at stake, it’s really a no brainer. And for me, it really boiled down to me broadening my scope to where I became a baseball fan in general. It allowed me to appreciate Aroldis Chapman’s fastball, Alex Gordon’s defense and nearly everything about Yasiel Puig. I’m not saying those things are mutually exclusive; I’m just saying that’s what happened for me.
And I barely own a stitch of Twins clothing anymore, to be honest. You might catch me at the gym in a Twins shirt or shorts, or when I’m lounging at home watching Investigation Discovery with my wife, but I bought in to the idea that once you cover the team, you simply aren’t a fan anymore.
Now is there a flickering flame in my stomach that will light up if the Twins were to win another World Series in my lifetime? I can’t rule that out. Baseball is woven into my life in such a way that I can’t, primarily because of the bonds I’ve forged with family, friends and teammates over the game. I started watching games with my late grandparents in 1993, so deep down I’m still that young boy whenever I turn any game on — Twins or otherwise.
My comments that I’m not a ‘fan’ of the Twins anymore rankled a few people, and I get that. A number of people told me in one way or another that I was taking myself too seriously, including a friend whose opinion I value very highly. But I want to convey what my job means to me, and how it’s so much more than just rooting for the local nine. My job doesn’t change whether the team is good or bad, and that’s fine. I’m also not actively seeking to create strong personal relationships with the players — I won’t outright avoid it of course — but I don’t believe it’s necessary for me to do anything but be all business. All the players have treated me greatly over the last six seasons, but I don’t expect that they’d consider me a friend outside of the ballpark. Maybe some would, but I’m OK with that either way. I really just want to be someone people look at and say “Man, that guy knows what he is doing.” I think that’s a pretty simply, yet reasonable goal. Maybe someday.
I had a really great time covering that 2013 team. That brutal, awful 2013 Twins team. I gave my heart and soul to that job, and then I was fired via email by the person that eventually took those duties on. Having the rug pulled out from you like that leads to a lot of introspection. It leads to a lot of analyzing. Over-analyzing, even. I mean, I thought I did a pretty good job, but it leaves you feeling like if you ever get that opportunity again, you’re never going to let anyone take it from you, or let it slip through your fingers.
I spent the entire 2014 season trying to find that next opportunity. When Opening Day at Target Field rolled around, I locked myself in my office. I didn’t want to see the tweets of everyone at the field while I wasn’t — I attended all 81 home games in 2013; I made it to TWO in 2014 — and it ate at me. Bad. So again, I vowed I would work as hard as necessary to get back there.
And I made it back. I’ve covered about 75 percent of the home games this season, in addition to various other opportunities that have been presented to me. But I don’t like to hear about how I take myself too seriously. Consider this: I haven’t made a red cent off covering the team this year. In fact, if you take all the writing I’ve done all year, and subtracted train tickets, parking, food and any other amenities, I might even be in the red this year.
That’s not even the slightest bit of a complaint, either. I wouldn’t be doing this if my passion wasn’t the driving force behind it. I believe in the vision of all the projects I’m working on, and that they’ll pay off in the long run. I’ve never done a thing in my life for the money, and I don’t believe in playing for the short game. I’d have done the 1500 job for free if I didn’t have a wife and rent to be accountable to. Times are a bit better with my job and hers now to where I can commit enough time for a second full time job at no added income, because that’s how important it is to me to build equity in my future.
I don’t know if that’s taking myself too seriously. I’ve never felt that’s been the case. I’ve always had a tendency to rely on self-deprecating humor, and I’ve always believed that nobody took me less seriously than I did. At least until recently.
But now I believe that there’s no reason for anyone to take you more seriously than you do. You need to set the baseline from which everyone else judges you. I’m going to be 30 next year, and it’s time to figure some of this crap out. There are a million people out there smarter than me, so I need to work that much harder. At least I’m trying to, anyhow.
So if I made you upset by saying I’m not a Twins fan, or by saying I’m not a ‘blogger’ on Twitter, I’m truly sorry. But I’ve poured the last eight years of my life into working to be on the path that I’m on, and if I have to stand up for myself along the way a little bit, I’m going to do that. Part of my evolution as a communicator has been finding my voice and not being afraid of it. I’ve made mistakes — hell, I started an entirely new Twitter account because I hated what the other had become — but I’m not going to quit. Thank you for your time. -BW