Everything looks easier than it is from afar, and that’s especially true in baseball. Our minor league expert, Brandon Magee, learned that this also applied to covering the games. Follow Brandon in the Misadventures of Media Magee.
A few weeks back, a thought entered the collective hivemind of SoSHBaseball: “The Lowell Spinners seem to like the writing of Brandon Magee, maybe he could get some interviews with them.” Approached, I said I would look into getting the media credentials. Knowing that the Spinners were going to be in my home town for a series against the Connecticut Tigers during the last weekend in August, I went to work.
After brief discussions with the Lowell Spinners, I was informed that they could not help me with this particular request, I would need to talk with the Tigers. I thanked them for their help, and sent a request to the Connecticut Tigers. A few minutes after starting the process, I received an e-mail. A press pass would be waiting for me at the Will Call window. I was now a member of the press corps! And my heart started beating fast, too fast… I know how to write. I know how to research. But I don’t have the faintest idea how to be a member of the press corps. What have I done?
Thursday, August 27, 4:45 P.M.
I arrive at Dodd Stadium, park, and walk up to the Will Call window. I give them my name and I was immediately given my press credentials. Which allows me to immediately enter the park. The perks of a small-time reporter.
I amble down towards the field where the Tigers are finishing up batting practice and the Spinners are warming up in the outfield. I was informed that the best time for interviews was before and after batting practice, so I sit down and watch the preparations. I observe, take some pictures, but my mind is racing. Did I miss my opportunity? Will there be no interviews? Did I just waste everyone’s time? I walk towards home plate to get some more pictures. Manager Joe Oliver is hitting fungoes towards first base while Luke Murton throws batting practice. It is an interesting choreographic dance as Oliver hits then Murton throws. Balls travel through the same zone at different angles. And then, it ends. And, I am once again not in the right position. The players, the coaches and the trainers all enter the dugout and disappear. I once again fail. I am left to wonder, am I the right man for this job?
I wander the concourse, trying to figure out my next plan of attack. I’m fairly certain I missed my opportunity. As I pass the concession stands, I see various Tigers in line, getting their dinner. I am reminded just how strange baseball is. Millions of dollars spent on bonuses, but the players eat fried chicken fingers and french fries before the game. I also wonder how many people realize that they are standing next to the players they will be rooting for in an hour.
I head back towards the third base side of Dodd Stadium and as I pass the press box, I realize, I have credentials. It would be wrong to not go in the press box and check it out. As I take a picture of the park from the Box, I am interrupted by Ed Weyand, the public address announcer for the Tigers. After informing him of whom I was, and whom I wrote for, we talk a little bit about ourselves, the Tigers and baseball. A few minutes later, John Leahy, the Lowell Spinners’ radio announcer entered the room and we talk some about the struggles of the Spinners, who had been scuffling since the All-Star Break. We discuss the playoff race, as both the Spinners and the Tigers were in the middle of the wild card chase, and I gain a new nickname: Sam Jr., the Son of Sam Horn. Talking to these two veterans of the minor leagues, I feel more at ease with my own self. I still haven’t gotten an interview, but I no longer feel that I do not belong.
I leave the press box and go back to the field to see if, just maybe, I can get a quick word with someone. But with autograph seekers all around and a desire to not interrupt the preparations for the game, I don’t even attempt to ask. Perhaps this is a limitation in my own toolbox, but I am less important at this time. The Spinners are in the playoff hunt, winning is paramount. The autograph seekers get a few nibbles, but I am shut out for the day.
While I can sit anywhere I want in the stadium, as my hometown ballpark, I’ve already viewed all the angles. I’ve sat just about everywhere in this stadium. Except, the press box. With press pass firmly in hand, I head back to the concourse and to the press box. In the past hour, things have changed. An entire crew has assembled for the game. I was certainly unaware of all the people involved to transmit information and entertainment to both the fans in the stadium and the internet audience. Besides the PA announcer, there is an individual who runs the musical interludes and the sound effects. Then there is the scoreboard operator. And the official scorer who also updates the MiLB.com boxscore. Next to him is another person working on an MiLB.com platform, updating the live GameDay app with every pitch. And a sixth person takes up the front of the booth, updating another computer program with each pitch.
As the game begins, so does the symphony. Walkie Talkies are utilized to coordinate the fan activities. Other personnel comes in to confirm pronunciation of the names of the fans participating in the night’s events. Was it a hit? Was that a strike? What’s the official scoring on that rundown? The team is a well oiled machine.
As I soak in the experience, Ed Weyand says: “Sam, you enjoying yourself over there?” I reply in the affirmative, letting him know that I am just trying to take it all in. I listen to the sound of the Tigers’ radio announcers as they waft through the booth. The Spinners score a run in the third as Austin Rei scores on a Chad De La Guerra single to center. Steven Fuentes breaks up Dioscar Romero’s no-hitter and and ties the game in the fifth, smashing a pitch over the right field wall. The game continues quickly, as inning after inning of scoreless ball go up on the scoreboard. At one point, someone runs into the main press box from the Tigers radio broadcast and asks about Tate Matheny. Is he the son of St. Louis manager Mike Matheny? I feel useful again, answering in the affirmative.
As the game continues, another, slightly more well known visitor enters. He introduces himself unnecessarily, and talks to us all about our respective jobs. While friendly and talkative, he is also attentive to the game. For he is not just a fan, he is the uncle of the Tigers’ Jacob Kapstein. And the game starts to crawl. The Tigers load the bases in the bottom of the ninth, but Steven Fuentes strikes out to end the inning. The Spinners go down quietly in the 10th, but the Tigers again threaten in the bottom half. Connecticut gets two on, but Corey Baptist grounds out. One of the press box team gets blamed for the absurd length, having mentioned the speed the game was going at earlier.
The Spinners go down 1-2-3 in the 11th, but the Tigers put two more on in the 11th. Another ground out ends the inning, this time by Jacob Kapstein. The tension in the booth is thick as the teams go to the 12th tied at one. The Spinners finally break the tie as Matheny reaches on an infield single and goes to second on a throwing error by the shortstop. A wild pitch by Andres Tejada moves Matheny to third and he would come in to score on an Austin Rei single to left. That would be all the Spinners would get, as a pop-up, line-out and fly-out ends the inning. But the lead was short-lived. Taylor Nunez would quickly get the first out of the inning, but that was the only out he would get in the 12th. Jose Zambrano would single to left. Will Allen followed with a single to right. And then Corey Baptist would send the fans home tired but elated, rocketing a double to left which got past Tyler Spoon and to the wall.
I leave the press box and head to my car. Six hours after arriving, a full day of baseball activities later, I reflect upon the day that was. It was not the day I expected in my head. Somehow, I had it all worked out that it would be easy, that being a member of the press corps was magic. Showing the press pass automatically granted you interviews. But, it was a good day. I saw the inner workings of a minor league press box. I saw an excellent ball game. I learned.
More importantly, this was game one of a three game series. And, I still owned a press pass. Tomorrow would be another day.