I figured today would be a great opportunity to kick off a new feature on Prose and Ivy called, “The Beat”. Given that the Cubs (along with the rest of MLB) are off today, why not use the time to present you a little something different?
Last night’s All-Star Game featured 68 of the greatest players in the game today. 34 of them were admitted into the All-Star Game Rookie Class of 2011, making their first All-Star appearances. Starlin Castro was one of the rookie stand outs with two stolen bases and the recording of the game’s final out. While the game counted for home-field advantage in the World Series yet again, tomorrow the game results will once again reflect in the overall standings and the Cubs will begin their second-half of the season digging out of the hole they have created for themselves.
One of the surprise MLB teams of the first half and one of the squads the Cubs are chasing in the NL Central are the Pittsburgh Pirates. At one game behind the Brewers and Cardinals, the Pirates have accomplished what many thought was still a couple years away – contending in what is always a tight, competitive division. A great story, the Pirates are giving their fans a lot to cheer about and the impact the team is having as a surprise standout squad must be fun for those covering the team on a daily basis.
This article is to kick off a new feature here about beat reporters. Hence, I’ve named the feature “The Beat”. Writing about a major league baseball team day in and day out is a thrill for anyone with the means to communicate with a vast audience. However, beat reporters have access like no one else. They are with the team every day and are the connection between fan and organization. Social media is making the distance between the two grow smaller and smaller, with different blog platforms available and networks such as Facebook and Twitter. However, it’s the beat reporters that know the little nuances of the individual players and the team as a whole the best and have the inside scoop on the teams’ daily operations.
To go from blogger to beat reporter is a jump many bloggers dream of making. My interview for this first installment of “The Beat” is with Kristy Robinson who recently accomplished just that.
A Pittsburgh Pirates beat reporter for Ohio Valley Athletics, Kristy Robinson has what you call ‘a dream job’. I asked her about the opportunity she landed this season and what it’s been like for her to cover her favorite team at the professional level. Here is what she had to say:
Tell me about your experience writing an MLBlog. When did you start writing, how long did you keep it fresh with consistently original content and how did that opportunity lead to covering the Pittsburgh Pirates as a beat reporter for Ohio Valley Athletics?
KR: I started writing my MLBlog during January of 2010. I originally started it because I had just bought a season ticket with the Pirates and wanted to share my experience with that. After a few months, and people started reading it, I turned it over to be more informative. I’ve wanted to be a reporter for a long time and the response I got from it was incredible. I updated the site everyday, multiple times a day. I had such a great time writing on ‘Hands off my Pirates Booty’ and was sad I had to stop posting on that site. But I’m so grateful for that experience because Its lead me to where I am today.
I saved every penny I could and used it for a trip to Spring Training this March. I went for eight days and did coverage from the Major League camp to the Minor Leagues and provided everything I could get my hands on. That experience, and hard work, is what landed me the job I have today. When I heard about the opportunity with OVAthletics, I didn’t think I had a shot. I really didn’t have much experience, but I know you don’t get anywhere sitting on your behind. So I applied and my MLBlog impressed them, and that’s how I got the opportunity.
What type of material did you generally produce on your blog? What type of content do you feel caught the eye of people at OVAthletics, leading to this great opportunity?
KR: Since I didn’t have the access I have now, most of my posts on my blog were limited. I did recaps of the games, and did news and notes from what I saw while at PNC Park. If I used quotes for news that broke, I obviously had to credit the news source. I couldn’t get interviews, but I tried to provide as much insight and information that I could.
Like I said above, I really think my spring training trip is what landed me the job. I worked so hard while I was down there. I went to Pirate City when the players reported by 9:00 am, stayed there until noon, then went to the Pirates games at McKechnie Field. After the game, I’d head back to my hotel, post on everything from the day, grab a quick bite to eat and go to bed. I was fortunate to be able to get some interviews with the players while I was in Bradenton as well, so that helped make for some great reads.
What is a normal day like for a beat reporter? What is your day like at PNC when covering a Pirates game?
KR: I’m not sure what’s normal for everyone else. But for me, I arrive to PNC Park by 2 o’clock. I read over the game notes, prep for player interviews, and the pregame meeting with Manager Clint Hurdle. I try to map out what stories I’m looking to write on the day. I head down the clubhouse at 3:30 to talk to the players, then Hurdle is at 4:00. I absolutely love watching batting practice, so after Hurdle’s session is over, I go out on the field and watch BP for 15 or 20 minutes. There’s something about that sound of the crack of the bat that puts you in a good mood. Then I head up to the press box and finish the pregame notes, and try to write at least two stories, sometimes three if it’s a busy news day. Then from there, I watch the game and take notes. Once the game is over, I head down to the press conference room for Hurdle’s postgame session, then head into the clubhouse for players reactions. I head back upstairs and finish the recap, and sometimes another post if something big happened. I usually leave the ballpark by midnight. It makes for a long day, but I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Any lessons you’ve learned about covering a professional team that you unfortunately had to learn the hard way?
KR: Not really anything I can think of. But I’m still a rookie in this industry. I’ve still got a lot to learn.
Aside from your MLBlog, what other experience did you have that you feel led to this opportunity?
KR: I went to school for Broadcasting, so being a writer was new for me. I’m sure my love for the game, and knowledge of baseball and the Pirates were a big reason for the job.
Why do you believe the Pirates are proving to be contenders in the Central this year? What is that a member of the team knew, or a die-hard fan would know about them, but the average baseball fan would not have going into this season?
KR: The Pirates have a lot of talented players. Guys like Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Alex Presley, Jose Tabata (to name a few) are showing just how talented they are.The pitching staff has been huge this season. Charlie Morton has had a remarkable turnaround. Then guys like Paul Maholm, Kevin Correia, Jeff Karstens have been really solid. Everyone in the ‘pen has been fantastic as well, Jose Veras, Tony Watson, Chris Resop, Joel Hanrahan. The team has been dealing with a lot of injuries this year too, and the young guys that have came up here have been tremendous stepping in.
I know going from 105 loses in 2010, to one game out of 1st place by the All-Star is a big jump, but every year there are several teams that surprise everybody. Last year it was the San Diego Padres, the Texas Rangers, San Francisco Giants. Why can’t the Pirates be that team this year? There will continue to be people who don’t believe in this team, but definitely opened some eyes so far. It’s obviously a long season, but if they can continue to play like they did in the first half, it will be a fun division to watch.
How much impact do you believe Hurdle has had on the Pirates? Why do you believe he has been successful with a squad that other managers were unable to squeeze very many wins out of?
KR: Clint has made a HUGE impact on this team and it was noticeable it from day one in Bradenton. I know there are some people who don’t believe a Manager doesn’t make a difference, but I’m not one of them. When you walk into the Pirates clubhouse, it’s different. There is so much team chemistry. This team truly believes that they can beat anyone. No matter if it’s the Red Sox or the Astros. They are resilient, they play unselfish ball. They all want to win, and they don’t care who gets the credit for it. That wasn’t the mindset last year, and the years before that. Hurdle has used this line before when speaking about his impact on the team, and he says, “there’s a time to be a manager and there’s a time to be a couch.” That’s been key for these guys. Most of them are young and don’t have much major league experience. Hurdle knows when they need smacked on their backside and then when the mental side comes into play. He keeps these guys loose, having fun and taking each game one at a time. Hurdle just has this presence about him. When he speaks, you listen. He’s so knowledgeable about the game, and honest. I never leave a pregame session without a laugh, and learning something new. I respect him so much.
What is the Pirates organization like to work with on a daily basis?
KR: Honestly? A dream come true. I grew up watching the Pirates, and to be able to cover them, is special. Everyone in that organization, from the top to the bottom, has been very welcoming from day one and I’m so thankful for the opportunity.
Was there an interview you conducted that stands out as a favorite in your time covering the team as a beat reporter? Was there an interview that stands out as an especially hard one to conduct (perhaps after a hard loss, injury news, etc)?
KR: My very first was was with Pirates catching prospect Tony Sanchez, so that one will always remain a favorite. One that really stands out was when Michael McKenry hit his first major league home run, a three-run shot, which lead to the win. After the game, I asked him how it felt to get his very first curtain call and he said, “That’s a little boy dream of mine. Who doesn’t like a curtain call? That was awesome. You see Cal Ripken’s and big name people do that. I got one and I’m 26-years-old and I have little over two months in the big leagues. That’s awesome.” His smile was up to his eyes. It was such a great moment, and reminds me why I love this game so much and why I want to cover those moments to fans.
Hard losses are always tough. I think talking to Evan Meek, after he was placed on the DL for the second time, was a tough one. He’s a good guy, and you hate to see them struggle.
What is your end-goal when it comes to sports writing? What type of opportunity do you hope your time with OVAthletics leads to in the future?
KR: My end goal is to get into sideline reporting or hosting. That’s been a dream of mine for a long time. But I honestly love the writing aspect of it as well. This is only my first year in the industry, and I realize I have a lot of mountains to climb before i get there, but I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Whether it’s writing, on-air reporting, or hosting, I just want to be a part of this wonderful game.
What advice would you give bloggers who are looking for opportunities to become a credentialed MLB beat reporter?
KR: Never give up. Never, ever. Keep working hard. There is no dream, or goal that you can’t reach if you work your butt off for.
Thanks to Kristy for taking the time to answer the questions over the All-Star break! Looking forward to seeing if we can catch your Pirates in the Central this year. If you want to follow Kristy on Twitter you can at @Kristy_Robinson
. Hope you liked the new feature. Looking forward to tomorrow when the Cubs are back on the field. Go Cubs Go!