Tuesday, August 7, 2007

What I miss. What I don't miss.

Took advantage of a rare day off today to head back to San Francisco, in hopes of seeing Barry Bonds make history. Cashed in some good karma from my four years covering the Giants to get a press pass. Didn't see a home run, but came away with an interesting perspective on what I walked away from, and what I walked into.

Which, of course, is great material for an overdue new blog. So between Barry's four at-bats, as I sat in the press box where I made my living the last seven years, next to my former colleagues and friends and competitors, I made a list of the things I miss about covering major league baseball for a newspaper, and the things I don't. They're in no particular order.

1. The food. Chicken fingers and fries, or pizza, is my dinner about 95 percent of the time at Modesto Nuts games. The spread tonight was salad, fruit, chicken, pasta, rice, green beans, deli meats, warm sourdough bread, and snickerdoodle cookies.

2. The spacious press box. Even packed with reporters from all around the country, it's enormous compared to the minors. The broadcasting booths at AT&T Park are actually small by major-league standards, but they look like apartments compared to most places in the Cal League.

3. The buzz of the crowd that understands the game. Cheering when an injured player gets up. Giving the starting pitcher a standing ovation when he departs after a great effort. Clapping their hands in unison to get a strikeout. And rising to their feet as one, chanting "Bar-ry, Bar-ry" as the man of the moment comes to the batters box. Instead of the minors where, you know, just standing up when the mascots are introduced.

4. An announcement of scoring decisions. Instead of the hand-sign games we play to try telling each other how a play was scored ... or waiting until the inning is over to walk into another room and find out how a play was scored.

5. The lighting.

6. Replays. To help describe a play a second or third time that was close.


1. The scrum of reporters, at least 30, if not 50, around Giants manager Bruce Bochy before the game. Soooooo glad that's no longer me.

2. The distance between the press box and home plate. Even in SF, where it's much closer than most, it felt like another time zone away.

3. Signs that warn the press "keep off the grass" during batting practice, meaning the area in foul territory in front of the dugouts. Hell, I shag flyballs in the outfield before most road games.

4. Looking at your laptop more than the game. A horrible habit. Impossible to break. Intentionally didn't bust out my laptop tonight, just to avoid old habits. Instead, I looked at what my friend Paul Gutierrez from the Sacramento Bee showed me on his laptop ... and I aimlessly stared out into space thinking of items for this list.

5. The avalanche of stats. It's remarkable the amount of stats that are available to use. I purposely try to limit the amount of stats I prepare for myself each game, so I won't make my broadcasts stat heavy. Probably still rely on stats a little too much, but the volume of stats available in the majors is overwhelming and tantalizing. Like that piece of dessert you know you shouldn't grab, but you eat two anyway.

6. Players who don't run out grounders. Must say it's so refreshing that our players always run hard. Always. No matter what.

7. Reading the other papers first thing in the morning to see if I got scooped. Gawd, I hated that. No worse feeling that getting scooped. Painful. Rips your heart out. Ruins your whole day. The pain of getting scooped is far far greater than the pleasure of scooping others. In fact, I never enjoyed a scoop (not that I had many). Felt more embarrassed than proud when I had a scoop.

8. Thinking to myself, "I hope Barry doesn't break the record now, in his fourth at-bat, because it's almost 10 p.m. and that wouldn't leave much time to write my story on deadline." Or even when a historic moment isn't on the line, the anxiety of cranking out an early edition story on deadline in the final three innings, hoping that whatever team is winning doesn't lose the lead and force me to re-write quickly.

9. Reading a story that has anonymous quotes from players, and trying to think who was the source. OK, that's a lie. That's actually fun, especially since it's usually easy to pinpoint the 1-3 only possible candidates due to deductive reasoning.

A few other thoughts from my day back in the majors:

1. The number of jaded, bitter, cynical reporters who expressed genuine happiness for my decision to switch careers was pretty damn cool. Not sure if they just respect the cajones to make a fairly life-altering career move, if they wish they had the guts to try something new, or if they were just glad to get me the hell out of their daily lives, but it was a nice reinforcement to know that I'm not completely nuts.

2. Told my story to Dave Fleming, one of the Giants announcers, about broadcasting a game in Visalia in the rain. Dave broadcasted a full season in Visalia not too long ago, which is an inspiration to us all in the Cal League, and told me a story that made me realize my rain story was nothing. During a road trip, Visalia's clubhouse manager (or "clubbie") resigned, and Dave was forced to do the work. So he would cut up the watermelon as part of the pre-game spread in the afternoon ... broadcast a game at night ... then spent overnight cleaning dirty jockstraps and uniforms. And one of the days was his birthday! Dave doesn't seem like the type to take his surroundings for granted, but I hope re-telling the story reminded him a little more that paying those dues in the minors was worth it.

Alright, bus leaves for Lancaster in about six hours. I better pack and get to bed. Ehh, I'll pack in the morning.

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