A Matt’s Bats Chat with Amanda Comak

It was so fun interviewing Heather Zimmerman, Matt Nadel, and Meggie Zahneis that I decided to interview another really interesting person for this Matt’s Bats Chat. As almost all of NatsTown knows, we are very lucky to have reporters and broadcasters who are so entertaining to listen to, read and watch talk about the Nationals. I had the great chance to talk to Amanda Comak, the Nats’ beat writer for the Washington Times.   I asked her about how she got interested in baseball and the life of a newspaper reporter. She said some really interesting things about being a journalist, including two things that made me gasp.  (I’ll point it out in the interview). 

In February, Amanda won a Top 10 Associated Press Sports Editors contest award for her coverage of the Nats in 2012.  A few days ago, she published her 2013 Season Preview.  She writes articles every day, which you can see HERE.

Last week, I met Amanda briefly while waiting for autographs at Tradition Field in Port Saint Lucie, FL before the Nationals-Mets spring training game.   I only talked to her for a  few seconds but she seemed very compassionate.  So, now let me introduce you to Amanda Comak! As the season started a few days ago, I’ll say “It all starts… RIGHT NOW!!!”

Matt’s Bats: Thank you so much for allowing me to interview you, Amanda.  The first question I have for you is how did you get interested in journalism? 
Amanda Comak: I was always interested in reading and writing. As a kid growing up outside of Boston, I used to read the Sports page of the Boston Globe almost every morning. I grew up reading some of the best sports journalists who’ve ever worked in this business, and it was their ability bringing together two things I loved, sports and writing, that showed me the possibilities.

MB: Did you study journalism in college?

AC: I did study print journalism in college at Boston University’s College of Communication and I was very focused, within that major, on sports journalism.

MB: Did you want to be a journalist when you were my age?

AC: I can’t say for sure that I knew this was what I wanted to do when I was yourage, but I can tell you that in my 10th grade math class we were asked to do a project about our “future life” and how we’d handle our finances as adults. For the project we had to find a job and figure out how it would support us financially. The job I gave myself was a baseball reporter, so I may not have known since I was in elementary school, but certainly for quite some time.

MB: What is the life of a newspaper reporter like—especially for a beat reporter covering a pro sports team?  

AC: The life of a newspaper reporter is ever-changing. I can’t honestly say I’ve ever had two days that are exactly the same in this business, and you come to realize very quickly that this is not a job you can simply leave at the office. We live in a 24-hour news cycle, and that means 24 hours, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year.

That said, the variety is part of what makes this job so great. You never know what you’re going to see on any given night at a ballpark. That’s part of what makes baseball, and sports in general, so great, and what makes telling those stories such a privilege.

MB: It must be really exciting to get to travel with the team. Do you like doing that?

AC: I do enjoy the travel that comes with the baseball beat and love the opportunity to explore new cities — though I’ll admit that I have some cities I enjoy visiting far more than others. It’s definitely a bit less glamorous than a lot of people think, though. If you could see me at the airport waiting to board a 6 a.m. flight after getting back from a game around 1 a.m. the “night” before, you’d understand what I mean!

MB: What is your favorite ballpark to visit?

AC: This is a tough question. Is it OK if I give you my top five? I would have to say AT&T Park in San Francisco, Camden Yards in Baltimore, PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Wrigley Field in Chicago and Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. I have so many ballparks and cities that I enjoy visiting, though, that I could’ve given you five more, too.
MB: Is it hard being one of the only women reporters covering the Nats?  Are you allowed to do interviews in the clubhouse after the game when the players are taking showers and changing?

AC: This is an excellent question, Matt. I don’t think I would call it “hard” being one of the only women covering the Nationals, but being a woman in a field dominated by men was definitely an adjustment for me when I first got into the business.

My take on it has always been that it comes down to respect and professionalism. If you carry yourself professionally and treat those around you with respect and in a professional manner, it shouldn’t matter what gender you are or what you’re covering. I’m there to do my job, just like the players are, and if you treat people with respect, they will most often return the favor.

I am allowed inside the clubhouse whenever any other media is allowed, including before and after games, as are all women, and I have never been singled out for my gender during my time covering the Nationals.

MB: When did you become a baseball fan?  

AC: I think my dad took me to my first baseball game, a Red Sox game at Fenway Park, when I was eight or nine years old. I’m not sure exactly what it was about the game, and maybe it was just the time I got to spend alone with my dad (I am one of three girls), that I found so special, but I was hooked. From then on, my love for the game only grew.

MB: When did you become a Nats fan?

AC: I am not actually a Nationals fan. As a journalist covering the team I am there to work, to cover the team in an objective manner and to tell compelling stories. Whether they win or lose is irrelevant to me. Of course, when a team is winning, the stories you can write are often far more memorable, and the opportunity to watch a winning team over the course of a season is far more entertaining. That said, there are good individual people you get to meet along the way, and you find yourself feeling happy for those people when they have success.

Most beat writers will tell you that they grew up as a fan of a specific team, but once you get into this business, that part of being a fan must fade away if you’re going to be able to do your job well and remain objective. I am still a fan of the game of baseball, though, in a larger sense and always will be.

[It was astonishing to me to learn that Amanda is not a Nats fan.  I thought that if you write about the Nationals almost each and every day that the Nationals have to be your favorite team! After all, you know all the players.  But she said that she doesn’t care if they win or lose because she just has to write the news.  Now I am learning more of the difference between being a journalist and a color commentator.  I want to be a commentator when I grow up, because I want to be a Nats fan and be able to root for them]
MB: You just wrote your 2013 Preview in the WashingtonTimes.  I want to ask you a few questions about the Nationals this year and in future years. 
A lot of people, including Sports Illustrated, ESPN and others, are predicting that the Nationals will make it to the World Series and possibly even win it this year.  In the next 10 years, how many World Series appearances do you think the Nats will have, and how many times will they win?  How many Division championships do you think the Nats will win?

AC: Unfortunately, Matt, it’s impossible for me to answer these questions. I think the Nationals are set up well to be contenders for the next several years, but nothing in sports is ever a certainty. Absolutely anything can happen over the course of a season and in the playoffs so it’s difficult for me to tell you a specific number for any of these questions.

MB: OK, everyone is talking about how stacked the Nats rotation is.  Last year, Gio Gonzalez led the majors in wins.  Stephen Strasburg didn’t get to pitch a full season.  So who do you think will have more wins this year, Strasburg or Gonzalez?  
AC: There is so much more than pitcher performance that goes into wins that it’s tough to say which of those two pitchers will have more wins, but I think the Nationals’ rotation has the potential to have several pitchers with high win totals.

MB:  Do you think one of the guys in the rotation will throw the team’s first no-hitter?

AC: I think several of the Nationals’ starters possess the talent to throw a no-hitter, certainly, but perfect games and no hitters are often just as much a product of luck as they are a product of talent. That’s the beauty of a feat like that, you just never know who will pull it off.

MB: I saw that most Nats bloggers and tweeters were buzzing about the spring 3B Anthony Rendon was having. Because you watch so closely, when do you predict Anthony Rendon will make his MLB debut?

AC: Barring an injury at the major league level that speeds up his timetable, and provided he is able to play a full healthy season in the minor leagues, I think it’s realistic that Rendon could earn himself a September call-up.

MB: What was the Nats’ most important offseason move?  What is still missing from this team?

AC: I think the Nationals’ most important offseason move was acquiring Denard Span in November. Span fits so well with what the Nationals have been looking for in center field for years. He is a strong defender who fits best as a leadoff hitter and his contract, which runs through 2014 with an option for 2015, fits the Nationals perfectly. The trade also allowed them to move Bryce Harper to a less grueling spot in left field, which will help keep his legs fresher throughout the season, and gave the Nationals a balanced lineup that alternates between left-handed hitters and right-handed hitters all the way through.

MB: Do you think trading away the fan favorite Michael Morse (“the Beast”) was the best move for the team?  

AC: I do think trading Michael Morse was a good move, though I think he will be missed in the clubhouse. Once Adam LaRoche returned, though, Morse became a valuable piece for the Nationals to replenish some of their prospect pool.

MB: This season, there is a lot of interleague play, like almost every week.  For some teams, their Opening Day features interleague matchups.  Do you like interleague play? Why or why not?

AC: I don’t really have an opinion one way or the other on interleague play, but I will say I am in favor of a more balanced schedule. I think every team in the National League East, for example, should play the same interleague opponents, to ensure the strength of schedule is equal.

MB: The 2012 season was so memorable for Nats fans.  What is your favorite Nats highlight from while you have been covering the team?

AC: There are a few that stand out as the moments that I found to be just unbelievable: Pitcher Tommy Milone hitting the first pitch of his major league career into the Nationals’ bullpen for a three-run homer in 2011; Roger Bernadina’s game-saving catch at the wall in Houston last season; the Nationals’ comeback against the Mariners where they scored five runs in the ninth in 2011; Bryce Harper’s steal of home vs. the Phillies; Jayson Werth’s walk-off in Game 4 of the NLDS; the ninth inning of Game 5 of the NLDS.

MB: I wish that last moment of TGTSNBM (The Game That Should Not Be Mentioned) never happened!  But at least now it’s history.
To end the interview, will you tell MattsBats.com readers something about yourself that is not baseball or journalism related?
AC: Hmmm. This is a tough one since so much of my time is wrapped up in baseball or journalism.

I don’t get a chance to do it much during the season, but I love to cook and I like to try new recipes in the offseason. I also love cooking competition shows, like Bravo’s Top Chef and Food Network’s Chopped.

I am also a dog lover, though my schedule prevents me from having one right now, and hope to have a golden retriever (or any dog, really) in the future.

This is somewhat journalism related, I suppose, but I also absolutely love to read. I think it’s one of the best ways to become a better writer, so it’s important, but I also really enjoy it.
* * * * 
It was so fun interviewing Amanda because she is amazing at doing her job. She crates amazing articles. If you do not read them already, click HERE for the Washington Times page and follow her on Twitter @AComak.

I am looking for more people to interview for my blog.  If you know of other people who would answer some questions from me, you can send an email to web[@]mattsbats.com.  Thanks!

Let other baseball fans know about my blog (www.mattsbats.com) and Twitter (@MattsBats).  I love getting new followers and RTs from people with #Mattitude.  If you want to receive an email whenever there is a new post you can SUBSCRIBE HERE.

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