Results tagged ‘ matt’s bats chat ’

A Matt’s Bats Chat With Author David A. Kelly

fillyfake 33-1 The summer baseball season has ended, and soon it is going to be very, very cold for a very long time.  When the weather is too cold for kids to go out and play, some of my favorite baseball books to read are from the Ballpark Mysteries series written by David A. Kelly.  I like them so much I put them on last year’s gift guide for kids.

The books are about two kids that travel around the country for baseball, and help solve problems in the parks. The most recent one is called The Philly Fake. The 10th and 11th books in the series, The Rookie Blue Jay and The Tiger Troubles, will be released next year.

I recently had the chance to do a Matt’s Bats Chat with the author of the Ballpark Mysteries books, David A. Kelly:

Matt’s Bats: What inspired you to be an author?

David A. Kelly: I became inspired to write a children’s book back in 2005 when I was spending a lot of time reading early chapter books to my sons, who were in elementary school. It certainly helped that I’d always loved reading and was looking for an alternative to the business, technology, and travel writing that I did for my job. I spent a lot of time analyzing successful children’s books—looking at how the chapters were put together, how the sentences were written, and the mechanics of the chapters. Overall, it’s been a fair amount of work, but it’s really fun to be working on something creative. In one sense, writing a children’s book turned out to be the easy part. Getting a children’s book published is harder. It takes dedication, good writing, and lots of patience and persistence. It’s not something that happened quickly for me, but with luck and hard work, it did.

MB: When did you get interested in sports?

DK: I played baseball when I was younger, but didn’t follow on to play it high school or college. When I was younger, my friends and I spent more time playing pickup games of baseball, basketball, hockey, kickball and more. Not many of my friends played organized sports, the way that many kids do today.

MB: What is your favorite sport?  Do you have a favorite team or player? 

DK: I’d have to say my favorite sport is baseball, because I like watching it as well as writing about it and sharing it with other people.

My favorite athlete is probably David Ortiz, since I live near Boston. But watching Mo’ne Davis pitch in the Little League World Series definitely impressed me.

MB: Why did you decide to write the Ballpark Mysteries series? 

DK: When my two sons were younger, I was spending a lot of time reading to them. I was also looking for something creative to do. They were hooked baseball books and mystery books, but when I went to look for baseball mystery books, I didn’t find any, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to write one! I worked pretty hard on developing the first book, and although it took a lot of rewrites, it was finally published by Random House as The Fenway Foul-Up.

MB: Which book was the most fun to write?

DK: It’s hard to say. I really have enjoyed writing them all. Some of the books were harder than the others. For example, I struggled with book number 3, The L.A. Dodger, because I couldn’t figure out the right mystery. As for which one was most fun to write, I think that The San Francisco Splash might be it. I had a really great time working in all the sights around San Francisco, and getting Mike and Kate to Alcatraz to capture a criminal.

[The San Francisco Splash is also my favorite one!]

MB: How many ballparks have you visited? What is your favorite ballpark?

DK: I haven’t visited all the 30 ballparks yet, but I hope to. I visited around 14 of them so far. My favorite ballpark is always the one I’m currently writing about, which in this case is the Detroit Tigers’ stadium (that will be Ballpark Mysteries #11). It’s a great stadium and setting for a story because there are tigers all over the ballpark—from tiger heads on the walls outside, to massive tiger sculptures on the scoreboard.

MB: So you are planing more Ballpark Mysteries books?

DK: Yes, definitely. There will be at least 4 more Ballpark Mysteries after book #9, The Philly Fake. Two more are coming out next year, and two more in 2016. Hopefully we’ll have more after that. The next two (in 2015) will be mysteries set in the Toronto Blue Jays stadium and the Detroit Tigers stadium.

MB: How do you come up with the ideas for the books?  How long does it take to write one?

DK: This is a great question. I come up with the mysteries for each book by visiting each stadium that I write about. I take a lot of notes and pictures on my phone, and then I go home and do some research on the team. To create the mystery, I try to come up with something that’s related to the ballparks or the team’s history (for example in the The L.A. Dodger, I have the mystery be related to the team’s move from New York City to Los Angeles in the 1950s).

I usually takes about 3 months to write a Ballpark Mysteries book (but during that time I’m also usually working on other projects as well). It takes me about a week to do the research, and then about 3 weeks to create an outline and plot out the book. Another month to write the book, once I have the outline worked out, and then another few weeks to do revisions. They’re usually written about 18-24 months in advance of the publication date, so that the artist has time to create the artwork.

MB: Do you plan on writing any other books about other sports?

DK: Yes! I have a possible set of Football Mysteries in development and I’m also already working on a series of books about a group of elementary school children who form a club and play all different types of sports.

MB: Last question.  Since you write all about different baseball stadiums, what’s your favorite thing to eat at a baseball game?

DK: I always start off the standard—a basic hot dog with relish and mustard. Then, I’ll look around for other interesting foods that might be on sale at the stadium. Although I didn’t try it, the Texas Rangers park had the biggest hot dog (or maybe it was a sausage) that I’ve ever seen. I usually try a pretzel, too, and perhaps some ice cream.

Thanks to David A. Kelly for taking the time to talk about his Ballpark Mysteries series of baseball books for kids.  You can order all of them from Amazon.com or buy them at any bookstore.  They are really fun books for kids from age 6 to about 13.  Most of them only cost about $5.00 or less on Amazon, so they are definitely a good deal too!

 

Matt’s Bats Chat with Nationals Catcher Wilson Ramos

DSC_0178aOn Saturday, August 16, I attended the Wilson Ramos Parent & Child Baseball Experience presented by Washington Celebrity Baseball, Celebrity Sports Camps, and D.C. Elite Baseball.  The Camp was at Shipley Field at the University of Maryland. The camp gave instruction to kids about different baseball skills, like hitting, fielding, and pitching.  After the kids had their turn, a bunch of dads also took BP in the cage.  “We had a lot of really good kids show up today who were eager to play baseball,” said Andrew Lang, who ran the camp.  “The pros that were out here, Wilson Ramos, Mike O’Connor [former Nationals pitcher], and Derek Hacopian [former University of Maryland star and Indians draftee], really put on a great clinic with us.  The weather and the field helped to make it a perfect day.”

The small group of about 30 campers were able to do drills right on the field that Maryland’s baseball team plays on.  Wilson Ramos even got down and coached kids at the catching station on how to play like a major leaguer.  My group started out at infield, and I won a contest for who could throw a baseball the farthest.

Wilson talked with everyone, took pictures, and signed autographs.  At the end, I was able to pull Wilson aside and ask him a few questions.  Here is my Matt’s Bats Chat with Wilson Ramos.

Matt’s Bats – What’s your favorite thing to do on an off-day?

Wilson Ramos – I like to enjoy it with my family.  I have a 10 day old daughter and I like to enjoy it with her and my wife, make a lunch and dinner.  I like to do that.

MB – What’s it like being a baseball player and a dad?

WR – It feels great.  Its an amazing experience.  The first time I saw her, I loved my daughter.  I love to play and everything I do now, I do it for her.  It makes me feel happy and ready to go play hard everyday.

MB – What tips do you have for kids who want to be catchers?

WR – First step is you need to be strong.  Catchers get a lot of hits behind the plate and not too many guys can play that position.  It’s hard.

MB – You have a six game lead over the Braves in the NL East.  What’s the mood in the clubhouse?

WR – Everybody is feeling great.  Everybody feels happy right now that we’re in first place in our Division.  Everybody is doing a great job.  Everybody feels happy with what we are doing.  We’re playing hard right now and trying to get into the playoffs.

I also challenged Wilson to the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise money for ALS, but he tuned it down.  I don’t blame him, because he didn’t have other clothes to change into.  However, he would later get doused with cold Gatorade in the game that night as he walked off against the Pirates by a score of 4-3!

A few days later, Wilson tweeted that he did the official Ice Bucket Challenge and also challenged Miguel Cabrera.

Wilson was great with his fans, and the camp was a lot of fun.  Follow @Allstars_S2 on Twitter to learn about other camps and sports-related events in the DC area.

Matt’s Bats Chat with ESPN Baseball Analyst Tim Kurkjian

KurkjianA few weeks ago, I got a chance to sit down and talk to ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian. You probably have seen him reporting on Sports Center or Baseball Tonight, or live from games or at other baseball events.

When I met Tim, we talked for a long time.  He was interesting to talk to and he gave some really good answers to my questions. For example, I asked him what is the craziest thing he’s ever seen happen in a game, and believe me: it is crazy! He’s seen maybe thousands of baseball games, so keep reading to see what Tim Kurkjian thinks is the craziest thing he has ever seen at a game.

He’s also a really nice person and knows more about baseball than almost anybody else in the country.

I’m really excited to share with you this Matt’s Bats Chat with Tim Kurkjian.  Take it away, Tim!

Matt’s Bats: How did you get into journalism?

Tim Kurkjian: I got into journalism when I started writing for my high school paper, The Pitch, at Walter Johnson High School (in Bethesda, MD).  Then I went to the University of Maryland and majored in Journalism.  After that, I went to the Washington Star, then I went to Dallas Morning News, then I went to the Baltimore Sun, then I went to Sports Illustrated, and 17 years ago I went to ESPN.  So, journalism is something that I’ve been really interested in for the last 40 years when I turned about 15 years old. 

MB: What’s your favorite ballparks to visit?

TK:  I have covered a game now in 58 different Major League stadiums and my favorite is still Fenway Park, just because it’s the oldest one.  I love the history of the game.  I love the tradition of the game.  And the fact that that’s where Ted Williams played and that’s where Babe Ruth used to pitch – that stuff really means something to me.  So I love all the new ballparks, including Camden Yards, but Fenway Park is my favorite.    

MB: Who was your favorite player when you were my age?

TK: When I was your age, I had two favorite players.  Eddie Brinkman was my favorite player on the Washington Senators because he was a little short stop who could really play defense and that was what I really liked to do when I was a kid.  And my other favorite player when I was your age was Willie Mays.  And even though he played for the San Francisco Giants and was 3000 miles away from me, he was the best player in the game.  He was this iconic star.  He’s the guy that I kind of hooked along with because I figured he’s the best player ever and I need to get closer to him.

MB: What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen fans or players do during a game?

TK: I saw Bo Jackson one night in Baltimore.  I watched him run to try and catch a fly ball.  And he caught it and he didn’t have time to stop himself from running into the fence.  So he kind of ran up the fence and around the fence.  It’s a famous ESPN highlight now.  But he almost looked like a race car going around a curved and ramped track.  He kind of ran up the fence and down without ever touching it.  It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.

 

MB: What kinds of lessons can the game of baseball teach kids?

TK: Baseball can teach a very important life lesson about teamwork.  There’s nothing better than being on a team.  And that’s what Major League Baseball teaches us, that’s what Little League baseball teaches us, that’s what high school baseball teaches us.  You have teammates that you have to look after.  You have teammates that you have to take care of no matter what.  The winning and the losing of the game is really important, but the loyalty to your teammates is what this is all about, whether its on the Major League level or anywhere else.  Teamwork expands well beyond baseball.  When you go to work, you have teammates there, too, and you have to look after each other.

MB: What do you expect in 2014 in baseball?

Listen to Tim’s answer:

TK: I expect a bunch of surprises, just like this year.  I didn’t expect the Red Sox to win the pennant or win the World Series.  I thought they would come in last place.  I thought the Nationals would win the World Series and they didn’t even finish in the playoffs.  So 2014 is going to be filled with surprises but I think the Nationals are going to play the Tigers in the World Series in 2014.  If I’m right, that will probably be the first time I’ve ever been right this far in advance.    

[Tim gave this answer before the Nationals acquired Doug Fister from the Tigers, and before the Tigers traded Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler.  On Dec. 31, Kurkjian said on ESPN that he still predicted the Nationals would win the World Series and that Bryce Harper would win the Triple Crown.  FINGERS CROSSED!]


MB: What’s your favorite baseball-related memory?

TK: My favorite memory is the night Cal Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played.  That was more than a baseball story, that was a story about commitment.  It was a story about loyalty.  It was a story about love of a team and a neighborhood and a state.  It was about a player that went out there and tried as hard, and played every single day for 15 years in a row.  That’s what made that so special.  I’ve covered over 3000 Major League games, but that was probably the most special night that I’ve ever spent in a Major League ballpark.

MB: What are your favorite things to do in DC?

TK: Number one is to go to the Nationals games, since I love baseball and I love going to the ballpark.  I love to go to the Orioles games, which is in Baltimore, but its still the DC area.  Sometimes I like to go watch the Wizards play or the University of Maryland play because I’m a big basketball fan also.  But beyond all that, I still love going to the museums and the landmarks in DC, whether it’s the Lincoln Memorial or the Air and Space Museum, whatever it is, that’s where I like to go.   

MB: Tell me something about yourself that’s not baseball related?

TK:  I really, really love basketball.  I still like to play even though I’m 56 years old.  I still love to go to watch high school basketball games.  And I mostly love now to go to Syracuse University, where my son goes and my daughter used to go.  And when I go there I love to watch the Syracuse basketball team because, other than the University of Maryland where I went to school, that’s my new home basketball team.  Everybody knows that I cover baseball for a living, but basketball is my second love and I really like being around that and that’s my hobby in the offseason – watching and playing basketball.    

That’s all I have for now of my interview of Tim Kurkjian.  I really want to thank him for talking to me and all of you for reading this.  If you know other interesting people who’d be interested in talking to me, send me an email.

Kurkjianprofile

Tim Kurkjian is on Twitter @Kurkjian_ESPN, online at ESPN.com, and also on ESPN on TV.

Matt’s Bats Chat With Drew Storen

Last month, I had the chance to talk to Nationals reliever Drew Storen at the Bethesda Big Train Holiday Auction.  I have actually met him before, but this was the first chance I got to interview him.  Drew was very friendly and answered a lot of my questions.  He also signed autographs and talked with other fans.  We talked about his expectations for the 2014 season, a little bit about Batman, and then I showed him something he had never seen before—an error in his 2013 Topps baseball card.  Enjoy this Matt’s Bats Chat with Drew Storen!

2013-11-17 storen interviewMatt’s Bats: What do you expect in 2014 for the Nats?

Drew Storen: We have high expectations.  It’s a matter of building and getting better every year.  We learned a lot in the last two years and we will build off of that and hopefully get ourselves another Division title.

MB: Are you looking forward to Matt Williams as the manager?

DS: Yeah, no doubt.  I’ve heard great things about him, great baseball guy.  You know, I think our coaching staff sticking around too is also going to be a big help.

MB: How do you feel about the addition of Instant Replay next year?

DS: I think it’s going to be interesting to see because it’s something that baseball hasn’t done a whole lot of.  As long as they can keep the pace of the game up and still get the calls right I think everyone will be happy.

MB: What are you doing during the winter months and how are you getting ready for 2014?

DS: I’m kind of relaxing there at first for a couple of weeks and golfing a lot.  Then I’m going to work in some workouts and start getting prepped up until February rolls around.

MB: Coming in to a game in the 7th, 8th or 9th inning is stressful.  Who do you hate pitching to?

DS: I don’t like any hitters.  I would say everybody, how about that?

MB: I know you are a Batman fan, right?

DS: Oh, yeah!

MB: How did you feel about the day Batkid had around San Francisco?

DS: I am very jealous of the BatKid.  I would definitely enjoy doing that one day.

MB: Tell me about your “Batmobile.”

DS: My Batmobile is my everyday effort to try and do that.  It’s a lot of fun.  I’m driving it a little bit more in the offseason.

[Click below to hear audio]

MB: Ok, I have something to show you.  I don’t know if you’ve seen it before, but I have your baseball card from 2013 Nationals but there’s a little error on the card.

DS: Uh-oh.

MS: It says the sentence “He tuned up with a save in Game 1 of the NLDS and a win in Game 3.”  But the Nationals lost Game 3 8-0.

storencard_back

DS: Oh, I got the win in Game 4.  Man, I did not know that!  See you’re teaching me things.  I’ve never seen that before.  Did they mess up anything else?

[Remember, Game 4 was the epic game that Jayson Werth walked off in the bottom of the 9th on the 13th pitch of the at-bat versus Lance Lynn. Game 3 was the day game– the first post-season home game in Washington in 79 years.  The Nats were shut out 8-0, but were closest to a run on an Ian Desmond double.]

MB: No, that’s the only thing they messed up.

DS: I think you need to call them, right?

I spoke a little more with Drew, but that’s all of the interview I recorded for you.  I also got to sit with him for a while and talk informally.  Near the end of the event, I asked if he would follow me on Twitter, and…

storentwitter

I really enjoyed getting to meet Drew Storen, one of the Nationals’ most valuable bullpen arms and maybe one of the best back-end of the bullpen guys in all of Major League Baseball.

drewstoren-autoThanks for reading. Even though I have been so lucky to meet a bunch of Nationals players and talk with them a few questions, this is the first long interview I’ve done with a Nationals player.  (I have also interviewed other sports stars like players from the Redskins and even Justin Verlander).  I’d love to do more interviews. My wish list from the Nats is Ian Desmond, Denard Span (both of who, I know, read this blog!) Bryce Harper, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister, and Stephen Strasburg. If you know of any baseball players, journalists, authors or other people who have interesting stories I could talk to, contact me through this link. Thanks!

A Matt’s Bats Chat With Ballhawk Zack Hample

Today’s Matt’s Bats Chat is with the world’s most famous “ballhawk.”
What’s a ballhawk?
A ballhawk is someone whose hobby is snagging baseballs from Major League games.
He is so successful at ballhawking that he has caught more than 7,000 baseballs in his career and this summer alone he caught at least one game ball at every major league ballpark.  He’s even invented his own tricks for how to get balls during batting practice and games.
He has written three books, including one called How to Snag Major League Baseballs, Watching Baseball Smarter, and one called simply The Baseball.  He also writes the top rated fan blog on MLBlogs called The Baseball Collector.  He has also been interviewed on national TV many times.
As I mentioned, he writes a blog where this summer he wrote about his adventures teaming up with BiGS Sunflower Seeds for a challenge called BiGS Baseball Adventure to raise money to Pitch In For Baseball for each ball he got at an MLB game.
So, readers, let me introduce you to the one and only Zack Hample. Take it away, Zack!
zack_thirty_stadiums
Matt’s Bats: Zack, you are world famous for your collection of baseballs.  When and how did you get your first one?
Zack Hample: It was tossed to me by a Mets player during batting practice at Shea Stadium on June 20, 1990. Unfortunately I don’t remember who.
MB: How many balls do you have in your collection? What’s the most special?
ZH: My total is up to 7,157. The most special ball is the final home run that the Mets ever hit at Shea Stadium. I caught that one on the fly on September 28, 2008.
Zack at Nationals Park with his 28th (!!!) Ball of the Day

Zack at Nationals Park with his 28th (!!!) Ball of the Day

MB: So, I know your first book was all about how to get baseballs when you go to a game, but can you share with Matt’s Bats reader what are your 3 best tips to getting a ball at a game?
ZH: 1. Show up early for BP.  2. Bring a glove, and 3. Make sure you have some room to run.
MB: One of the craziest things I’ve seen you do is the “glove trick” to get a ball.  How did you come up with that?
ZH: I invented the glove trick after the 1992 season, I think. Basically, I needed a way to reach all the balls that rolled onto the warning track below me at Yankee Stadium, but then I realized how useful it was in other stadiums. Turner Field is the best place for it.
MB: The glove trick is pretty crazy in my opinion.  But what do you think is the craziest thing you’ve done to get a ball? What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen happen at a game?
ZH: After a game in Kansas City in 2009, I kind of hid in the stadium until all the security guards had left. Then I climbed down into the gap behind the center field wall and grabbed nearly a dozen balls that had been sitting there for days. Thankfully I didn’t get in trouble, but looking back on it, it was pretty dumb.
The craziest stuff I’ve seen probably happened in the bleachers at the old Yankee Stadium. There was one guy with a big afro that would light his hair on fire every once in a while and then shake his head to extinguish the flame.
MB: What are the best experiences you’ve had ballhawking?
ZH: The best individual moments are when I catch important home runs. The best overall thing is that I’ve gotten to meet so many people and have lots of interesting experiences along the way. Visiting the Rawlings Baseball Factory in Costa Rica happened as a result of ballhawking and making connections and writing about it and getting lucky.
zack_black_eyeMB: I saw the picture of your black eye.  Is that the worst injury you’ve gotten from ballhawking?  Have you seen people get hit by balls or bats in the stands?
ZH:  My worst injury was the sprained ankle I suffered on June 3, 2011 at Citi Field. I had to use crutches and wear a boot for three weeks. The black eye could’ve been worse, but thankfully that ball got me in a spot that didn’t wreck my vision. I also cracked a rib on August 30, 2008 at Angel Stadium.
I’ve seen a bunch of fans get drilled over the years, and I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often.
MB: Getting a ball is so rare for most people.  How do you feel about people being pressured throw back opposing teams home run ball at places like Wrigley Field?
ZH: It’s a cool tradition, but it’s not a law. If you catch a visiting team’s home run at Wrigley or anywhere else and you want to keep it, then do it. Peer pressure is dumb. Be strong.
MB: Another question that comes up a lot has to deal with grown-ups who catch a ball at a game.  Do you think adults should keep it as a souvenir or give it to a kid?
ZH: I don’t think there’s one rule that everyone should follow. If a grown-up catches a ball and wants to keep it, fine. If the grown-up wants to give it away, fine. To each his (or her) own. I can tell you, though, that when I was a little kid, I wouldn’t have wanted a ball that someone else caught. I wanted to get one on my own, and I respect all the kids out there today who feel the same way.
MB: I wanted to ask you about the BiGS Sunflower Seeds Baseball Adventure that you wrote about on your blog this summer.
ZH: I was fortunate to be sponsored this season by BIGS Sunflower Seeds. They sent me to all 30 stadiums, challenged me to snag a game-used ball at all of them, and donated $500 to the charity Pitch In For Baseball for each venue where I succeeded. I ended up going 30-for-30 and raising the maximum amount of $15,000.
MB: So now that you’ve been to each stadium, what’s your favorite ballpark?  Any you don’t like?
ZH: My favorite is Camden Yards [Orioles], followed by Rangers Ballpark [Rangers] and Kauffman Stadium [Royals]. My least favorites are Yankee Stadium and Citi Field — quite a shame considering I live in New York City.
MB: Finally, now that the post-season has started, what are your predictions– who’s going to win the World Series?
ZH: I think the Red Sox will beat the Dodgers in the World Series.
People can follow Zack on Twitter (@zack_hample) and check out his website and blog.
Check out this video with his many TV appearances.
He has written three books, including Watching Baseball Smarter and The Baseball.  I just finished reading Watching Baseball Smarter and I think it is really great.  A lot of the things he talked about I already knew, but he also taught me some new things and pointed out things I never paid attention to before (like the fact that there are no left handed catchers in MLB.  The reason is obvious when you think about it, but sometimes it takes someone pointing out these things).  I think you should read the book sometime over the winter so you will be a smarter fan when the season starts.
Also, if you know of anyone who would be interested in being interviewed for MattsBats.com, please send me a note using the Contact link on the right side.

Matt’s Bats Chat with Sports Memorabilia Collector Andrew Lang

nationals_celebration

Today’s Matt’s Bats Chat is with sports memorabilia collector Andrew Lang. Andrew is a partner in a sports art gallery called The Art Of The Game that sells memorabilia from locations around a few sports venues. Fans love collecting memorabilia from their favorite teams, and Andrew has a great collection. He is also giving MattsBats.com readers a chance to buy some souvenirs at a discount.

Andrew organized the Big Train Celebrity Nats Camp that I attended and has organized other events around town with Nationals players, like the Gio Gonzalez foundation camp this summer. You’ll learn all about this and more. Also be sure to follow him on Twitter @Allstars_S2.

Matt’s Bats: Thanks for taking the time to do a Matt’s Bats Chat to let my readers know about the interesting business of sports memorabilia collecting. For background, how did you start your business?

Andrew Lang: I started as a collector of sports art and started collecting game used memorabilia. When oldest son 10 years old he was a techie and created a website for me to display my items on the internet. That was 17 years ago. That website eventually turned into an e-Commerce site and we
became a successful business. It’s evolved greatly over the last 17 years and will probably continue to evolve.

MB: Where are your stores located? Can people buy things online?

AL: The Art Of The Game stores are located in stadiums and arenas around the country. The closest store is inside the warehouse in RF at Oriole Park at
Camden Yards. We also have stores in Dodger Stadium, Anaheim Stadium, and the Staples Center where the Lakers, Clippers and LA Kings play. We want to be in Nationals Park, but opening locations are complicated and it hasn’t happened yet.

Nats_Corner

Nats Corner at the Oriole Park at Camden Yards store

People can buy art directly off my personal website at www.AllstarsArt.com. Our memorabilia website we took offline as it needs major maintenance.

MB: What is the most expensive sports memorabilia thing you sell?

AL: We have some Muhammad Ali autographed paintings that are over $10,000 but the most expensive item is an original oil painting of Frank Howard of the Washington Senators from the artist LeRoy Neiman. It’s listed on our site AllstarsArt.com for $247,500.

People mentioning Matts Bats for the next week will get 10% off. (So if you buy the painting, you can save $24,750!)

Frank_Howard_Neiman

MB: Which piece of memorabilia is your favorite?

AL: It’s so difficult to pick a favorite as I believe I have the most extensive collection of Washington Nationals items from the 1st season in
2005 to the opening of Nationals Park in 2008. I’ve accumulated so many unique items that I have actually given some back to players like Ryan
Zimmerman. I’m thinking my Brian Schneider game used catcher’s mitt and shin guards and jersey from the 1st game ever in 2005 is cool plus Brian
used all that to catch the 1st pitch from President Bush.

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I have some pieces that players have given me like Michael Morse gave me his 1st HR bat and Brian Schneider gave me the chest protector he wore when
Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s HR record.

Michael_Morse_2009

MB: If you could buy one thing now to collect for the future what would you buy?

AL: For the future, I am most interested in any significant item from any of the top players. Last season it was post-season items as it was the 1st
post-season in Nats history. This year I was looking for anything unique and picked up Rendon’s 4th hit of his career and will hope he becomes a
member of the 3,000 Hit Club. Certainly looking to add any significant Bryce Harper, Ryan Z., Jordan, Z., Stras, Gio items.

jordanzimmermansigning

MB: As I mentioned at the top, you helped organize the first Nationals celebrity camp this year. How did you get involved starting the Nats player camps? What other kinds of events do you run?

AL: We seem to have this knack for combining our love of the Nats into events. What could be better than teaching kids and doing that with Nats
players? We used to do player training camps and the interest level wasn’t high 5 to 8 years ago as the Nats fanbase wasn’t large and now all that has
changed. We’ve done golf events with players and public autograph signings. I think our most popular event was bringing Ryan Zimmerman out for his 1st
public autograph signing in Fairfax Virginia as we had several hundred people line up for that but we really wanted to do more interactive events
and the camps is a perfect fit. The Gio Gonzalez Foundation Camp we put together this year was a huge success. Our Washington Celebrity Camps are
great on instruction and learning and fun.

MB: How did you get to know the players who you bring to the camps? Who are your favorites to work with?

AL: I have gotten to know many players personally and also many of the agents out there. I didn’t know Taylor Jordan and wanted him for our camp and got
him through his agent. We got Ian Desmond through Gio Gonzalez who asked him to come to the camp. Roger Bernadina we know personally and he came
to many of our camps. Ross Detwiler has volunteered for last years camp and couldn’t come this year because of his injury. Ian Desmond has emerged
as one of the greatest persons I have met. I got to see how he interacted with children away from the cameras. It was a thrill for me to throw
grounders for a whole morning to Ian and Anthony Rendon as they demonstrated middle infield fielding. I know Ian’s agent and have already contacted him about having Ian do a camp of his own.

MB: How many baseball games do you go to a year?

AL: 50 to 100 a year depending on how much I am traveling on road trips. I was a Nats season ticket holder from the start. Had great seats in Section 117 in RFK.
MB: Are you a fan of other sports besides baseball? Which teams and players?
AL: All local teams, Washington Redskins and Maryland Terps are my other loves. Big fan of Shaquille O’Neal when he played and Michael Jordan.
MB: Who are your top 5 favorite people you follow on Twitter– people who say the smartest or funniest things or have the best information?
AL: Certainly Matt’s Bats, my son Jake (JakeNATS24), Bryce Harper (BHarper3407), and the Nationals beat writers like Mark Zuckerman (ZuckermanCSN) and Amanda Comak (acomak).
That’s it for this MattsBats chat! I hope you were interested in Andrew’s sports collection, because the next Matt’s Bats Chat coming up is with someone who has one of the largest collection of MLB souvenirs you’ve ever heard of. And he got them all himself!
With the Nationals loss against the Cardinals on Monday night, they were are eliminated from postseason contention after a hard-fought September. They still will end up with about 87 or 88 wins (about 10 less than the 2012 season), which usually gets you a ticket to the postseason. But not this year. So, after about six months of following the team, this is your chance to rate the Nationals’ 2013 performance. You can click the box in the poll, but use the comments section below to explain your answer.

Matt’s Bats Chat with a Washington Nationals Ball Girl

Most Matt’s Bats readers who are huge baseball fans would love to be able to watch a game from the field, or even just walk around on the field when nobody is playing.  But for some lucky fans, watching the game from the best seats in the house (a chair along the 1st or 3rd baseline) is just their job.

Today I am interviewing a former Nationals ball girl.  Current ball girls aren’t able to speak to the media (I guess Matt’s Bats is considered the media!), so I was not allowed to talk to a ball girl who currently works for the Nats.  But I did interview a ball girl who used to work for the Nationals.  I am not mentioning her name because I don’t want her to get in trouble, even though she doesn’t work for the Nationals anymore and doesn’t even live in DC anymore.  I think you will enjoy this Matt’s Bats Chat!

Matt’s Bats: Let’s start with the question everyone wants to know– how did you become a Nationals ball girl?

Ball Girl:  Everyone asks us this question. I got this job like you get any other job – I applied!

I guess there’s more of a story than that. I was listening to the radio and heard that the Nationals were hiring ball girls and looking for anthem singers. Ever since I was a little girl, I have always dreamed of being a bat girl (I know they don’t exist). I thought they were the luckiest kids in the world to be able to be in the dugout and on the field with the players. Being a ball girl was my opportunity to be a part of a ball club. I worked for the Nationals for one season.

MB: When did you first get interested into baseball? 

BG: I believe I was six years old when my dad took me to my first baseball game. I remember being extremely hot and complaining that the bleacher seats we were in were burning my legs. I might have not fallen in love with baseball at that moment, but that’s the day my love for sports started to grow.

When I turned 12, I joined my local softball league and learned the nuances of the sport which made me appreciate the game even more. From then on, I attended and watched as many games as I could and always paid attention to the post-season.

MB: When did you become a Nationals fan?

BG: I became a Nats fan in 2011, not long after I moved to the area and went to my first Nats game. Screech threw me a Nats shirt and I got my first game ball ever! I was so excited I don’t even remember who tossed it to me.

MB: Can you describe what it is like being on the field during every Nats game? 

BG: It’s pretty much surreal. Can you imagine sitting on the field right next to your favorite players? Every game I would pinch myself to make sure it was real. At the same time, it’s also nerve-wracking. Can you also imagine a 90 mph fastball getting hit your way? And your job is to stop it? I’m grateful for all of those years of softball training. You have to pay attention to every single pitch or you could be in trouble or seriously embarrassed. I bet my other ball girls can tell you some funny stories.

MB:  Is there any one game you have a special memory of?

BG: There are a few moments that I have special memories of:

1) Michael Morse threw a ball straight to my glove from right field (so cool!)

2) I walked right by Derek Jeter after a game one night

3) I got to go up to the MASN press booth (I always wanted to be a sports journalist when I was younger) 

 4) I was on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball for about 5 seconds when I fielded a ball hit to me. That was definitely the highlight of my ball girl career.

MB: Have you become friends with any of the players or coaches or other Nats people? 

BG: I never became friends with any of the players – I wish I did! I made the best of friends during the season with my fellow entertainment staff, which includes ball girls and Nat Pack folks. They’re so full fun. Each game I worked was always an experience.

MB: What is the craziest thing you have ever seen happen in a game or in the crowd?

BG: I can’t recall anything memorably crazy that happened during any games I attended or worked at. I think Tripp Whitbeck is always entertaining, comically singing all the songs that come on the PA. Teddy winning the last race in 2012 was amazing!

Being a ball girl must be such a cool job, but I think it could also be stressful. What if you mess up and accidentally touch a fair ball or try to field a ball and miss it? You have a crowd of 40,000 people watching you!  Or you could actually get hit by a ball, like this guy:



Otherwise, it looks like a cool job, and I would love the chance to be a ball boy, even just once!

I thank this former ball girl for spending the time to talk to me.

If you like these Matt’s Bats Chats, check out the ones I did with Dave Jageler, Amanda Comak, Heather Zimmerman, Meggie Zahneis and Matt Nadel.



 Let other baseball fans know about my blog (www.mattsbats.com) and Twitter (@MattsBats).  I write almost every day about baseball, and especially the Washington Nationals.  I love getting new followers and RTs.  If you want to receive an email whenever there is a new post you can SUBSCRIBE HERE.

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Matt’s Bats Chat with Dave Jageler


Matt’s Bats readers know Dave Jageler as one-half of the Voice of the Nationals, along with Charlie Slowes. His voice is very familiar to Nationals fans who listen to the games on the radio at WJFK, 106.7 the Fan, but people may not know a lot about him and what goes on behind the scenes in the broadcast booth.  That is why I asked him a bunch of questions about these topics for this Matt’s Bats Chat with Dave Jageler.

Matt’s Bats: Thanks for answering some questions for me.  First of all, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?   

Dave Jageler: I am 41 years old, married with 2 kids (Jared-13 yrs old and Sarah-9).  I was born in Hartford, CT in 1971 and grew up in Windsor Connecticut as a die-hard and suffering Boston Red Sox fan.  I went to college at Syracuse University from 1989-1993 as part of the well-known Newhouse School of Public Communications that has turned out many great sportscasters like Bob Costas, Marv Albert, Mike Tirico and many more.  

MB: How did you get into broadcasting?

DJ: My broadcast career as a professional started in Morgantown, WV.  I worked there before moving to Charlotte, NC.  There I broadcast college basketball, hosted talk shows and did my first baseball for the AAA Charlotte Knights (then a Marlins affiliate).  I even called Livan Hernandez’s first professional outing after he came from Cuba.  After 7 years there, I moved to Boston and did a talk show and fill-in play by play for the Boston Celtics.  I then shifted back to baseball in 2005 as I worked for the Pawtucket Red Sox.  Then, I joined the Nationals in 2006 and have been with the Nats for the last 8 seasons.  I split the year living in Barrington, RI in the offseason (I moved there while doing Pawtucket) and Reston, VA during the baseball season.


MB
Did you know what you wanted to be when you were my age?   

DJ: I started being interested in broadcasting when I was in high school.  I had a friend who talked about it a lot and I thought it was really cool.  So I joined a cable access channel in our town and broadcast my high school’s basketball games.  That was my first on air work.  When I was your age, I really wanted to be an MLB player more than a broadcaster.  But I watched all kinds of games and memorized stats which helped me later in my career.

MB: When did you become a baseball fan?  

DJ: My first memory is when I was 7 and the Red Sox lost a 14 game lead to the Yankees and then a 1 game playoff in 1978, back when there was no wild card.  So the Red Sox won 99 games and didn’t make the playoffs.  Ouch.  

MB: Are you a Nats fan? The reason I am asking that question is because journalists aren’t allowed to be fans when they cover the team.  Are you allowed to be a Nats fan?

DJ: I am a Nats fan.  I am not a journalist like if I worked for the Washington Post.  So I want the Nats to win and it is OK for me to want them to win.  But I do need to be professional on the air.  I don’t openly cheer on the air like a couple announcers do, but I definitely want the Nats to win.

MB: How do you describe the job of a radio broadcaster?  Are you supposed to be just the narrator of the game or are you supposed to entertain the fans too?


DJ: I describe a radio broadcaster as a painter and the broadcast is the blank canvas.  My job is to paint the picture so the listener knows what is going on.  You have to give the score often and details the listener can’t see.  You have to be the listener’s eyes.  But it is important to entertain too.  Broadcasts are 3-4 hours long, so if you are talking 100 percent about the game only, it can get boring, especially if the game is dull.  So it is a combination of all those things.

I love the way Dave described the role of a broadcaster.  I never thought about some of those things before.  When you are listening to a game, you do need to be reminded of the score and count a lot more than when you are watching on TV or able to look at the scoreboard at the game.  

MB: What is a typical day like for you?  

DJ:I get to the park 3-4 hours before the game and do an interview either with a player or the manager.  Then I get the starting lineups for both teams and fill out my scorebook.  That includes the starting lineups plus a few stats about each player.  I may talk to a few players and watch BP and then eat dinner before the pregame show a half hour before first pitch.
MB: What is the coolest thing you get to do regularly or the coolest one time experience you have had in this job?

DJ: I think it is cool to do a game every day.  So I think my whole job is pretty cool.  As far as I one time experience I remember standing at the batting cage between Hall of Famers and teammates Jim Palmer and Frank Robinson and listening to them talk back and forth about old memories.  It is a thrill to meet players now that I watched on TV when I was your age.  

Also it was neat to be in person when Barry Bonds broke the HR record in 2007 and Randy Johnson won his 300th game against the Nats in 2009.  We may not have another 300 game winner for a long time.  So it was special to witness baseball history in person.

MB: What’s your best Nats memory?

DJ: I have four–
1.  Jayson Werth’s HR [in Game 4 of the 2012 NLDS]
2.  Ryan Zimmerman’s walk off HR in first game at Nats Park
3.  Zim’s walk off HR to beat the Yankees in 2006 (his first walk off)
4.  My first game- Opening Day 2006

MB: What are the best and worst things about your job?

DJ: The best part of the job is calling an exciting moment like a HR or a big strikeout with the bases loaded with the crowd going crazy.  Not much is bad about the job except the huge amount of time away from my family.


MB: That brings up the topic of travel.  I know you travel with the team.  Do you like traveling?  What is your favorite ballpark or city to visit?

DJ:Traveling with the team is great.  We have our own plane and we stay at really nice hotels.  I like San Francisco’s ball park for the views but San Diego for the weather.


MBWhich ballparks have the best and worst facilities for you?  The broadcast booth at Nats Park is on the 7th floor, which makes it the highest press box in MLB.

DJ:Nats Park is tough with the high press box but I am used to it now after 6 years.  Philadelphia has a great facility…nice view, good booth and great press dining food.  Wrigley Field is the worst because the booth is so small.  I have to literally climb over Charlie to get out of the booth.

MB: I know I’m interested in what goes on in the booth during a game.  What do you do during the game (when you’re not calling the game)?  Do you score the game?  Do you check Twitter? Do you watch on TV or talk to other people?

DJ: I always score the game.  In fact I write down every pitch so I always know if someone is having a long at-bat (like Jayson Werth in Game 4).  So I watch closely when Charlie is calling play by play and I will chime in if I notice something important.

MB: This is one of my biggest questions: How do you tell what kind of pitches the pitcher threw?  Especially from where you sit, up high and behind the batter.  Usually I need to see the replay from the centerfield camera with the radar gun and still I don’t really know them all.

DJ: I use the radar gun, but I can also tell sometimes by how the Catcher catches the ball or how the hitter swings at it whether it is a Changeup or a Slider, etc. 

[Dave gave other details at the Nationals Tweet-up a few weeks ago.  He said he uses the radar gun to see how fast the pitch was.  He knows how fast each pitcher’s pitch usually is.  For example, he knows that Tyler Clippard’s fastball is in the low to mid 90s.  His changeup is in the 80s.  His slider or curveball is in the 70s.  Then he made a joke and said that even if he totally guessed, nobody would know because they are listening on the radio and can’t see the pitch]


MB:What do you think will be the biggest story about the Nats 2013 season?

DJ: I hope the biggest story will be how they have a great second half comeback to repeat as NL East Champions.  If they fall short, the story will be how the team ended up in the bottom of the league rankings in offense and in errors.  I am surprised by both as it stands in early July.

MB: What would you say to upset Nats fans who thought the team would be in 1st place by the All Star Break, or at least well above .500?

DJ: I would say that each season is different.  Just because the Nats won 98 games last season doesn’t guarantee a repeat.  Many teams have struggled early and rallied to win a division title or a wild card spot with a great August or September.

MB: What do you like to do in the offseason?

DJ: I do a couple college basketball games here and there.  Sometimes they are on MASN or on the Big East Network.  But who knows what I will do with the changes in the Big East?!  I coach my kids’ basketball teams and do a lot of house work, like laundry and cleaning that I am not around to do during the season.

MB: Last question: What is something not baseball-related about you?

DJ: I try to work out every day.  They only days I miss are when we have a day game and then have to travel.  I also love to play golf.  I refuse to go on Facebook and I am stunned that I am on Twitter but thanks to you I have a decent number of followers!

Dave is talking about the time in April when I talked with him on the field before a game.  He had a bunch of Twitter followers, but not a lot. I took a picture with him and then tweeted it out and all of the sudden he had like 300!  Now he has over 2,000, which is a lot more than I have– about 1,500 more!



ENJOY THE ALL STAR BREAK!
WATCH BRYCE HARPER TONIGHT IN THE HOME RUN DERBY.
WATCH TOMORROW AS HE STARTS THE ALL STAR GAME.
AND CHEER FOR JORDAN ZIMMERMANN WHO IS AN ALL STAR BUT NOT PITCHING.

 Let other baseball fans know about my blog (www.mattsbats.com) and Twitter (@MattsBats).  I write almost every day about baseball, and especially the Washington Nationals.  I love getting new followers and RTs.  If you want to receive an email whenever there is a new post you can SUBSCRIBE HERE.


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Matt’s Bats Chat with Frankie, the "Miami Cub Reporter"

While the Miami Marlins are struggling in the NL East, with a record of 13-41, Miami sports fans have a go-to place to read about the city’s struggling baseball team and successful basketball team.  Just like Washington Nationals fans come to “Matt’s Bats” to hear about what’s happening with their favorite hometown team, Miami Heat and Marlins fans go to “Miami Cub Reporter.” And just like Matt’s Bats, Miami Cub Reporter is also written by a kid.

In this Matt’s Bats Chat, I am going to introduce you to Frankie, the Miami Cub Reporter.  Frankie’s blog is mainly about the successful Miami Heat, but he also writes a lot about the Marlins.  Frankie is also a host of the Miami television show “Billy’s Bunch.” He has met Miami sports stars such as LeBron James and Giancarlo Stanton.  A few weeks ago, Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton tweeted out a picture of himself with Frankie, so I got in touch with him to do this interview. 
Matt’s Bats: Thanks for doing this interview.  To start, can you tell me a little about yourself? 
Miami Cub Reporter: My name Is Frankie.  I am 9 years old and I just finished third grade.  I live in Miami, Florida.
MB: Why did you decide to write your blog?  How long have you been writing “Miami Cub Reporter”? 
MCR:  I decided to start a blog because I wanted to share my thoughts on sports with other people.  I started the blog February 2012, the middle of the NBA season.   I actually started off as HeatCubReporter because a cub reporter is a new, young reporter and at that time, I only wrote about the Heat.  In the beginning of this year, I started to write about most Miami sports teams to I changed it to MiamiCubReporter.
MB: I saw on your website that you are involved with something called Billy’s Bunch.  What is that? 
MCR: Billy’s Bunch is a TV show where me and two other kids (both older than me) ask or sometimes learn from players things that kids like to know.  It’s really an inside scoop of the Marlins from a players prospective.  The fun parts are when we interact with the players and especially when there is laughing along the way!  
MB: How did you get on the show?
MCR: To get on it, you had to audition.  They gave me some lines to memorize and then I had to go in and do a mock interview.  They were looking for a fun and exciting kid.  To be honest with you, when I auditioned for it, I didn’t know much about baseball.  I did know all the basics and a lot of players, but you probably know WAY more than me about it.  Though I do know A LOT about basketball.  Believe it or not but I am the youngest one to ever be on the show.  


MB: In a lot of the pictures I’ve seen of you, you’re wearing a bowtie.  Do you always wear one? 

MCR: I do always wear a bow tie.  I started wearing it because on the day of the audition for Billy’s Bunch I thought I needed something that would make me stick out.  My producer loved it and after that, it just stuck.
MB: What’s your favorite sport?
MCR: You probably thought I would say baseball, but since I was 2 or 3 I have LOVED the Heat.  My first time going to a Heat game was when I was 2.  It was actually the year we won the championship against the Dallas Mavericks, 2006.  Since then, I have been lucky to go to almost every single Heat game. 
MB: How many Marlins games do you go to?  
MCR: I really don’t go to that many.  I’ve probably been to about 4 or 5 this season.  
MB: Since you live in Florida, do you go to spring training games?  Did you go to any this year?
MCR: Actually I did go to one.  I got to go because it was the day of a Billy’s Bunch filming.  It was against the Cardinals.  I like spring training because you get to see the rookies or new players that might do really good.  I also find the games very relaxing.
MB: Have you met any of Miami’s sports stars?

MCR: I met LeBron James after a game in New York.  I got a Meet-and-Greet pass and I was able to meet players and tell them about my blog.  I didn’t really ask Lebron any questions because he was just walking by.  

I met Giancarlo Stanton at a filming of Billy’s Bunch.  We tried to see their reactions to celeb-player look-a-likes and also ask a few silly questions.  Stanton was surprisingly nice.  Before meeting him I thought he’d be serious but he was extremely friendly.  After the interview he tweeted about me and posted a picture of us on Instagram.  I wasn’t expecting that!  Both are some of the nicest pro-athletes you’d ever meet.  

MB: Have you met any other many Marlins players?  
MCR: I’ve met a lot because of interviews.  Some of the best players that I’ve met are Chris Coghlan, Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Fernandez and Juan Pierre.  I’ve also met Marlins pitcher Alex Sanabia and Andre Dawson, a Marlins coach and former MLB great.
MB: Over the past few years, I’ve also gotten to meet a bunch of Nationals players, including Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond, Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Mattheus, Drew Storen, Steve Lombardozzi, Danny Espinosa, Ross Detwiler, and Chad Tracy just to name a few.  Well, maybe more than a few.   

MB: Who are your favorite current players, both on and off the Marlins?  
MCR: As of right now, my favorite current player off the Marlins is Miguel Cabrera and my favorite on the Marlins is Juan Pierre.  
MB: Alright, here’s where I need to ask you the tough questions.  On my blog, I have been very critical of the Marlins.  I called them the “Triple A Marlins.”  At 13-41 with another 130 games to play, they really could end up with the worst record in baseball history.  But at the start of the 2012 season, they looked like an All Star team.  Then last year most of the stars were traded away to Toronto, L.A., and Arizona. What do you think about the Marlins breaking up their team after 1 year?  Do you agree with Jeffrey Loria for trading away Ramirez, Reyes, Bell, Buehrle, Bonifacio and others?  
MCR: I think it was a REALY horrible idea.  You can’t just take a team apart the first season they together!  The Heat didn’t win the championship the first season they were together!  They did the 2nd!  The Marlins needed to give they’re players more time to bond and get used to playing together.  And plus, you can’t just give up on your team.  I wish Loria would sell the team to someone who cares about the team and its players.

MB: Well, I agree with that, but it’s not like the Blue Jays are doing so well this year either.  Maybe that combination of players just doesn’t play well together.  Loria did save a whole lot of money by trading them all away!  And I like that the Nats get to play them a lot this year.
Let me get your prediction for the World Series.
MCR: So far, I’m feeling pretty strong about the Detroit Tigers and I think the Braves might get there.  I think the Tigers would win the series in 6 games.
MB: The Braves?  Noooooo!  At the beginning of the season I would have predicted teams like the Dodgers and the Angels.  Now, it could be a match-up like the Cardinals and the Indians.  I really hope the Cardinals don’t make it!  Of course, there’s still a really good chance the Nationals will be playing for the title in October, and nothing would make me happier!
Thanks for talking with me, Frankie.  Nats fans, check out Frankie’s blog Miami CubReporter at www.heatcubreporter.com

TODAY’S GAME
NATIONALS @ BRAVES (CRUCIAL SERIES– Nats either make up ground or fall farther behind)

STEPHEN STRASBURG (3-5, 2.49 ERA) VS. JULIO TEHERAN (3-1, 3.67 ERA)


Let other baseball fans know about my blog (www.mattsbats.com) and Twitter (@MattsBats).  I write almost every day about baseball, and especially the Washington Nationals.  I love getting new followers and RTs.  If you want to receive an email whenever there is a new post you can SUBSCRIBE HERE.

                  IGNITE YOUR MATT-ITUDE!

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!

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