My first crack at writing about baseball started around the beginning of 2015, right when things started happening for the Chicago Cubs. First off, the Cubs’ new manager Joe Maddon and the club’s management had just unveiled left-handed pitcher Jon Lester, in an acquisition from the Red Sox. As Opening Day 2015 loomed, things were looking way up after five straight seasons at the bottom of the division. But most fans were thinking “stay tuned ’til next year”, while the most optimistic of baseball’s experts were saying that at best the Cubs would win 80 games.
Nonetheless, Red Eye, the Chicago Tribune’s plucky free sports entertainment daily tabloid extra, was digging the optimism and wanted to cover the club’s next journey.
Three years earlier, I had gotten the chance to interview Chicago White Sox radio announcer and former relief pitcher Ed Farmer. The circumstances that led to the opportunity were perhaps unusual. I had just donated my kidney to a friend in March 2012. My friend (and the recipient of the organ) Jeffery was a lifelong Chicagoan and Cubs fan. Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White –who I was interviewing one day for a different story– knew about my experience and told me “you should interview Ed Farmer!” Like my friend Jeff, Farmer had received a life-saving kidney donation from his brother in the early 1990s and was happy to talk with me. That interview with Farmer in the summer of 2012 became my first baseball-related interview.
Thereafter, as the Cubs started to ramp it up in their eventual march toward three straight NLCS appearances and a World Series. And Red Eye let me cover all angles. I wrote about Cubs matchups against the Dodgers and Pirates and for fun worked up a who’s who on Dodgers celeb fans and a Cliff’s Notes tab on Pittsburgh lingo. I tackled Cubs-related superstition and curses. I got to talk with millennial Cubs fans about their unique generational experience. And completing the circle, I discovered a story about a huge “Crosstown transaction” — not the Jose Quintana trade, but rather a story about a Cubs fan who had donated his kidney to a 5-year-old Sox fan.
Meanwhile, I made inroads elsewhere. And after connecting with the sports editor at Rolling Stone, conveniently in the fall of 2016, I got to cover the Indians and Cubs, who later met in the Series. Along the way, I got the great opportunity to preview two World Series in 2016 and 2017, while also interviewing some of the game’s best new players —Cody Bellinger, Manny Machado, Frankie Lindor and Astros third baseman Alex Bregman. The pinnacle came for me last fall, when I got to attend the 2017 World Series in L.A.
For me what started out as a hobby in 2009 eventually became the best work gig I had ever had. I love the national pastime and hope to continue to write about baseball for years to come.
Slide photos above by Shutterstock