You got that first baseball job! Congratulations, you’re working for a team doing play-by-play for every game, home and road. You’ll be traveling with the team on their bus or plane as well. Sounds like all fun and games right?
It is a fun job, but it is a job and you have some responsibilities to consider. The biggest, of course, is presenting a great broadcast every night. Your other huge task is to establish a relationship and trust with the players, coaches and front office members of the team you’re working for.
I don’t believe that there is one exact way to go about this, but a few things have worked for me over the years.
1. Talk to people as a human being, not a media member
There is nothing more frustrating for an athlete or coach than a media member talking to them only when needing an interview. Some players have told me over the years that nobody ever just tries to talk to them as human beings, not as a baseball player.
To me, one of the worst things you can do, is always approach a player with the microphone extended and recorder ready to go. He’s going to see you as using him for just your benefit. Well he’s right in one respect, you need him to do your job, but you don’t always have to make it a job for him to talk to you for your pregame show.
Listen, you should always be talking to the players and you should always be visible to them. It never hurts to just ask a question about a situation in a game without your recorder going. Approach them during good times and bad times for them on the field. Don’t get a reputation of being a “front runner”.
I had a player I covered while with the Cubs who had a difficult season. I always walked up to him to say hello and would ask him questions so that I could learn about what he was going through. So, after he had a big game, I asked to interview him for the pregame show. He agreed to do it. One of his teammates who had a locker next to this player said, “oh yeah now you want to talk to him,” and shook his head, basically accusing me of being that front runner. The player quickly came to my defense and said, “it’s all good, he talks to me every day no matter what.” Man did I appreciate that. It gave me some good credibility in the clubhouse as well.
You have access to these players, use that time to learn about them and the game. Players and coaches can be valuable resources for your own knowledge and to make your broadcast sound better.
2. Do not betray trusts
You are going to find yourself in a unique position. Once you’ve built up the relationships and trust you have to be very careful not to betray the person who gave you the information. If you do, they’ll likely never trust you again.
In San Diego a front office member would come into the radio booth a day before the trade deadline and tell us all the moves the team was looking to make. He did this so we’d have time to research some of the players and learn about any minor leaguers that may be dealt. We so appreciated the heads up on things because then we sounded knowledgeable once the moves were made. In effect, we could script our ad libs for the next day.
If we would have blabbed about that information before we got the go-ahead, can you imagine what the repercussions would have been? Since my broadcast partner and I worked for the team, we would have had some trouble on our hands.
Now my partner had been with the organization for a long time, but I was relatively new. I made sure I developed the relationship with this front office person early in my tenure, during Spring Training as a matter of fact.
If there is trust, the information given to you early can make you look/sound like a genius on radio or TV.
On occasion you’ll have someone that no matter what you do, doesn’t trust you and won’t tell you anything. I had such an experience with a college basketball coach. I was hired to do some TV games and replaced someone that he liked and had known for many years.
Several times I tried to just have a conversation with him to get to know the person. He was uninterested. I finally gave up. There had to be another way to get information and there was. I had developed a good relationship with an assistant coach on his staff. That person knew of me from some previous work and at least gave me a chance.
You can’t take this personally. You have to remain focused on the job at hand and try to work around your obstacles.
3. Get out ahead of any issues
I had one such event happen while I was working in San Diego. While in the midst of the broadcast, I had a slip of the tongue and something I said, didn’t come out right. After thinking about it, I concluded that what I said could have been taken badly by the player or his family.
I felt horrible about it. This was a player I’d already established a great relationship with. In this day and age of social media word travels fast. Whether the information conveyed to the player is actually what I said is another story.
With that in mind, as soon as the game ended, I headed to the clubhouse. I waited out the media that had been gathered around the player for postgame interviews, then I approached. Being straight up with him was my approach. Telling him what I said and what I meant to say was extremely important to me.
He listened and was smiling in appreciation of me being there to talk to him face-to-face. The player knew me and knew that I would never have intentionally gone down that road. He shared with me that his wife had already heard from a few family members via text and of course the information the family shared was not even close to what I inadvertently said.
Long story short, I’m very glad I went straight to him and avoided any future issues and put out whatever fire was burning.
4. Be professional
Bottom line here, be a professional. Use your common sense and trust in your ability to make the right decisions. Oh yeah, have fun too.