The press box is some kind of hallowed ground for those who grow up loving baseball. I fondly recall summer days narrated by Ron Santo and Len Casper, Santo’s booming laugh echoing throughout our home.
Much of my life has revolved around the game, so covering spring training with ESPN Gainesville was a unique experience. I went into the week looking to try out sports reporting and catch a few games.
My biggest takeaway from the experience was just how many hours of reporting go into a day. I have a great sense of respect for those who cover spring training and regular season games. While not being able to obtain a press pass for some games was frustrating, it gave me an incentive to look for interesting stories elsewhere. My experience would have been improved had I sent more interview requests to teams. From the experience, I gleaned that I much prefer photographing the game’s special moments to live tweeting.
Tips for aspiring Erin Andrews and Tony Kornheisers:
- Do your research
It’s essential to know about the team’s past few seasons, a few players and key issues the fanbase is talking about. This will give you the background for interviews and help you with story pitches.
- Look for a personal angle/ subject the player is passionate about
Writing a story with one-word answers is not an easy task. Players will give you a much more engaging interview if you ask them about a topic they care about and make a genuine attempt to get to know them.
- Show up early
First pitch is typically at 1:05 p.m., you should arrive around 11 a.m. if you don’t have a press pass, 9 a.m. if you do have a press pass.
- Dress well, but comfortably
Pants and a nicer top work well across the board and still let you appear professional in the press box.
- The away team gets there a lot later, so only plan on getting to speak with players and coaches on the home team.
Sometimes you will be granted clubhouse access, other times you’ll only have field and press box. Note which players you want to interview and ask the media relations on the field if they can help you set it up.
- Parking runs at around $10 per car
There are usually lots close to the field where you can park. Bring cash and don’t worry about walking far.
- Bring sunscreen, but leave aerosol cans at home.
Florida is hot in March. While you’ll probably want to bring a spray-on bottle, it will be filched at the gate. Grab a plastic tube instead and make sure to reapply as burns are a hazard of the job.
- Send interview requests to teams beforehand
Email the team you’re working with interview requests for each player/manager/coach you’d like to talk to a week in advance. Not only will this give the team a chance to get back to you, but it will also allow you to plan your story ahead of time.
- When in the press box: grab the game notes, mingle with experienced reporters (they have a lot to teach you)
The media relations personnel for the team will lay out informational materials that will assist you with writing your story or live-tweeting the game, especially if you aren’t familiar with the team. Make sure to introduce yourself to the other reporters in the press box. They aren’t as intimidating as they look.
- Always: be kind, stay interested and be open to criticism.