Madi’s Week Being a Grapefruit Gator


After my week covering the MLB Grapefruit League for Spring Training, I realized that much more goes into baseball than the game you watch on the field. The individuals behind the scenes or in front of the camera are just as crucial to a team as the athletes.

While covering the Rays, I spoke with Tricia Whittaker, the sideline reporter for Bally Sports and the Tampa Bay Rays. I was able to talk with her and discuss the criteria of her role, her audience, why it’s essential and more. While I know this is the career path I want to take, I didn’t know how much she had to put in for production to occur, specifically for her pre- and post-game questions, even during Spring Training. I believe the most valuable knowledge I gained from the entire experience was the opportunity to learn from individuals such as her. 

My time getting to know people such as Tricia made my confidence grow in ways that I didn’t realize it could. 

Before this experience, I would have been too timid to reach out to someone of this stature. However, I knew I had to take advantage of the opportunities presented in front of me throughout this week. I put aside all of my self-doubts and learned that these commentators were just people, just like the athletes on the field.

I am proud of the growth in my confidence as a conversationalist. You cannot be afraid of rejection and must ask questions. I learned that nobody could read your mind. If you have something to say or ask, you should do it.

On the other hand, going into the sixth experience, I expected a “free pass”  with media credentials and free reign for everyone who entered this class. Well, this is not exactly what went down. I would not have changed my experience, but I would prepare myself more to do stories that didn’t require access or speaking with an athlete or respected individual. Everyone should be prepared not to get credentials to avoid disappointment throughout the week.

 This week taught me that student journalists must pave the way for themselves in the media world. Many will not be open and inviting to you right away. Instead, you must build relationships and connections with those who can help you get the desired access.

 I was fortunate to receive access to the Pirates, Phillies, and Rays. I had to reach out to these teams and explain who I was, who I wanted to cover, why I wanted to cover them, and what I did with the story. I recommend going this route, as it is the only reason I received multiple credentials.

As the week approached, we were assigned many pieces to help benefit us during our week. What I found most helpful was the contact sheet for each team in the grapefruit league. It came with phone numbers and emails for each team, which I could refer to and use many times throughout my week covering the MLB. Without this assignment, it wouldn’t have gone as smoothly for me; it was beneficial when under the time crunch of wanting to do so many games in just seven days.

What I learned overall from this experience is to build relationships with the people around you, especially those working for your dream organization and your peers with a passion for the same field as you. These will be the people you grow with and who will join these organizations next. The next generation of the sports world will be our peers and us. These relationships are essential and something you can carry throughout your life. I learned that it is important to be selfless in this industry because these relationships that you build can come back and help you one day when you least expect it. The students around me were intelligent and unique individuals throughout the week, and I was so lucky to have such a great class to experience the week with.

 The only thing I encourage anyone to do differently if thinking about coming into this class or wanting to be a part of this experience is to go in over-prepared. Have multiple story ideas for various teams; this way, you have a better chance of getting access to the teams you want. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get access to a big-name team like the Yankees; teams such as the Tigers and the Orioles are willing to help student journalists and very welcoming to our school and class.

Overall, My week covering the MLB Grapefruit spring training League was one of my favorite Spring Breaks. I learned I laughed, watched baseball, and created relationships with peers and people I admire. I recommend a program like this, it is a once-in-lifetime opportunity, and I’m grateful to have had this experience. #GrapefruitGatorsAlways 


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