My spring break covering MLB Spring Training was nothing short of incredible. It was a grand intersection of my obsession with the sport that started as a child and has evolved into my professional pursuit. Through this program, I took advantage of the opportunity to broadcast two games, one at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter for the Miami Marlins and one at Tropicana Field for the Tampa Bay Rays.
Thanks to @SportsCJC for sending me to MLB Spring Training to broadcast a pair of games this week! Astros/Marlins in Jupiter and Braves/Rays at the Trop!
Also amazing to meet a mentor of mine, @RichOnSports
— Ethan Eibe (@EthanEibe) March 17, 2023
I know I must take any chance to improve as a journalist and broadcaster. What better place to test my skills than in a Major League setting? I spent weeks preparing for these broadcasts while researching every single player on five rosters that were triple the usual size due to the influx of minor leaguers during spring training. I found every second I spent working on this prep to be worth it because you never know what is going to come up in a broadcast, be it a random stat or story I require at a moment’s notice.
Receiving credentials for three days at Marlins camp and one afternoon in St. Petersburg allowed me to meet other media members, many of them broadcasters, who are where I want to be one day. I spent 45 minutes watching Marlins batting practice on the field while chatting up Paul Severino and Tommy Hutton, two Marlins television personalities. Marlins radio play-by-play broadcaster Kyle Sielaff offered me valuable career advice as I approach graduation in a few years. Meeting Rays broadcasters Neil Solondz, Andy Freed, Doug Waechter and Rich Hollenberg was also amazing. These are connections that I intend to nurture and expand upon.
That is perhaps the most important strength of this program at UF CJC. Whether you receive credentials or not, you have an opportunity to put yourself in uncomfortable situations that can lead to growth. Those situations unfold in the conversations you have with others. What it comes down to is pushing past the hesitation you may feel and taking that leap of faith just to leave an impression behind, however fleeting it may be. That’s the mentality I took into my coverage when I found myself surrounded by other journalists and athletes in locker room situations.
I owe a huge thank you to the Miami Herald’s Jordan McPherson, a former Gator who showed me the ropes on my first day at Roger Dean and was willing to let me follow him around the Marlins locker room like a lost dog as he worked the room. I saw the connections he had with the players unfold before my eyes and through his example, I realized what it would take to push past my starstruck fandom and form productive relationships.
We approached Marlins first baseman Garrett Cooper in the locker room after he was removed from a game. After discussing his performance, Jordan ended the interview by asking Cooper about his daughter’s approaching first birthday. Cooper smiled and let his personal side shine through. He was willing to open up to Jordan because he felt comfortable with the relationship they had built.
Jordan told me to treat the players with courtesy, as your presence in their personal space is to complete your job. Most importantly, Jordan reminded me to treat them as people. Some are willing to talk. Some are not. All will respect you if you go about your business the right way.
I put this to the test the next morning when I approached former Gator and current Marlins reliever AJ Puk with an interview request. At first, Puk rebuffed me as he had a meeting to attend. After he returned to the locker room, I simply said, “Hey AJ, now a good time?”
Puk agreed and gave me several minutes of his time. I am very proud of the story that resulted. He reflected on his time in Gainesville and allowed me to look into his mentality of proving himself in a new clubhouse.
Another highlight was interviewing Marlins rookie manager Skip Schumaker several times over the course of the week. He was the interview I was most nervous to do, but I found myself becoming more confident in my questions as the week moved along. Skip always gave very in-depth answers, especially when I asked him to evaluate Jazz Chisholm Jr.’s transition to center field.
All in all, my week covering Spring Training was an unforgettable experience. Future Grapefruit Gators can expect to find a niche in this program. I spent my time working on my play-by-play, interviewing and networking skills. Whether you have the benefit of credentials or not, you have the opportunity to take a dive into the world of baseball coverage and put your content creativity to the test.