Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable: Ben Acker’s week with the Grapefruit Gators


To say my family and I were excited that I got accepted into the Spring Training immersion experience would be an understatement. As soon as I got accepted, my mom was already planning a trip to Florida because she wanted to go to Spring Training just as much as I did!

Any time I get to spend with my mom is great, but I think it was especially important for us to spend some quality time together after the passing of her father (& my grandfather) on March 4. Baseball was something we have bonded over our entire lives, so going to games together was a much-needed distraction for us both.

After eight days spent visiting new stadiums and watching baseball, my mom and I can confidently say that Spring Training exceeded all our expectations. We loved all the places we visited, and the weather could not have been more perfect during our week in South Florida. It’s hard to pick just one stadium or place that we loved the most, but I know some of our favorite memories were made at the game between the Red Sox and Rays at JetBlue Park. My grandfather was a massive Red Sox fan, so we know just how much he would have loved the Spring Training home of his beloved Red Sox. It was cool seeing the Rays as well, even though they didn’t play too well that day.

My favorite day of the trip had to be the Braves/Rays game we got credentials for. I was getting to live out a childhood dream that day as I got to be in the press box for the team I’ve loved since I was 8 years old. It was also so cool getting to meet some of the Rays media personalities, many of whom I watch and read on a daily basis.

Before I talk about the journalism side of things, I want to reflect on some of the friends I made during the trip. I only knew a few people in the class to begin with, and I never would’ve thought this class would bring me close with so many people. I loved the conversations I had with people like Michaelea, Zack, Connor, John, Jack and so many others, but I have to give a special shoutout to Madi, Talia and Jesse. I had a blast exploring Tampa with them, and we even found out that Madi and I share the same birthday! It’s sad not knowing when I’ll get to spend time with them again once I graduate, but I am so thankful they came into my life at a time I needed friends the most.

As for the journalism part of the trip, which is why we were there in the first place, I think a quote from Rays broadcaster Doug Waechter sums things up pretty well. Waechter told us about the words he saw in the weight room at Yankee Stadium, which read, “Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.” I couldn’t think of a better way to summarize the trip than that because I stepped out of my comfort zone a ton. First, I had never live-tweeted a sporting event or written a game recap prior to the trip, so being able to do a good job of that with very little experience was something I’m incredibly proud of. Second, for my feature story, I had to approach a group of people during the Rays/Tigers game, which initially was intimidating to me. After I did it, I felt a great deal of accomplishment. The story I did turned out great, so I’m glad I can use that experience as a confidence builder for the rest of my journalism career.

If there’s any advice I could give to future Grapefruit Gators, it would be to use everything that happens on the trip as a learning experience. Was it frustrating not getting credentials? Yes, but it also helped me look for story ideas outside of the traditional player and coach interviews everyone else does. Did I want to cheer for the Rays in the press box? Absolutely, but I learned how not to be a fan, even though I’ve watched every Rays game this season (9-0 btw). Most importantly, I learned to enjoy life a little bit. Not many kids get the opportunity I had, so I wanted to make the most of it. And reflecting on my experience with the Grapefruit Gators, I think I did just that.

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