Spring Training 2023: Jesse’s Reflection


After playing baseball every season, year-round for 17 years straight, I spent the first spring break of my life outside of the dugout without a jersey on. Following 4 surgeries and deciding to call it quits on a lifelong dream, I decided to pursue a sports journalism degree at UF. In the first few weeks of being on campus, I saw a flyer for the MLB Spring Training Immersion Experience on my way to class one day. I read you could apply and there were only a certain number of spots available. Me being starstruck at the opportunity, I grabbed the flyer and folded it up into my backpack in hopes that selfishly no one else would see the flyer and compete with me getting a spot because I wanted it so bad haha.

As I was going through a case of seasonal depression with a mix of separation anxiety from seeing all my former teammates gearing up for a season, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to transition off the field and stay connected to the game I love and am so passionate about.

Looking back, the main thing I learned from a phenomenal week was that I really can make a career for myself in this industry and do indeed have the tools to be successful. Since transferring in as a junior, I’ve felt like I’m playing catch up due to being surrounded by extremely talented individuals in the journalism college and Weimer Hall. However, through being open to everyone I meet, learning when to listen and be a sponge to soak up helpful information, and just being confident in everything I do, I now realize God has me exactly where He wants me and I am more capable than I was telling myself.

I was definitely the most proud of my willingness to be confident in walking up to players and personnel, introducing myself and establishing connections, but also knowing when to dial it back and just listen to what they have to say. I’m not sure I would change anything about this experience, except for the fact that a vast majority of my credentials came from personal emails being sent in comparison to MLB Press Box requests. Being able to show your genuine motivation and being objective goes further into getting the chance you want. It didn’t happen right away, but being consistent and reaching out ahead of time (days and weeks in advance) definitely could make a world of a difference in the future.

During the week, there were a few times where I was sitting in limbo, waiting to see which ballclubs would accept my credential and who was letting me do what. I ended up staying in Tampa 2 extra days because one team was giving me more access and being open, while another team was failing to even respond until the day of. To become available, I researched many different players to have a plan of action and make the best of the opportunity that each team gave me to get my foot in the door. I realized that the more detailed and specific you are, the better chance you have to get access.

Devising a prospective game schedule and describing what my plan was for coverage of each game was extremely helpful. This not only motivated me to sit down and brainstorm what I wanted to do, but gave me a visual to look at and craft the perfect schedule for myself as well.

Overall, I created some memories that I will never forget, forged friendships with some incredible people that will go on to have very successful careers, and see the other side of sports that I never truly understood before stepping off the field. Not only was this a form of therapy for myself, but was a true pleasure having the opportunity to see the other side of a sport I have always been in love with. I now have a better understanding of what it takes to be an effective journalist and writer in sports, and I plan to grow every day from here on out. Thank you so much to Eric Esterline and everyone involved that made this immersion experience possible for me to enjoy, I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.

Til’ next time with Love,

Jesse Simmons

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