Good Luck Friend

Nobody likes goodbyes. But as you’ll read, this is the end of Jim Callis’ time with Baseball America.

Jim has spent nearly all of his working life with BA. He started as an intern in 1988, and except for a three-year absence working for STATS Inc. in the late 1990s, he has been with us ever since. Now he leaves to work for MLB.com.

lingo250132I say “us,” but he was actually here well before I was, hiring me in 1994 as an assistant editor. I became managing editor when he left for STATS in 1998, so our professional lives are incredibly intertwined, as are our personal lives. As he takes his oldest child, son A.J., off to college this week, I can’t help but remember when A.J. was born, or ran around my backyard as a toddler the first time we said goodbye to Jim.

When Jim returned to BA in 2000, he continued to live in Chicago and work for us remotely, so in some ways this departure is easier to take, because we already missed Jim’s daily presence in the office.

In substantial ways, however, it’s harder, because Jim is so much a part of everything we do. His stewardship of Ask BA makes him our public face for many readers, and his work in our draft and prospect coverage is without parallel. Our offseason prospect coverage ran smoothly because of Jim’s guiding hand, and we have never done a Prospect Handbook without him.

In each year’s introduction to the Prospect Handbook I have the opportunity to talk about how much work goes into that book, and how Jim’s standard of quality makes the book what it is. It has been true every year. Jim’s dedication, intelligence and commitment to do things right every time can be understood only by working with him day in and day out.

It can ultimately be boiled down to one word: trust. Years of work have taught me a lot about being an employee and an employer, but nothing is more valuable than working with someone you trust completely; not only to get the work done, but to get it done to a standard that meets or exceeds your own. Ultimately that’s what we want in our entire staff, and Jim is sort of an archetype of the kind of relationship you’re looking for.

Nowhere is that more obvious than in the farewell podcast featuring Jim and Editor John Manuel. I encourage you to listen to it not because they talk about anything life-altering, or even because John breaks down with emotion two-thirds of the way in. (Heck, that was a given.)

More than anything I could write, to me that podcast sums up the best of what it is like to work at Baseball America. Passionate people with common goals who love to talk about baseball and anything else they’re interested in. Shared memories that take us into odd tangents and stories that are probably funny only to us. Work that doesn’t feel much like work, and complete trust in one another.

And that doesn’t change because Jim is leaving. We still have passionate people who love what they do, and though Jim’s absence will be keenly felt, it also presents an opportunity for people to step forward into new roles, as Jim, John and I have in our long tenures at BA.

A visible example is that J.J. Cooper will be taking over Ask BA, but you’ll see other longtime staffers step into new roles as well, and our rare spate of turnover means you’ll see new names in our staff box. Clint Longenecker and Josh Norris have already joined the team, and we’ll be adding more new faces in the coming weeks.

In other words, this is a celebration, not a funeral. Jim is moving on to the next thing, and we certainly celebrate that opportunity for him. While I probably won’t receive Prospect Handbook files from him at 3 a.m. any more, I can still dial his phone number from muscle memory.

And at Baseball America, it’s our opportunity to look confidently into the future and see how we can do things differently and do things even better. The strength of BA has always been that everything we do is about putting out a great product, not self-aggrandizement. We have (and have had) great people, but our focus is on journalism and collaboration. So our Top 100 Prospects list is not Jim’s list, or my list, or John’s list. It’s Baseball America’s list. And while the methodology has evolved (and we would like to think improved) over the years, the 2013 Top 100 is still comparable to the list from 10 years ago or even 20 years ago.

So I won’t say goodbye to Jim. I’ll say, on behalf of everyone at BA, “Good luck, friend,” and look forward to the next chapter for all of us.

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