This is my final column for Baseball America. That sentence tugs at my heartstrings, and to fully understand why, you need to begin by going back two and a half decades.
Growing up in Massachusetts, I was lucky enough to have a father who loved baseball and was always willing to jump in the car to seek out a game somewhere. Our vacations consisted of road trips to exotic locations like Cleveland, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Montreal, Lynchburg, Norfolk, Columbus. When the strike wiped out the 1994 major league playoffs, we decided on a whim to drive to Syracuse for the International League championship series just to get our fix.
Our indispensable traveling companion was always the Baseball America Directory. In the days before Google and GPS navigation, the Directory told us when and where we could find games. Any time I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a copy of Baseball America magazine, I devoured it.
So when I graduated from North Carolina in 2004 and found out BA was hiring an entry-level staff writer, I set my heart on the job. It was either this gig or slink back home to New England with my tail between my legs.
The day of my interview was brutally hot and humid. My beaten-up 1989 Honda Accord was already broken down, and naturally the car I had arranged to borrow from a friend also refused to start that day. Finally I managed to secure a car from another friend and had to trudge back and forth across Chapel Hill in my black wool suit to get the keys, then get the car. By the time I showed up for my interview in Durham two hours later than scheduled, the combination of my slog through the oppressive heat and my fear that I had blown my big chance had taken a toll on me. It's still remembered as the sweatiest interview in Baseball America history.
But Will Lingo (who was then BA's managing editor), John Manuel (assistant managing editor) and Allan Simpson (editor) saw something in me and gave me a shot. I started work the week of the draft and the NCAA tournament, and I was instantly exhilarated by the energy of the place.
You never realize just how little you know about baseball until you start working for Baseball America. I was blown away by the depth of my co-workers' knowledge; the way they thought about and talked about the game was eye-opening and humbling.
My appreciation for the baseball intelligence of my fellow staff writers has only intensified in the decade since. There's something wonderful about listening to John and J.J. Cooper and Matt Eddy burrow into one of their rabbit holes, excitedly exchanging ideas about the minutiae of pitcher development and constantly challenging conventional baseball wisdom. Their passion is infectious.
Shortly after Will and John assigned me to serve as Will Kimmey's apprentice on the college beat in 2005, I discovered that my professional passion was college baseball. Kimmey showed me the ropes, and by the time he left for law school in the summer of 2006, I was ready to take over as the lead college writer. But I was still just 24 years old, and once again Manuel and Lingo showed great faith in me by entrusting me with that important beat.
I learned so much from my three predecessors on the beat—Kimmey, Manuel and Jim Callis. And my editors gave me the freedom to put my own stamp on BA's college coverage. I have remained involved in our draft and minor league prospects coverage as well as the books we produce in the offseason, and I mostly enjoyed getting to wear multiple hats, like all Baseball Americans must. But I connected most with the college baseball community.
That is why I am excited to move on to a new venture that will focus exclusively on college baseball.
This career change is bittersweet. I have made friendships at Baseball America that will last a lifetime—from old co-workers Matt Meyers, Alan Matthews, Chris Kline, Conor Glassey, Nathan Rode, Matt Blood, Clint Longenecker, Kimmey and Callis to current BA staffers Ben Badler, Josh Leventhal, Jim Shonerd, Vince Lara-Cinisomo and Josh Norris. Cooper and Eddy have been here longer than I have, and along with Manuel and Lingo, they give BA a rock-solid foundation.
I can't imagine what my life would have been like if Lingo and Manuel hadn't taken a chance on that sweaty 21-year-old kid a decade ago. I am so grateful to both of them for their guidance and their friendship—I love them like older brothers. They have created an atmosphere that makes it fun to come to work every day, and I hope my joy at getting to work at this place came across in my writing.
Thank you, Baseball America. And thank you, readers.