It’s Been A Great 10 Years

If you haven’t figured it out by reading this website, Baseball America loves to rank stuff.

It’s amazing to go back, then, and look at the first day of back on April 8, 1999, and realize that we didn’t do a Top 10.

We have spent the last 10 years making up for that oversight.

We’ve also done some things other than ranking stuff, of course. The goal of it all has been to extend the Baseball America brand and point of view to more readers—to cover baseball from a scouting and player development point of view on a daily basis, rather than every two weeks.

The site has changed a lot since it was launched, both in its look (hope you don’t miss the old green and yellow, still evident in many of our archive pages in our draft content) and in its content. We’ve evolved from merely putting the content from the magazine onto the website to having exhaustive web-oriented college, draft and minor league coverage.

And we’ve slightly modernized our process. I love telling this anecdote—Kevin Goldstein (now of Baseball Prospectus) built our website in one of his past lives. When Goldstein was done, we honestly didn’t have a clear plan of who would update it, who would actually put new content on it. James Bailey, Lacy Lusk and I went to lunch one day, bought some HTML books from Barnes & Noble, and decided we’d read up and learn how to do it in case we were asked.

The following Monday, James showed up to work and showed us his new website he’d built for himself. Lacy and I had not cracked a book—I’m pretty sure I played a lot of Civilization that weekend squeezed around college baseball games—and voila! James became our webmaster.

When we launched the site, we had two Internet-ready computers in our entire office. So every morning, James would plug in his computer to the dial-up connection and update the site, then he’d go offline while the rest of us checked e-mail on the “Internet computer.”

That’s how far we’ve come in 10 years. When we all got iMacs a while later, I remember thinking how amazing that was. It opened so many possibilities.

We continue to explore more of those—chats with staff members, player journals (even helping to launch the writing career of Dirk Hayhurst), blogs, podcasts and other web-only features.

Ten years ago, we had no idea where the web would lead. We had an idea it would allow us to blow out events such as the Futures Game (which launched that year) and the College World Series. We didn’t foresee what the web would do to our draft coverage, which (a) crashes our server most years, though we seem to have finally figured that one out, and (b) bought us new computers that first year, when we charged for coverage.

The biggest thing has allowed us to do is spread the gospel of BA, and to spread some of our writers’ careers. As you’ll see below, this website has helped launch some significant careers in the last 10 years.

Because of our approach and the talented people who have worked here over the last 10 years, much of the coverage of baseball has come around to our way of thinking, and many, many outlets now cover the draft, or college baseball, or minor league prospects. In baseball’s information age, we’ve been able to stay viable and vital by taking what we did in print and doing it—better and faster—in a new medium.

It’s been a lot of work. But it’s been a lot of fun. Here are a few highlights:

• 2000 Olympics coverage. A personal highlight: The Ben Sheets vs. Daisuke Matsuzaka opener.

• No one covers the CWS like we do, and I had some fun back in 2002, going Larry King style at the end of the column, which naturally turned out to revolve around food.

• Our 20th Anniversary celebration: In 2001, we looked back on 20 years of Baseball America.

• Dirk Hayhurst’s diary has had many high points; here’s a personal favorite.

• Chris Kline’s participatory journalism excursion through the Pirates system, which of course now employs him as a scout. Here’s the wrapup of his stint with the club.

• Jim Callis has been writing Ask BA since June of 2001, and he took over from Josh Boyd (and his predecessor, Ask BA’s original writer, James Bailey).

• Will Kimmey (about to finish law school and a college baseball commentator for ESPN) was our Web editor before he covered colleges for us for three years, and also chronicled age discrepancies that cropped up after 9/11 and tighter checks on visas.

• BA founder Allan Simpson invented draft coverage; walk through our archives on our current site, and you’ll see how our coverage basically prompted Major League Baseball to realize that people gave a damn about the draft.

• From that same time frame, here’s a sampling of what made Josh Boyd (now the Rangers’ manager of pro scouting) our Prospect Maven. It’s a spring ’03 matchup of Leo Nunez vs. Hanley Ramirez. Josh also is one of two BA writers who went to scout school, then became a scout (Alan Matthews, now of the Rockies, also has done it). Here’s a link to Josh’s Scout School diaries, and here’s an example of what the Rockies saw in Alan, with one of our first Draft Blog posts of when Alan went to see Madison Bumgarner in a high school start.

• We’ve had two World Baseball Classics by now, but Alan Schwarz (now of the New York Times) broke the news of the WBC starting up back in 2005.

• No one covers the international signing period like BA; heck, no one comes close. But this year, Ben Badler took our already insane coverage to a new level.