A Heartfelt Goodbye To Baseball America

CHICAGO—I didn’t know it at the time, but Baseball America’s Sept. 10-24, 1987 issue would change my life.

The cover story detailed how history was repeating itself, with Jack Clark leading the Cardinals to a pennant 20 years after another former Giants first baseman, Orlando Cepeda, had done the same. But what caught my eye as I opened the magazine was a tiny ad on the bottom of Page 2.

callis250132Baseball America sought an editorial intern. I was about to start my junior year at the University of Georgia, and after covering the Bulldogs’ first-ever trip to the College World Series that spring, I knew I wanted a career of writing about baseball.

Inquiring about that position led to writing a short feature for BA the next spring about Georgia’s rebuilding pitching staff—my first-ever freelance work—and to getting a plum internship the next summer. I spent three months working with founder and editor Allan Simpson on his classic book, “The Baseball Draft: The First 25 Years.”

At the end of the summer, I accepted a full-time job. When I graduated in December 1988, I immediately drove from Athens to Atlanta for the Winter Meetings. Except for three years at STATS, Inc., I’ve never worked anywhere else.

But now my 23 years at Baseball America are coming to an end. I’ll still cover prospects and the draft, but starting in September, I’ll do so for MLB.com.

Family, Not Co-Workers

I’m excited about the opportunity at MLB.com and the team I’ll work with there. At the same time, I’ll miss Baseball America. It feels like leaving behind family members, not co-workers.

BA will continue to thrive under the leadership of president/publisher Lee Folger, director of editorial and operations Will Lingo and editor in chief John Manuel. I’m proud to have hired Will and John as the magazine’s managing editor in the mid-1990s, but our friendship means even more.

Jim Callis (right) presents an award to Theo Epstein at Baseball America's 2008 gala

Jim Callis (right) presents an award to Theo Epstein at Baseball America’s 2008 gala

I’ll miss planning and executing the Prospect Handbook with Will, creating the industry’s definitive source on prospects. I’d be lying if I said my winters won’t be a lot less hectic without it, though I’ll still spend them discussing “The Amazing Race” with Will and competing against him in fantasy football.

My youngest daughter laughs at how animated John and I get when we talk, whether it’s about putting prospects in order, the merits of the Southeastern Conference vs. the Atlantic Coast Conference or the moral implications of sports-utility vehicles. I look forward to many more years of those conversations, and to convening for whiskey steak dinners at The Drover during the College World Series every June.

The rest of BA’s editorial crew will continue to bring you baseball news you can’t get anywhere else. I’ve enjoyed working with Ben Badler, J.J. Cooper, Matt Eddy, Aaron Fitt, Josh Leventhal and Jim Shonerd, as well as Conor Glassey and Nathan Rode, who left BA earlier this summer. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Clint Longenecker and Josh Norris, who were hired to replace Conor and Nathan, and I’ll look forward to reading their work.

Many Influences

I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank a few people who helped shape my career at Baseball America but are no longer with the company.

The first is Allan Simpson, who hired me all those years ago. I share his unshakable enthusiasm for the draft and player development, but I’ll never match (no one can) his passion for all things baseball. Today’s explosion of draft and prospect coverage all stems from Allan starting BA in his garage 32 years ago, and from his wife Jill supporting his crazy dream. Here’s hoping the baseball writers one day give Allan the J.G. Taylor Spink Award he deserves.

Jon Scher was a terrific mentor as an editor and writer. Danny Knobler and I barely overlapped, but he provided me with valuable career guidance (and my first apartment). When we had a tiny staff and a seemingly endless to-do list in my early days at BA, James Bailey, Dean Gyorgy, Dave Hardee and the late John Royster made them go by more smoothly and enjoyably.

Alan Schwarz and Mike Berardino raised the bar for everyone who wrote for BA, and the two stories that stand out for me the most during my time here are Alan’s profile of Brien Taylor and Mike’s of Pat Gillick. I owe Alan a debt I can never repay, because I met my wife on a blind date he set up in August 1992. I was engaged five months later and just celebrated my 20th anniversary with four wonderful children.

I’m running out of room to mention everyone at BA who made an impact on me, so I’ll stop with Josh Boyd. Josh redefined the quality and depth of our scouting reports, inspiring all of us to dig deeper than ever before.

Since I made the decision to go work for MLB.com, I’ve had a number of people thank me for what I’ve done for Baseball America. But really, it should be the other way around. Thanks, guys.