A Wonderful Ride
SEE ALSO: A Legacy To Uphold
My first week at Baseball America was back in September 1996, and then-prospect Vladimir Guerrero was on the cover of the magazine. Working at BA was a different gig back then. I filed some photos, went on food runs for Jim Callis and Will Lingo and tried to learn from and listen to BA founder Allan Simpson. The knowledge in the office was daunting; I know where the phrase “out of my depth” comes from. I experienced it first-hand.
With time, I adjusted, covering the college beat after Jim left BA for two years and taking to the wider latitude afforded by the 1999 launch of BaseballAmerica.com. The next year, I not only got married to Becky Kirkland—by far the luckiest thing that’s ever happened to me—but I also spent a full year of wall-to-wall college beat work online and covered the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
Five years later I was promoted, with Lingo, to co-editor-in-chief, starting a dozen years at the helm of Baseball America. I considered it a privilege and tried to cover the game with passion, integrity and a depth of knowledge to earn readers’ respect and subscription.
That’s been my goal and I have done my best to meet it. But after 21 years, I had started to look for new challenges and have found one with the Minnesota Twins, for whom I’ll work in the professional scouting department.
In honor of my time at BA, I decided to write one last top 10 (in addition to the Cubs Top 10 which will be online soon!)—my top 10 BA moments.
10. 1998 College World Series: You never forget your first. Mine ended with Southern California's insane 21-14 win in the title game against Arizona State. I’ve been to every CWS since but two. I will greatly miss the Series and Omaha.
9. The 2000 Olympics: Ben Sheets faced Daisuke Matsuzaka in the first game, and Sheets three-hit Cuba to win the gold medal. I’ve been wearing people out with Sydney stories for 17 years. That won’t change.
8. Jim Callis: Jim came back to BA in 2000, before leaving for good in 2013, and we made several trips to Omaha together, as well as Futures Games and much more. He was a mentor, a sounding board, an example and a fast friend. I’m not sure anyone knows more about baseball than him. On top of it all, he’s hilarious. My favorite Jim story was the year he finished a Prospect Handbook by writing the Cubs top 30, one report at a time, while the rest of the book was being sent to press. He cranked an entire Top 30 on deadline.
7. USA Baseball’s 2003 Collegiate National Team: It was the first one for the organization after it relocated to Cary, N.C. and it was a great team, led by Jered Weaver, Justin Verlander, Dustin Pedroia and closer Huston Street. The Pan Am Games semifinal that summer, which I didn’t attend, is an all-time favorite game. The 3-2 win against Mexico included a Pedroia-Verlander dustup in the dugout as well as Street pitching 8.2 innings of relief in a 14-inning victory. I’ve told that story so many times, I’m sure other BA staffers can now recite it by heart.
6. Becoming editor in chief in the spring of 2005: We had a fantastic staff at that time and it made my job easier. Chris Kline and Alan Matthews have gone on to scout for two clubs; Matt Meyers and Aaron Fitt have progressed to other jobs in media, while J.J. Cooper joins Matt Eddy in shepherding BA into the future. A staff meeting at Cracker Barrel of all places was when the staff gave me the confidence to do the job the way I wanted.
5. Will Lingo: My partner in the job for more than 20 years, we had adjoining offices for roughly a decade with a door cut between to facilitate communication. I called it the “corridor of power,” which amused Will. I think a lot of what I did amused Will, and we complemented each other well managing the staff and magazine.
I’ve been fortunate to work with a lot of great people at BA, but in Jim and Will, I found friends who made me a better person.
4. The first BA podcast: It featured Will and me in October 2006. BA has done hundreds since, and I’ve probably been on 75 percent of them. From 2007-14, Aaron and I recorded the college podcast together every week during the spring, and those were tremendous fun.
J.J. also has been a great podcast running mate, and we did a lost pod as part of our 2013 World Baseball Classic madness that was an all-time favorite.
3. MLB Network: Working Arizona Fall League games (2011-14) and the draft (2014-17) were major highlights. Thank you, MLB Network and producers Chris Pfeiffer and Marc Weiner for giving me the platform.
2. Winter Meetings Gala and Prospect Pad: From now-retired Southern coach Roger Cador being amazed that Andrew Benintendi was our College Player of the Year—“You look 14!”—to the Cubs and Royals turning our Gala into World Series celebrations, the Gala, where we handed out our awards, became a Winter Meetings staple. And the Prospect Pad the last two years has gotten us up close and personal with scads of Futures Gamers with interviews, snacks and some actual down time to get to know the players as people. The Gala and Prospect Pad make BA feel big-time.
1. Game Changers: Josh Boyd from 2001-04 was the BA staffer first hired by a club to scout; he’s now the Rangers assistant general manager. Back then he was our hardest worker, hardest bowler and biggest ass-kicker who showed me a new way to cover the game, with such fire and passion. Another was Clint Longenecker, now the Indians’ assistant scouting coordinator. No one worked harder or cared more about me as a boss and person than Clint, who also taught me a great deal about the modern scouting landscape and mentored Carlos Collazo, who will do great things with BA’s draft coverage.
There’s only one Baseball America, and I know I’ll miss it. I drank the Kool-Aid a long time ago, then started making it. I tried to do the job for 21 years with as much passion, humor, zeal and energy as I could muster, and I hope you enjoyed it. Thank you for the opportunity.