Fans often want to know what our job is like. They think it might be fun to try, and yes, it’s mostly fun. Fans often think they’d like to be able to ask questions of players, and how fun that must be, too.
It mostly is fun, and it can be a bit challenging to try and come up with new angles in covering a daily sport.
Fans also want to know who is most fun to talk with, and what would it be like having a beer or lunch with these guys. Well, I don’t ever do that, but I do get a chance to know them during the time that the clubhouse is open before and after games.
With that in mind, here are five Orioles you’d like to get to know better:
1) Adam Jones
As the Orioles became a higher profile story, more national media gravitated to Jones because he’s their highest profile player. It helps when a team’s biggest stars are accessible and quotable. Jones is that.
As a rule, we try not to quote the same player game after game. It’s too easy to run to Jones after every game, and the best policy is to try and quote different players. Perhaps you’ll read about Jones in two or three game stories a week, and that’s about right.
He’s an important player, but not the only one.
2) Matt Wieters
Wieters has improved steadily as a player and as a quote during his time in the major leagues. He’s important because as the team’s regular catcher, Wieters can give insight on pitching. He can also talk about hitting.
He is unfailingly polite before games and after. I don’t recall him ever turning down an interview.
3) Pedro Strop
The nicest surprise of last year was finding out that Strop’s English was good, and that he enjoyed dealing with the media. He was good with a quip, too.
Often, we don’t quote Spanish-speaking players because they’re not comfortable speaking English. Most everyone tries, but in 2011, Vladmir Guerrero, who could speak English, wouldn’t because he was self-conscious about it. He used bullpen catcher Rudy Arias as a translator.
Miguel Gonzalez, who was born in Mexico, but came to the U.S. at four, speaks perfect, unaccented English. He’s just not comfortable with it, and admits to still thinking in Spanish. Gonzalez promised that he would become better at his English interviews next season. I’m betting he will.
4) Jim Johnson
The media doesn’t often go to the closer for reaction. Most times, they talk to the starting pitchers instead. They only seek the closer out when he’s blown a save.
That didn’t happen often last season, but when it did, Johnson was always at his locker waiting and answering every question.
He set an example for others.
5) Jason Hammel
After we talk with the manager, it’s time to go to the clubhouse and go to the starting pitcher’s locker. Usually, it’s mandatory. The only time it’s not is when the starting pitcher allows four runs in five innings and the game is 9-8 in 11 innings. Then, they’re not germane to our stories.
Hammel was the most insightful of the starting pitchers, even when he was injured. He was always available and polite and usually offered something different.
Who’s missing on this list?
Manager Buck Showalter is, but that’s an easy crutch. Showalter is easy to deal with both in on and off-the-record sessions. As someone who spent time with ESPN between managing jobs, Showalter has grown to appreciate the role the media plays in covering baseball.
He’s even encouraged players who weren’t terribly cooperative to do so.
The manager is the spokesman for the ballclub. Each day, Showalter meets with us twice: for up to 20 minutes before the game and for about five minutes or so afterward.
The post-game sessions are televised and pertain to the game, though sometimes news is made. The pre-game meetings are usually for background information, but lots of news is made there, too.
Most of the Orioles are willing, if not always eager to deal with us. Ideally, we’d like to be out of the clubhouse 15-20 minutes after a game with usable quotes from the starting pitcher and two or three important players.
We’re trying to convey the most important information to the readers, what we think they’re interested in.