On Monday, May 15, 2017, I experienced my first ever game as a writer for “It’s About The Money” from the vantage point of the press box.
The game I attended featured the Columbia Fireflies against the Lakewood BlueClaws, two single-A teams in the South Atlantic League. As a writer for a Yankees blog, I didn’t go to report on the game necessarily, as Columbia is a Mets farm team and Lakewood resides in the Phillies organization. Rather, I attended to watch the biggest name player in the league, a former Heisman Award winning quarterback, now trying his hand at baseball, Tim Tebow.
The following is a short recap, not necessarily of the game, but of the experience as a first time sportswriter covering a game.
First Energy Park, in Lakewood, New Jersey is the home of the BlueClaws. The faculty is beautiful and easy to get to from the Garden State Parkway. There was ample parking available. The staff at the ballpark were friendly and welcoming. The ballpark had a great feeling to it. There was a good deal of energy. I had never before been to First Energy Park, but it was a great place to watch a ballgame.
Many of the fans at the game were reclining on the grassy hills just beyond the outfield fences. There were also two picnic areas close by. The sightlines were clear from every vantage point. Since Lakewood is at the Jersey Shore, many of the displays had a beach theme. There were a few large sized lifeguard stands for fans to sit on as they enjoyed the ball game. The seagulls were a natural element who flew in and of the park and added to the beachy feel.
The schedule originally called for one game that day, but a previous rainout and scheduling forced a single-admission double header. Since I was arriving from work, I arrived at the park in the top of the fourth inning. As I entered the stadium, from the behind home plate entrance, Tim Tebow was batting.
I didn’t see him bat for very long, he struck out looking.
As I walked around the small stadium, I noticed a plethora of Tim Tebow jerseys – of all types. Many fans were wearing Tebow football gear with the Florida Gators, Denver Broncos, and New York Jets jerseys the most prevalent. A few fans wore Tebow’s Columbia Fireflies jersey. There was a common theme at the park. As one fan said, “We’re all here for Tebow.”
As a new reporter, I only got one “scoop” about Tebow – and it came from the guy who grilled and sold the sausages. “I have five brots for Tebow for in-between the games,” he said. If nothing else, I now know that Tim Tebow also enjoys ballpark food.
I spent the first game just enjoying the stadium. Tebow only had one other at-bat that I saw – flying out in the 6th inning to deep left field. The first game ended after seven innings, a rule followed in the minors for double-headers..
It was for the second game that I ventured to the press box.
The first positive experience was that all of the writers and other personnel in the press box were friendly. I introduced myself to each and they each welcomed me. When I shared that I wrote for the ESPN Sweet Spot Network, they seemed duly impressed. In short, I was welcomed as a member of their special fraternity.
Some of the writers from major media outlets, including The New York Post, nj.com, and others These writers had seats at the writing counter overlooking the field labeled and reserved for them. It seemed that the regular writers had reserved spots as well. As someone not part of the daily assignments, and not working for a major paper, I didn’t have my own spot and took a seat at the far right of the back row – an obstructed view seat that only allowed me to see from the pitcher’s mound to the left side of the field.
After the line-ups were announced and it was clear that Tim Tebow wouldn’t be playing in the second game, some writers left. As such, a seat opened that allowed me to see the whole field.
The view from the press box was amazing. This was a great place to watch a game. Still, there was an interesting dynamic…of course there is no cheering in the press box, even I knew that, but even with that, there was a very real distance from the rest of the ballpark in an almost surreal way. Were at the game, but we weren’t “at the game” in the same ways fans were. The press box, it is clear, is a place of work.
I enjoyed witnessing a baseball game from this vantage point, but was a little frustrated with myself because while I gathered all the press notes for the game, I left my reading glasses at work and had to struggle to read anything of note.
I made some other notes for myself (in addition to “Don’t forget your glasses"). I came wearing a suit, dress shirt, and tie (it was a baseball tie), but I was over-dressed for the occasion. There was more of a casual atmosphere in the press box. I also brought a notebook and pen, and, as such, was the only guy in the box without a laptop.
The other interesting dynamic I observed was the seriousness that prevailed in the box. These people were at work and work is serious. There wasn’t a lot of banter, instead the writers were focused on the task at hand – reporting on the game. Since this is not my profession, I was able to leave my worries at the stadium’s gate, but for the writers, they were at their place of toil.
I most enjoyed the vantage point of observing the sky turn from afternoon to evening to night –seeing the blue sky turn grey and then black with the green outfield basking in the glow of the bright lights.
Just as ballplayers learn their craft in the minor leagues, I was learning mine. I learned the dynamics and expectations of the press box. I learned what to expect and how to prepare myself for the next time.
I plan to attend a few games this summer where I hope to report on various Yankees prospects and, as such, will focus more on the game than the experience itself. But this first trip was necessary for me to learn what I would need to do to on future visits to ballparks.
I am at the age, not quite 50 (but I’ll be there soon) where retirement is on the distant horizon. I’m not nearly ready, or old enough, but as I sat in that press box and took it all in, I did wonder if this might be my way of spending parts of my summers many years from now.
I do know this, I'll be back at Lakewood. It was a great ballpark full of welcoming people. It was a great place for me to get my start!