SSTN Interviews Baseball Journalist Elizabeth Muratore
SSTN: Today we are here with sports journalist Elizabeth Muratore. Elizabeth is an editorial producer for MLB.com, and she writes for Rising Apple and Girl at the Game. Elizabeth is an editor for IBWAA’s newsletter “Here’s the Pitch,” and also co-hosts the Cohen’s Corner podcast.
Elizabeth, welcome to Start Spreading the News.
To begin, please tell us how you became a baseball fan.
I first started watching baseball regularly back in 2006. My dad grew up in Queens as a big Mets fan, and that season, the Mets were really good all year. He was watching a lot of the games, and I think I just started watching with him and absorbing the excitement. Around that time, he was also teaching me and my sisters how to play catch, so we’d spend weekend afternoons in our backyard throwing a ball around and listening to the Mets on the radio. That was the first year I really got to know the Mets and became familiar with players like David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and the rest of the stars on that team. My family also went to a few games that year, one of which Wright hit a grand slam at, so that added to the excitement. As it turns out, that ‘06 team was probably the best Mets team I have watched so far in my baseball fandom, so I probably should have appreciated it more, but I’ve been closely following the Mets mostly without interruption ever since then.
We’re a Yankees site, of course, and you’re a big Mets fan. (It’s all good, we welcome all!) 2021 was a better year for the Yankees than the Mets, but, long-term which team do you feel is looking better for the next few years?
Both teams underachieved this year, based on different standards. I’m sure Mets fans would have been thrilled to even make it to the Wild Card Game, honestly. Over the next few years, the Mets will be under scrutiny as new owner Steve Cohen looks to make good on his hope to bring a championship to Queens within the first few years of his ownership. I’d feel better about the Mets if they had more quality pitching in the Minor League pipeline closer to the big leagues, as I think their pitching depth is going to wear thin very soon over the next couple of years without a couple of big splashes.
However, the Mets do have several exciting position player prospects in the pipeline, such as Francisco Alvarez, Ronny Mauricio, Mark Vientos, and Brett Baty. If even a couple of them pan out, that could give the Mets the truly potent lineup that they’ve been searching for since about 2008. Honestly, though this year was a bust for the Mets, I’m feeling pretty good about them over the next few years, since the fanbase is still sort of in the “new owner halo” even after a disappointing year.
The Yankees, for all the complaining that I’ve heard about their front office and coaching regime, seem to always develop a winning culture and make the playoffs. However, I’m not sure if the Yankees have a lot of top prospects ready in the Minors that will make a huge impact over the next couple of years to offset aging regulars and departing free agents, so based on that alone, I’ll say that the Mets might look better in that department for the next few years. However, I do definitely think that with the roster the Yankees have right now, they’re probably closer than the Mets are to competing for a World Series, since they’ve actually made it to the playoffs more recently than the Mets have.
Many Yankees fans (including me) wanted the Yankees to acquire Francisco Lindor. The Mets acquired him. Lindor’s 2021 wasn’t great. Do you think he’ll bounce back? In retrospect, do you wish that he had become a Yankee instead of a Met?
I’m very happy that Lindor is a Met and not a Yankee! I do think that adjusting to a completely different market in New York vs. Cleveland may have taken a toll on his offensive numbers and may have affected him mentally more than fans expected. I am fairly confident that he’ll hit better next year, though of course I don’t have a crystal ball. Lindor, unlike his good friend Javier Báez, has never won a World Series, so I think his drive to contribute to a championship team and his further adjustment to New York media and fans will allow him to settle in a bit more next season and hit with more impact over a full season.
You are making a name for yourself in sports journalism already being very active with MLB.com, the IBWAA, and FanSided among others. What are your long-term aspirations in this field?
I really enjoy both the writing I do for FanSided and other sites, as it allows me to express myself and craft entertaining baseball-related stories that others enjoy reading. However, I also love the editing and digital production that I’ve done for the IBWAA, and in a larger setting at MLB.com. Ultimately, I would love to carve out a niche for myself that allowed me to do both baseball writing and editing/producing as part of my full-time role. Long-term, I would love to be some sort of editorial or content director at a major sports media outlet.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced in this field?
One of the biggest challenges so far, for me, about working in sports is accepting the unpredictability of the industry, which manifests in multiple ways. I started working in sports while there was a global pandemic going on, which obviously affected sports greatly and drastically shrunk the sports-related job market for a long time. In terms of the day-to-day challenges, it’s a lot of fun not knowing exactly what my day will bring, but it also makes it a bit more challenging to schedule the rest of my life when sometimes my schedule is up in the air.
In addition, I didn’t study journalism in college or work solely towards a full-time career in sports while in college, so when I started really having an inkling that I might want to work in sports, it was after I had already graduated. I spent about a year and a half doing writing and editing for other sports websites, including the IBWAA, while working a separate full-time job before I started working at MLB.com. The challenge there was building up my network and experiences outside of a college environment to a point where I’d be qualified to work somewhere like MLB. However, in this day and age, it is remarkably easy to create content and share it with people online, so I trusted that continuing to do good work for all of my part-time involvements would eventually pay off.
Why, do you believe, are people so drawn to baseball and its stories, legends, and people?
Baseball has been around longer than any other team sport, in a professional form, so first of all, there simply is more baseball history for fans to reflect on. But somehow, I feel like baseball fans are more interested in its history than perhaps fans of other sports are interested in that sport’s history. That history has created many larger-than-life legends who played before there were TV broadcasts, so there is very little footage of them today. Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, Ted Williams and co. feel almost like mythical creatures, and they remain fascinating for newer baseball fans who decide to dig in and learn the sport’s rich history.
The sport itself, at its best, is very cinematic. Generally speaking, only one thing happens at a time in a baseball game, which makes it a good subject for movies because the camera can easily track the game’s literal and dramatic arc. There’s a certain elegance and grace to baseball that, at its best, can be quite breathtaking, and I think those moments are what baseball fans live for.
Because of its long and storied history, the image of baseball has become so rooted in nostalgia and Americana that it almost feels like it harkens back to a simpler time. Watching a baseball game and knowing that the sport has been played for, basically, the same way for over a century can add to the historical aura of the game. In addition, all of the movies and books that have already been created about baseball have further compounded its image as a sport with a strong nostalgic tinge.
There’s a lot of talk about baseball needing to be “fixed.” Is baseball broken? If you were the Commissioner of Baseball what change(s) if any would you make to the current game?
I don’t think the actual game of baseball needs any more rule changes. What I do think needs some more attention are the broadcasting booths. Many people watch more games on TV than they do in the stadium, and due to the nature of baseball’s pace, there is a lot more room for conversation within a baseball game than with other sports.
I feel like I’ve been spoiled with the entertainment value of the Mets’ broadcasts over the years, from both their announcers and the SNY production crew as a whole, and I wish that more teams were as creative with their in-game production and as thoughtful with their commentary. When I watch other teams on TV, their broadcasts feel a lot more flat, more by-the-numbers, and don’t enhance the product on the field.
If more teams had announcers even a fraction as entertaining, charismatic, thoughtful, and creative as Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling, I think there would be a lot more younger viewers who would watch a game on TV, get hooked on the sport and devoted to a team, and become locked in as fans.
In looking at the history of the Yankees, or baseball in general, what person or event would you like to see a book written about?
I would love to see a proper biography written about the Mets’ original owner, Joan Payson. She was the first woman to purchase a Major League Baseball team and steered the team from “Lovable Losers” to World Series champions in a remarkable seven years. Payson was beloved by the Mets players and had a good relationship with the fans as well. She also had a very interesting upbringing and devoted herself to many causes besides baseball. To my knowledge, there has been no biography written solely about her, at least not one that’s currently in print. Perhaps that’s a project I’ll aspire to take on one day, if no one else already has!
In the book and the movie The Natural, the main character wants nothing more than to walk down the street and have people say, “There goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was.” Who was the best baseball player you ever saw?
I’ve only been watching baseball regularly since about 2006, so my answer will be a little skewed towards recent players. When I think about the best player I’ve watched in my lifetime so far, I remember how dominant Albert Pujols was at the plate and in the field over the first few years of my baseball fandom. In terms of a player that inspired awe in me the most, the 2006-2010 era of Pujols, in which he won two MVPs, two Gold Gloves, and three Silver Sluggers, is probably the overall best player I’ve watched in my lifetime.
Our final question is really just a collection of short answers…
What was your favorite baseball team growing up?
I’m sure this interview made it pretty clear, but the Mets were my favorite team growing up and will always be my team.
Who was your favorite player?
Jacob deGrom is, and will always be, my favorite Mets player.
What is your most prized collectible?
I’m not sure if this is really a collectible, but one of my most prized possessions is the baseball glove my dad gave me when I was a kid and I used to play catch together. In terms of baseball memorabilia, I have a signed ball from R.A. Dickey the year he won his Cy Young, tickets from the first Mets game at Citi Field, and a newspaper covering Johan Santana’s no-hitter.
Who is your favorite musical group or artist?
My first musical love was the Beatles, like many people. They’re still my favorites.
What is your favorite food (if it is pizza, what is your favorite pizza restaurant)?
Definitely pasta, of any kind. That’s a food I could eat every day if I had to.
Please share anything else you’d like with our audience –
Elizabeth, this has been a great pleasure. Please keep up the great work and please keep in touch.