Stephanie Metzger, Jessica Quiroli, and myself are putting together a semi-regular chat where we talk about what’s going on in baseball. We have named it “Three Up…”. We got together today to talk about things like the Arizona Fall League, our favorite/least favorite interviews, and our most embarrassing moments as reporters.
Arizona Fall League
Quiroli: I wanted to start with AFL. Are either of you tracking any player’s progress there?
Metzger: Just the Indians guys and a few big names that interest me.
Wright: I’ve watched a few Royals guys but that was sadly it.
Quiroli: Anyone that’s stood out?
Wright: For me, it seems Hunter Dozier keeps building his skill set. He’s only been in pro ball for two years and finished 2014 in Double A. He has been playing really well in the AZL and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets bumped up to Triple A or even MLB this next season.
Metzger: Glad to see Mark Appel’s doing well. I’ve mainly been tracking Dylan Baker of the Indians. Guy was so good before he had an unfortunate leg injury this past season. Hasn’t done well in the AFL so I hope he puts the injury behind him and rebounds.
Quiroli: Despite that ending, Royals have so much talent. For me, I’ve kept an eye on Yankees Peter O’Brien. He’s at that point where his power is really developing. When guys go over there, I always ask them if they’d rather have the rest. But they tend to have mixed feelings about it. They want the opportunity, but getting that break sometimes helps. I was just going to mention Appel to you Steph. There’s all this talk about him possibly being with the big club next season. AFL performance has been solid. Dozier a good one as well. Finishing strong in Double-A is usually a good sign. If they can play well there, they can play in the big leagues. Sticking is another story, but yeah. I can see him getting at least Triple-A time in 2015. I should mention the MiLBys. The Durham Bulls got ‘Team of the Year.’ Always a gamble to build a new stadium, but that place is incredible. And the team was stocked with good talent. Fun to watch. But I do think they tend to be ‘America’s Team.’ That movie and all….
Metzger: I can’t imagine Appel starting with the big league squad out of spring training, but I can see it happening a few months in. It’d be a nice story on his turnaround. You guys see Jesse Winker’s average? Nice
Wright: Durham is one of those clubs that I can see everyone trying to emulate. Not only because of the talent pool but because of the way they run their operation. It’s a good solid product that fans want to invest in.
Minor League Team Names
Metzger: Always wanted to head to Durham. I think it’s fair to say they’re one of “The” teams in MiLB. I’m happy to see the Akron RubberDucks win a Ballpark Digest award, too. Their re-brand has been incredible. Their new owner, Ken Babby, just seems to have great business sense.
Wright: I was a big fan of their name and logo change. It took awhile to digest because when I heard rubber ducks I thought about Ernie’s rubber ducky song but then saw the logo and was like this could work.
Quiroli: I invited Ken to do a chat for Minor League Ball & we were set, but a scheduling conflict came up. Super impressed with his efforts. Yeah, Rubber Ducks threw everyone for a loop. But gotta have fun with minor league team names.
Wright: And there are definitely some good ones. Some of my favorites are the Las Vegas 51s and the Montgomery Biscuits.
Metzger: The Biscuits will forever be my favorite. I like the Miracle too. And who can forget the Chihuahuas?
Wright: The Chihuahua face jerseys they wore this season…..priceless.
Quiroli: I covered Akron a bit & I always liked that Aeros name, but I was more blown away by the Reading Phillies changing to the Fightin’ Phils. That’s the big club’s actual nickname. But, again, that’s all part of teams trying to find their own identity, while representing the big club. Some teams really embrace the ‘same name’ aspect. I think that means something to the Binghamton Mets. Staten Island Yankees. It doesn’t always work though. The SI Yankees have very little fanbase. Oh the Chihuahuas. What a mind bender. haha But definitely funny as hell and that’s part of it.
Wright: I had friends who weren’t even into baseball who were asking about buying Chihuahuas gear. I was shocked by how well received it was even outside the baseball community.
Metzger: Staten Island… that’s a team I plan to go see next year. Shame their fanbase is small, that ballpark looks neat, with the skyline in the background.
Wright: And touching on the teams trying to make it their own, I think another example would be Scranton Wilkes-Barre. They changed their name from the Yankees to the RailRiders to differentiate. Although I’m still a little confused about the ostrich as a mascot.
Quiroli: That’s the interesting part about the minors. Fans are often just baseball lovers. The community part of it and just loving the game, rather than big club allegiance, is often the draw. SI is a great place to cover a game. But fans just don’t want to go there. Location-wise I don’t think they’re in a good spot. And taking that ferry over, as much as I loved it, I can understand fans not wanting to do it. For me it was what I had to do, just like when they commute to their own jobs. So, at the end of the day, when they want to go see a game, maybe that’s not what they feel like doing. A lot of those lower level teams are doing dance teams now, which are essentially cheerleaders. They do a lot to get fans interested and connected, which SI did as well, but it hasn’t changed much. Haha! The ostrich! A baseball ostrich.
Metzger: The RubberDucks have this creepy, inflatable bird mascot thing. It’s like a giant purple pigeon. It’s completely terrifying and I still can’t figure out its purpose.
Wright: There is an internship listed on PBEO where Scranton had an internship for an ostrich wrangler. I laughed so hard and was just like I love minor league baseball. Steph, that sounds terrifying and what little kid’s nightmares are made of.
Quiroli: The Brooklyn Cyclones had a rodeo monkey once. He rode a dog. Crowd pleaser. Wrangling an ostrich seems similar to dealing with a lot of minor league players. We’re all qualified!
Metzger: Ostrich wrangler?! Oh my god. Sign me up.
Wright: Sorry. It’s Reading who has the ostrich not Scranton. Although there should be room for more than one ostrich in minor league ball. If you guys are interested, here is the posting for the ostrich wrangler internship: The Reading Fightin Phils are looking for 3 – 4 experienced people to handle 2 female ostriches. The ostrich handlers must have the ability to feed the ostriches along with hooding and escorting these large birds from their pen to a trailer.
Metzger: This is the best thing I’ve seen in a while. I wonder if it’s too late to send my resume.
Quiroli: Stay away from baseball ostriches Steph. They’ll ruin my heels and yours. That’s a perfect segue way to my next question…
Quiroli: I was thinking about my career the other day and looking back on interviews through the years. I realized how hard it would be to narrow it down to favorites, but many came to mind. Let’s here some of yours. I reached back for this one, but I interviewed a guy in the Tigers organization named Kurt Airoso. He was a hugely popular player with the Erie Seawolves. Coach’s felt he should get a shot at Triple-A and the big leagues. He was so charismatic & kept me on my toes. That was a great experience for me. And he inspired a character I wrote in a fictional baseball story.
Wright: One of my favorites was with Mitch Moreland who rehabbed with Frisco in 2012. We did the interview and he was yawning a lot. After we finished the interview, I asked him if he was alright because he looked tired. He said he hadn’t gotten a lot of sleep the night before because he and his wife had brought home their newborn baby Crue. Then he asked if I wanted to see pictures. I said yes and he grabbed his phone from the clubhouse and scrolled through pictures on his son.
Metzger: Ooh, good question. One of my favorites was Cody Penny, an Indians reliever who was cut last season. Probably the most polite guy I’ve ever talked to (I think he’s from NC, so he had that Southern thing going on.) Anyway, he mentioned he throws a knucklecurve, and then spent a good 10-15 minutes showing me how to throw it. It was great, since I’m a sucker for knuckleballs.
Wright: So I think our next chat should be Stephanie teaching all of us how to throw knuckleballs.
Metzger: Haha, gladly! It was so great to get a free, mini pitching lesson. LeVon Washington is also a great interview. Guy is a gold mine for good, colorful quotes.
Wright: Another great interview I had was with Joseph Ortiz. He’s a reliever who made his debut with the Texas Rangers but was recently signed to a minor league contract with the Cubs. When I first met him, I was told he only spoke Spanish. I am not fluent in Spanish but I know enough to get by so I did the interview in Spanish. I thought I did terrible but the guys said I did great. The next day, he comes up to me and starts speaking perfect English. I was in shock and he started laughing. Then he told me the coolest thing. If you are willing to try to work with the Spanish players, they will help you out every time. So every time I needed an interview they always had a translator there to help me and gave me interviews they wouldn’t let other journalists have.
Quiroli: Through the years, I’ve increasingly appreciated a player that has solid professionalism & is very thorough with an answer. Guys like Mets Brandon Nimmo & LJ Mazzilli, Blue Jays Kyle Drabek…they’re opening up their world a bit & really letting people see who they’re getting off the field. Great stories so far!
Metzger: Haha, a guy once got me with the “No English” thing. My eyes got huge, and then he started laughing and started talking to me about the vampire shows he watches on Netflix…
Quiroli: The other thing I think that helps is players really getting to know you. When there’s a comfort level, it can make a difference. Since I’ve dealt so much with Rays players & have a focus on them in part of my work, there’s a familiarity and trust.
Wright: Sometimes it leads to comical results. Neftali Feliz was rehabbing and me and the graphic designer were on the field taking pictures for social media, blog, archives, etc. Both of us speak Spanish but he didn’t know that. So we heard him say that we were more attractive than some of the other front office women he works with. We started laughing and he looked at us in shock as our catcher told him we spoke Spanish. He just covered his face and turned red. He was so embarrassed.
Quiroli: I’ve tried to learn Spanish through the years because I know it would help me in the job. But…so far it’s not gone well. Haha. Yeah, it helps when someone around you can tell you what’s being said about you in Spanish. I had that experience but what was being said wasn’t so nice. If I learn it, I can catch all that.
Metzger: I love (not really love) when players talk about me in Spanish, not knowing that I had seven years of Spanish since middle school. It’s uh, interesting, to hear some of those conversations.
Wright: True. It’s always nice to know what’s being said, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Even knowing a little goes a long way. If you show them you’re trying, a lot of times they will work with you. I took three years of Spanish and am still not fluent. I take my Spanish textbook with me to refresh before I talk to any of the guys. And I agree about having their trust. I had a player give me a scoop about a surgery they had because I sat on it for about a year without saying anything. I could have been first with the story but would have betrayed their trust. It’s a fine line.
Metzger: I’m still not confident to interview someone in Spanish. But I’ve found teams have players who are really good about translating. They don’t whine or anything, they seem happy to help out.
Wright: Those guys are the best. And I think just because there is a language barrier, doesn’t mean they don’t have stories worth telling. I’ve heard a few reporters say they wouldn’t go through the trouble because they don’t speak Spanish. They are missing a golden opportunity.
Quiroli: I always ask them if they want certain info published. And when I’m dealing with guys just drafted, I’ll ask them if they’re sure they want to divulge that or if they know the team would be ok with that. I’m amazed at the times players are unsure what they should say. That’s a struggle when they’re first going pro. I just grab a player to translate! Can’t skip those guys. On the major league side, there was no better interview than Brad Lidge. Total pro, no BS, no ego. Just a good guy to deal with. Went out of his way to help reporters do their jobs.
Metzger: I always joke about how teams should hire a roving media instructor for their minor leaguers. I’d sign up for that in a heartbeat. “Say this, don’t you dare say that…”
Quiroli: Great idea.
Wright: I volunteer as tribute!
Least Favorite Interviews
Quiroli: So do we dare get into our least favorite interviews? No names needed.
Wright: My least favorite interview was a really great guy. He just was horrible at interviews. It felt like I was pulling teeth trying to get answers to easy questions. But he made his MLB debut awhile back and it seems he has gotten better with each one.
Metzger: Hmm. Two of my most uncomfortable have been with guys who had uh, made advances toward me in the past. One had hit on me just days before my editor asked me to write a feature on him, so that was a bit uncomfortable. I must say, no player has ever really been rude or mean to me in an interview. There was one who acted like he was too good to talk to the media, but he got cut last spring. I feel so bad for the guys who are nice, but don’t know how to give a good interview. It’s like a feel their pain and feel so awkward for them, especially when you can tell they’re trying, or don’t realize how bad they sound
Wright: I felt so bad for him because he’s normally very soft-spoken and after almost every answer he asked if it was a good answer.
Metzger: I guess not everyone is loaded with an arsenal of good quotes. Come to think of it, some of the jerks on the teams I’ve covered have ended up giving the best answers in interviews.
Quiroli: My experiences have run the spectrum. Being hit on during an interview or after is par for the course. Phone interviews can be tricky for that reason. There was a player who sent me a photo of himself & asked if I liked what I saw. Guys have been rude or unresponsive. But definitely there’s also those guys that just can’t handle it. And I have no problem with them. Not every player is some media star and I appreciate that.
Metzger: Oh yeah. I’ve been on the receiving end of those photos, and it’s awful. Especially knowing I had to see some of those guys the remainder of the season.
Quiroli: A guy who was with one of the WS teams this year was the worst. I’ve never forgotten it because it was so blatantly disrespectful of my time and my job. I don’t judge any of them. They get lonely and, frankly, it’s normal. They’re going to hit on girls and not think about the fact that they’re talking to a reporter.
Metzger: Some have been really polite and respectful in their advances. And some have been straight-up sleazy. One guy who’s now in the Angels org had a fiancee at the time and I just felt so frustrated.
Quiroli: The bottom line is that I came into the business not knowing what the hell to do and I figured out how to handle all that stuff. Being judged based on what people think of how I look or just being a woman in general is part of it and I don’t focus on it. I’m more equipped to handle players behavior now. Having reporters and players make comments about my looks or not take me seriously doesn’t affect me now. Not like when I started. So when I deal with stuff that seems out of line, it bounces off. Interviewing guys that don’t respect me can be tough, though. Because they’re not going to give answers that are worth anything. They’re being jerks about everything. When that’s the case, I do my best to avoid them. But there was one top guy in the Yankees org. that I couldn’t do that with. No matter how shitty he was, I had to talk to him. It’s good for us, though. Makes us tougher and more ready to think on our feet.
Wright: I’ve been lucky and not had any of that happen so far. But I have heard the stories.
Metzger: If anything, dealing with some of the disrespect has really increased my respect and gratitude for the other reporters who do support me and believe in me. Because of them, I’ve been able to tell some of these uncomfortable stories and laugh them off.
Quiroli: You’ve handled a lot of challenges that have come your way well though, Jarah. Team issues. You’ve proven you can stand up to that stuff. Great point Steph. I value those guys in the business so much.
Wright: Yeah. It has been tough realizing that most of what I’ve experienced has been through teams. Most of the horror stories I’ve heard come from players but like I’ve said before many of the players and coaches I’ve worked with have defended me and helped me get through it to do my job. One example is I wanted to go to one Chukars road game this season but didn’t want to get a hotel for the night because I just thought it would be easier to drive back after the game. The coaches convinced me to get a hotel room for safety reasons. The next day the transmission on my car went out. If I had not listened to them, I would have been stranded in the middle of nowhere at midnight with a dead car.
Quiroli: I was interviewing that Yankees player with another reporter, who had this weird animosity toward me. So he asks his questions, then I ask mine, and the player looked at me, turned and faced the male reporter and refused to look at me. I really dislike that guy still, and, true to being a reporter, I’ve never let on in anything I’ve written. No one would know it. That’s key, I think. Yes, sometimes reporters need to blow the whistle. But I never wanted that player or any fans to see anything but the facts of what I saw of him on the field. I’m careful, because you don’t want them to doubt your objectivity. That’s awesome. I relate to that because while dealing with that player was a nightmare, not to mention some of the reporters and team people, the manager and coach’s were nothing but respectful. I never lost confidence or my sense of belonging, no matter what. We need those guys in our corner. I made the mistake of staying at the same hotel as players, and wound up getting a pretty horrible phone call in the middle of the night. That wasn’t fun. And I was scared and did want to leave. But I did the job and went home and I never cared about them. I think that’s the business we’re in, sometimes. It can be a wild freaking zoo. On the flip side, it’s important to know when things need to be reported or handled more aggressively. They can’t just do whatever the hell they want.
MLB Domestic Violence Policy
Quiroli: Hey, another segue way. I wanted to know some of your thoughts on MLB working on a domestic violence policy.
Metzger: It’s so important, which goes without saying. Baseball is pretty much my religion, so I’ll be horrified if I see my “religion” descend to an NFL-esque level. Not that domestic violence is absent from MLB now.
Wright: I think it’s sad that these policies even have to be put in place because I think people should know better than to resort to domestic violence. That being said, I think it’s a good thing and that in a way it helps the MLB protect it’s image and not let it become what the NFL has.
Quiroli: I think it’s important for MLB to understand that there’s a trickle down affect. Young players have to get the message that they’re accountable as grown men, as professionals, as people. They have to take a stand to show that women deserve respect, both on a personal and professional level. The NFL has it’s own issues, but MLB does as well. They had no issue letting guys continue to play who were convicted of sexual assault or domestic abuse. There were also players that took steps to change & were truly remorseful, and that’s important. But as sad as it is that those policies are necessary…I do hope that they do it right. If the media dress code policy had to happen, so does this.
Wright: Agree 100%.
Quiroli: Ok, let’s switch gears as we wind this up. Steph, I thought I read the other day that you fell covering a game…or had some issue on field? Did I read that right?
Metzger: I’ve had plenty of issues covering games, haha. I’ve fallen down stairs in my heels. And I’ve sunk into the dirt in heels. I’ve interviewed guys not realizing the first two buttons of my shirt had come undone. You name the wardrobe malfunction, I’ve probably been through it
Quiroli: Haha. Yeah, I thought it was something the other day. But that brings me to my final question: What are some of your physical mishaps? Embarrassing falls? What do you got? I guess my worst is biting the dust going up the stairs in front of Barry Zito. I was heading to the clubhouse, and I walked past him on the stairs, and SPLAT. Just slid and crashed. Onto my knees. Facedown. Last year at Winter Meetings I had a button undone for a good hour. Meeting execs. Great going, right?! :0 I spilled ketchup on my blouse five minutes before going to do on-field interviews.
Wright: I was getting down off of a riser in the press box and accidentally flashed my amazing under armor underneath my skirt. Think my face turned 50 shades of red.
Wright: Or was carrying food to the press box and totally bit it going up the stairs. Soda on everything.
Metzger: I once got locked inside Progressive Field. I kept wandering around trying to find an open gate until security made me exit through an employee door. So embarrassing. I’ve had some classic verbal slip-ups too. I had to interview a guy I’d talked to in the winter in a phone interview. First thing I said to him was, “I know I just did you in the offseason, but here I am again!” Whoops.
Wright: Or the time I helped with a fire photo shoot where we lit baseballs and bats on fire and tossed a ball towards a top prospect who wanted to catch it barehanded. Think I gave the coach a heart attack
Quiroli: My skirt’s blown up on field. I’ve climbed a ladder in the photog well, with my skirt hiking up during a game and almost fell, which would’ve hurt me real bad. But I’ve never fallen on field and I guess I couldn’t be ‘Heels On The Field’ if I did. LMAO Steph.
Wright: Or the one time I did a van run to take the players back to their hotel from the field and couldn’t figure out the air situation and one guy had a bad case of gas after eating Mexican food. It was picking the worse of two evils: hot van with fart smell or freezing cold air.
Quiroli: Oh wow. I went on the players bus a couple of times in Indy League and the smells…I don’t want to relive that experience. Not to mention the conversations. We get good at ear muffs don’t we? Do we end this chat on players gross habits?
Metzger: Oh dear. I’ve heard so many horror stories, haha.
Quiroli: …well the clubhouse smells are a whole other thing.
Wright: Depends. There have been arm fart noises where they wave their arms around like elephant trunks. Clubhouse smells should never be described for fear of scaring everyone.
Quiroli: Dying over here.
Wright: I had to help the clubhouse manager clean out the clubhouse fridge once when a team was on the road….the asian noodles had mold on them. They had been there for at least 12 days during the home stand
Quiroli: Yes. Let’s tell all our aspiring reporters out there that a minor league clubhouse smells like a field of flowers.
Wright: Haha. It’s a bouquet of smelly socks, body odor, leftover food, must, wet dog, and if you’re lucky maybe a hint of deodorant.
Quiroli: Deodorant? I’m not convinced.
Stay tuned for our next installment of ‘Three Up…’