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A Day in the Life of a First Time Yankee Reporter

Fourteen hours. That’s how long a Greyhound bus ride is from Meadville, Pa. to New York City. It’s a piece of information that may seem unimportant, but that’s the route I traveled to work on my first day as a Yankee reporter. I got into my hometown of New York City two Thursdays ago at 4 am to cover the Yankee game the same day. However, the Yankees did not clinch just yet, so my reporting debut at Yankee Stadium had to wait until the next day. With a full day of sleep, and excitement coursing through my veins, I took the B and D train to Yankee Stadium. I found the press box door for the Yankees, which oddly enough had a lone security guard on the outside, who was not paying attention by anyone coming in through the door.

A bit surprised, I double-checked with the security guard that the entrance was correct, and he nodded. The inside, of course, had airport-like security. Right behind them, there was a huge printing machine that made Yankee credentials for all the sportswriters entering through the door. I was walking the same path as Michael Kay, and John Sterling–the two main announcers I grew up listening to. The quotes from my boss, Randy Zellea, echoed through my head, You belong here, and you gotta take the fandom away. Right. I am here to do a job; to report on the Yankees, interview players, and make connections. I belong here. 

Still, after seeing my first Yankee credentials, and taking the elevator to the field level, a big smile escaped from my face. I walked up the stairs by the camera booth and essentially had the whole field to myself. It was only 3:30 PM, and the Yankees vs. Blue Jays game did not start until 7:05 PM. No players were out to talk or interview. I was not exactly sure what to do. Shouldn’t batting practice start somewhat soon? Why aren’t the Yankee players getting ready? I figured that I would wait until someone came out. I could be the first reporter today to interview them. Ten minutes past, and not even a single footstep. I should probably make some connections, so I talked to the nearest reporter. His name was Keegan Matheson. He’s a beat writer for the Blue Jays. Matheson was very nice and gave me advice on interviewing players. He told me to give the players some options, say something along the lines of, “Hey when you are free, can I interview?” If you do this, rather than a specific time, they are less likely to dismiss you right away. Also, those straying by the hitters’ circle, or doing nothing by the dugout, can usually give an interview during that time. Keegan also said to approach him if I needed anything. What a guy! 

There were not that many reporters to talk to after Matheson so I went upstairs to the press box. Now the third floor of the press box was quite amazing. There’s probably around one hundred seats for reporters to sit there. All the seats had a little nameplate in front such as The Wall Street Journal and The Athletic. I grew up reading those newspapers, and now I am sitting in the same place they report every night. I made note that the first baseball player I saw, I would go down to the field level. An hour passed. There were more reporters on the field, but no players to be seen. I decided to go to the field since I had been up to the press box for too long. 

A few minutes later, the Yankees ran to the outfield and started doing their warm-ups. Great! I’ll get to interview in no time! Afterward, DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres started taking ground balls at third and short respectively. They were so smooth. Every play so easy and effortless, robotic even. There’s a reason why these guys are professional big leaguers. Meanwhile, Gary Sanchez did some baserunning drills by first base. Sanchez was returning from a left groin strain, and just did some banana turns around first base, as well as 50-75% of his full sprint. Honestly, I felt as if I had a front-row view of the YES Network’s Injury Report with Meredith Marakovits. Usually about ten minutes before game time, Marakovits will give an injury update on the Yankee players’, and go back to footage earlier in the day doing baserunning and fielding drills. I bet Sanchez’s workout probably made the injury update for that day. 

Also, Chad Green, Adam Ottavino, and Tommy Kahnle walked by from right field. They all looked pretty similar to how they did on television, except for Ottavino. Ottavino is a brick wall–he looks as big and strong from Luke Voit. Both of them have a barrel chest and have the build of a lumberjack. I was thinking about interviewing them, but another reporter got there first, only to be shot down by all three of them. 

Later on, Mike Ford, the recent walk-off hero, took grounders at first base, as pitching coach Larry Rothschild started walking down from right field. So many reporters saw the opportunity and formed a circle around him. Rothschild obliged, and since I was late to the crowd, I stood on the outside of the circle. I had to think of a question, but as soon as one reporter finished, another one started talking. At least, I got to hear some of his responses to the other reporters. Rothschild mostly about Masahiro Tanaka’s start from the other day. “He had the best splitter all year. He’s been pretty good for us in 2019 too, especially taking out those three starts in Boston.” On the topic of how the rotation will be used in the playoffs, he said, “We will do whatever we need to win games.” 

Finally, the reporters left him alone, but the split-second I hesitated, Rothschild went to talk to the manager, Aaron Boone. Wow did I just miss an interview? Ok, well next time this won’t happen. To my left, I saw CC Sabathia, who just a few days ago made his last regular season appearance at Yankee Stadium. He was talking to Rowdy Tellez, a first baseman for the Blue Jays in his sophomore season. I was slightly surprised the two knew each other. These are Major League Baseball players, I guess everyone kind of knows everyone here. I wanted to speak to Sabathia. The six-foot-seven lefty had played on the Yankees nearly as long as I had been a Yankee fan. He was in his final season. I had to talk to him. I thought of asking him, “What was it like making your last regular season appearance here? Does this team have more energy, and resilience than the 2009 championship team you were on?” I did not have a chance to ask any of these questions. 

Once Sabathia finished talking to Tellez, I hesitated for a split second, and Sabathia went on to talk to some fans in the stands. I then saw Meredith Marakovits in the dugout and wanted to muster up the courage to say hi, but she looked pretty busy. Man, I have to get better at this. I look to my right, and there was Luis Severino in the flesh. The two-time top-ten Cy Young award finisher, and first Yankee with back-to-back seasons of 220+ strikeouts. Severino had been injured all year, and just made his first start a few days ago. I could ask him about how he feels about the playoffs, and how good it feels to be back on a major league mound. However, Severino and his translator were talking to the guests. For those that do not know, there are a lot of guests with field access on the dirt next to the fence. The players spend all their time talking there, and even though Severino looked to be done with some of the conversations, his translator was not; I had to speak to both of them for an interview. 

Fifteen minutes later, and I could tell that there was no chance I would get to talk to Severino. At the same time, the Blue Jays were starting their batting practice. I thought the Yankees usually take BP first. Confused, I asked a guard when the Yankees were coming out. He replied, “I think they are hungover from clinching the division yesterday.” Isn’t that hilarious? I guess the players partied too hard and had too much champagne last night. They all looked pretty sober. It is quite possible this is common for all playoff bound teams the day after they clinch. Either way, my odds of talking to any Yankee player seemed less likely at this point. 

In the middle of my thoughts, I felt a hand on my shoulder. Slightly startled, I turned around, and saw a man with BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) credentials. “Hey is this your first time here?” Is it that obvious I am new here? I collected myself and struck up a conversation. The man’s name was Neftali, and he was very interested in knowing where I was from, and even welcomed me to the stadium. The reporters I’ve talked to so far have been nice. After he left my focused turned towards the Blue Jays players’. I knew a lot of the names but was not very good with faces. I can only pick out Justin Smoak, Rowdy Tellez, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, Anthony Alford, and Bo Bichette. I frantically went on my phone. Some players were standing by the dugout, and if I find out who they are, maybe I can speak to them. I look up one of the players, Reese McGuire. Hey, he’s a catcher. I’ve heard of him. McGuire was standing on the field, and just as I approached him, he said he had to catch a bullpen. Every single time. I have to interview somebody, anybody. 

Another Blue Jays player was on my left. I searched the web and found out he was Thomas Pannone Jr–another familiar name. He was talking to his parents and some friends in the guest area. I decided to wait him out and was close enough to him that he can see me. A fan asked for his autograph, and Pannone Jr. did not have a pen. He saw me with my pen and notepad in hand. “Hey buddy, can I borrow that for a second?” Surprised that he spoke to me, I just nodded, and handed him my pen. Wait. Here’s my chance! 

After Pannone Jr. handed me back, I immediately asked if he had time for an interview. “Sure buddy”. Yes, my first interview! Ok. Ok. Keep it together. “So, Mr. Pannone. First off, thank you for taking the time to speak to me. Also, how does it feel playing at Yankee Stadium (Pannone is young and has not played at Yankee Stadium too many times).” Pannone Jr. replied, “It’s great man. My family and I went to a good amount of Yankee games growing up, and now my family came into town to see me play. I feel excited to play them since they are a big team with a one hundred win season, and fresh off clinching the division.” I responded, and then asked, “How cool is it to be coming up with a young core of players?” Pannone Jr. replied, “Yeah Vladdy, and Bo, and everyone else are all great to be around. We gel together as a team.” That was my last question, so I thanked Pannone Jr. for his time. 

Woah my first interview at Yankee Stadium, who can I talk to next! I was ready to keep going. I was in the zone now after interviewing Pannone Jr. I spotted Chance Adams talking to some guests by the Yankees’ dugout. The same tactic I will just wait him out. Thirty minutes later, and still nothing. At least during that time, I said hi to Ms. Marakovits, who said hi back. It was a small, yet reassuring victory, especially since she is the field reporter I’ve watched on YES since the age of eight. By that time, the Blue Jays were wrapping up batting practice, and it was around 6:30. I had to get one last interview in, and then I saw Rowdy Tellez. 

Tellez had been throwing with first baseman Justin Smoak earlier. Smoak is the longest-tenured Blue Jay right now and in the last year of his contract. Odds are, he has been helping out Tellez adjust to the big leagues a little bit. Tellez spoke to his fans and needed a pen. His coach saw this and asked for my pen. Woah this has happened twice now. Giving my pen to someone will lead to my second interview. I’m going to name this “The Pen Trick”. 

Sure enough, Tellez gave me the pen back himself, and gladly allowed an interview. Once again, I thanked my interviewee for his time. Then I asked, “What is your relationship like with Smoak? Are you two close?” He gave me an honest, yet expected response. Tellez said, “He’s like a father to me. He has been helping me a lot in the big leagues. On and off the field. When my mother died last year, Smoak helped get me through that tough time.” I felt both terrible for Tellez’s loss, yet grateful that he shared that piece of information with me. I changed topics to lighten the mood a little, “How does it feel coming up with a young core of players?” Tellez responded, “Actually I did not come up with a lot of the younger guys. I played with {Danny} Jansen and Vladdy in Buffalo {Triple-A affiliate of the Blue Jays}. I spent a lot of time with McGuire in the minors but only played with Bo {Bichette}at the major league level. We are going to turn some heads next year since we have a good, young core.” Two really good quotes that are awesome! I could tell Tellez had to go, so I thanked him for his time again before heading up to the press box.

 I had about a half-hour before game time, so I got some food at the buffet before sitting down with Neftali and some of his friends. His friends were Felix and Agustin. Felix and Neftali worked at the Spanish section of the BBWAA, while Agustin worked at New York City Sports News. They mostly asked me about myself, how I got here, and to take as much food as I want from the buffet. They even convinced me to take some food with me to the press box (which is allowed by the way) so that I do not get hungry during the game. When the trio was not talking to me, they spoke in Spanish. I had not taken Spanish in a year, after taking the equivalent of AP classes in high school. I can speak and write decently but have a terrible ear. I did not bother trying to speak with them until I asked Agustin for his social media account. 

Felix and Neftali explained that Agustin’s entire account was in Spanish and that I would not understand any of the potential messages. That’s when I revealed that I spoke Spanish. “Why didn’t you tell us sooner?” Neftali laughed. Even though I explained that my ear was bad in Spanish, they spoke to me in Spanish for the rest of the time. By the end of it, they all were very happy they met me, and Agustin ended up giving me his card. 

Finally, it was game time, and I went into the press box. Neftali urged me to sit in the absent seat of The Wall Street Journal, and I followed his orders. Neftali left, and I was pretty much alone when watching the game. The two reporters next to me were pretty spaced out, and they both had headphones on. They both were not following the game that much but just tried to find some key takeaways for their articles or Twitter feed. In the meantime, I took some game notes. J.A. Happ was on the mound, and he was pretty impressive. Besides, a Danny Jansen home run, and a bad read by Clint Frazier in right field that led to a triple, Happ had an effective changeup, and for the most part, kept the ball in the ballpark. Also, Gleyber Torres left the game because of injury. Guerrero Jr. hit a ground ball up the middle, and Torres slid and stopped the ball from going into the outfield. However, Biggio was aggressive and was breaking for home. Torres tried to get up to his feet, but his leg collapsed underneath him and was unable to make the throw home. Luckily, Torres ended up missing a stint on the I.L (Injured List). 

Besides Torres and Happ, Judge hit a second deck homer to left, and has put his all his post-oblique strain injuries to rest, Gregorius slammed his bat after striking out, and Guerrero Jr. let the ball go under him on a soft grounder to third. Similar to Andujar, both have to improve their defense in the years to come. 

The Yankees eventually lost 4-3, and after the game, I made sure to say goodbye to Matheson before I left. I would have said goodbye to Neftali, Felix, and Agustin but they were nowhere to be found. Although I did not have clubhouse access, I searched for any remaining players on the field. The only player there was Elvis Luciano, the first 2000s born player in the majors. I asked him for an interview, but he said he only spoke Spanish. Feeling confident after speaking with Neftali and co. I said I can interview in Spanish, but Luciano did not seem to think it was a good idea. I let Luciano be, and took one last walk around the field before leaving. 

Overall, I had an amazing experience. I had some trouble talking to people at first, but once I stopped hesitating, I got some great responses from players and learned a lot. I can’t wait for the next time I can go to Yankee Stadium as a reporter.

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