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Last August, I pitched Sporting News on doing a column about the Hall of Fame. In emailing with an editor, I mentioned the Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? column that I (and a number of other writers) did here a few years ago. I wrote to the editor, “I found even on my modestly-trafficked site that the column drew readers back each week and stimulated discussion. I can only imagine how it would resonate on a major site like yours.”
What I promised seems to finally be coming true. Brian Kenny had me as a guest on his MLB Network show “MLB Now” earlier today. He had me on, via satellite from a studio in Sacramento where I live, to discuss the “Cooperstown Chances” column I’ve been doing for Sporting News for six months now. Brian and I talked for five minutes about the recent interviews I’ve been doing through my column of Tommy John, Bobby Grich, Steve Garvey, Dale Murphy, Jim Kaat, and Billy Wagner.
I’m still amazed as I write this that I got to go on MLB Network or that I didn’t totally go to pieces on live, national television. I could feel my heart thumping as I sat in the chair in the dark, windowless studio waiting to be patched in– I worried that the microphone on my tie would pick up the noise. Thankfully, Brian Kenny regularly brings writers onto his show who’ve done little or no television, and he’s great at putting people at ease. My friend Adam Darowski, who went on the show two weeks ago, had a similar experience.
So we’re clear: Without Sporting News (or the support of the woman I love), I doubt any of this happens. I don’t know if I’d have interviewed half the players I’ve talked to. I know how to cold call and send query emails, and old ballplayers love to talk; but I also have this golden ticket every time I call a player, being able to name drop a publication that’s existed since 1888 and still has a solid presence online, even if it no longer has a print edition. I also don’t know if someone like Brian Kenny would have seen my work had it not run on Sporting News. It’s a tough world these days for independent sportswriters.
I’m on the ride of my life right now as a writer. Every week seems to bring some new awesome experience that I never would have bet on five years ago and still seems utterly ridiculous as I write about it. (I haven’t mentioned this, but I’ve been fully self-employed as a freelance writer and editor since mid-October. It’s a post for another time, but I’m actually solvent four months in. It’s almost as surreal to me as seeing myself on television.)
If anyone is in the position I was in not long ago, working hard in obscurity, I say: Keep at it. Keep doing what you love, even if it very reasonably seems like no one’s reading. Keep working hard. Results will come, in ways you wouldn’t predict.
That said, I hope this is only the beginning. I’m going to keep working to see what unfolds. I want to talk to more players, many more. I want to have articles in places like Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and the New York Times. I want to write a book.
It goes almost without saying, but thanks to everyone who’s read my work since I launched this site in May 2009. I wouldn’t be doing any of the things I’m doing without a lot of help and support.