A new job and what that means for this site

I signed a two-month Independent Consultant Agreement this morning to work for a start-up in San Carlos, California (for the Pirates fan.)  Thus, four days a week, beginning March 8, I will be writing copy for the Web for this company and assisting in other SEO activities.  The goal is that I become a full-time, salaried employee at the end, if all goes well.  Regardless, I’m thrilled.  In a sense, it makes these last few months worth it, hard as they’ve sometimes been.

I walked away from a well-paying sales job in November because it wasn’t an ideal fit.  End of day, not everyone can cold call, especially in this economy.  I struggled consistently my last few months on the job before quitting at the suggestion of my boss.  I still think I made the right decision, but financially, it’s been tough.  I left with little savings and have been unable to receive unemployment benefits, since I quit voluntarily.  Thus, my folks have had to help me out a lot the last few months, which is humbling at 26.  I learned an important lesson: Never quit a job unless you have another one lined up.

But if it’s been the Dark Ages for my bank account these last few months, it’s been the Renaissance for this site.  After managing just a few posts a month towards the end of my sales job — shit posts at that — I suddenly found myself with time to write every day.  Thus, I went to near-daily updates, and the number of visitors to this site tripled in the process. Google Analytics says I get 945 visitors a month right now; in November, I was getting 300.  Granted, popular baseball blogs exceed in a day what I currently attract per month, but I feel I’m on my way to good things.  I haven’t just been writing more.  I also feel like I have been writing better.

The job search was definitely challenging.  I left my sales position with a stated goal of writing more, but with that said, I wasn’t sure what field I would next work in.  Thus, I considered everything from more sales work to online marketing to pouring coffee (I think I had a 24-hour stretch where I applied at three different Starbucks.)  I have to say this new job seems like a great outcome.  I like start-up culture, the company I’ll be working for seems cool and I’m excited to get to make a living writing.  Writing doesn’t really seem like work to me, and I miss it when it’s not in my life.

The looming question, of course, is what impact my new job will have on this site. When I interviewed for the job, my boss made clear that if he brought me on as a salaried employee, it would be a 50-hour a week commitment.  I figured it might effect the number of posts I write per week, as I’m currently doing about six.  If I do go full-time, I wouldn’t be surprised if that number drops to three, though I will look to maintain the same caliber of writing.  Were I to choose, I’d sooner sacrifice quantity than quality here.  My rationale might be different if I had a different kind of site.

Anyhow, I want to thank everyone who had a hand in getting me this job.  That includes the administrators who oversee me here.  Were it not for this site, I doubt I would have been hired.  I’m telling every journalism student I talk to from now on to start a blog, if they don’t have one already.

Chicken on the Hill with Will

I had an interview on Wednesday for an Internet marketing job in San Carlos, California, which meant another chance to talk baseball.

My interviewer was a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, who looked to be about 40, give or take.  He thought I might not be familiar with the teams of his era.  No bother: I named Willie Stargell, Manny Sanguillen and Danny Murtaugh.  I briefly described Steve Blass Disease, which I wrote about here in August, an affliction named for a Pirates starter of the early 1970s who, for no clear reason, lost his ability to pitch.  My interviewer and I of course discussed how Pittsburgh has struggled since 1992.  And I mentioned “Chicken on the Hill with Will.”

Allow me to explain that last thing.

When I was growing up, one of my friends, Alec, had family from the Pittsburgh area.  Alec’s mom told me that Pirates great and future Hall of Famer Stargell had a restaurant and whenever he would homer, everyone in the restaurant got free chicken.  I never knew for sure if this was legit, though I just did a Google search and saw a reference to it on Stargell’s Wikipedia page.  Talk about happier times in Pittsburgh– a restaurant could stockpile a warehouse with unused chicken if it tried a promotion for the current Pirates.

Anyhow, I discussed Stargell and more with my interviewer.  For all that we talked baseball, though, he seemed most impressed with the fact that I could name all four members of The Beatles.  I have a follow-up interview set for Monday afternoon.

(Postscript: He hired me)

Technology to the rescue

I interviewed this morning for a sales position with a start-up in Mountain View and got to talking about the upcoming opportunity I have to interview Will Clark upon his induction into the Hitters Hall of Fame at the Ted Williams Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida on February 13.  At this point, I still can’t afford a plane ticket, and I can’t justify taking out a loan or asking my parents for cash.  Thus, my assumption has been that I will probably do a phone interview with Clark, if he’s willing, as well as interviews with the other honorees for the museum this year: Darryl Strawberry, Bert Blyleven and Dave Dravecky.  It would be a major coup for this site, and Clark’s my childhood hero, though I know not to bank on anything.

I got to talking today with my interviewer, though, and she suggested I do a WebEx video conference or Skype video conversation with Clark.  I hadn’t considered those possibilities, and I have to admit it sure beats an interview over my Metro phone.  I also have a friend who works for WebEx and might be able to get me set up technically.  The catch would be getting Clark in front of a web camera, though that might not be impossible.  At the very least, he would have a way to see me during our talk.

Best case scenario, of course, is that I come up with the necessary funds, board a plane to Florida, get six or ten posts for this site out of the event and maybe even cover it for the San Francisco Chronicle.  At least to me, in a perfect world, this is how things would play out.  But I’m open to talking to Clark in any way possible.

Anyone who has ideas I haven’t mentioned is welcome to contact me, asap.

What to do: When your interviewer says they like the Yankees

I had a phone interview this morning for a possible position with a business consulting office in Pleasanton.  I have a link to this site on my resume, and as a result, baseball comes up fairly often in interviews, which is great.  Baseball is more fun to talk about with potential employers than, say, speed skating, and I never have to feign interest.  In fact, I think half the time, I have to force myself to stop talking.

The man I spoke with this morning, a fellow named Ed, mentioned that he was originally from northern New Jersey and grew up a Yankees fan.  Ed said he came of age at an interesting time, in that nexus after the Giants and Dodgers left for California, the dreadful Mets arrived and the Yankees still ruled.  Halfway through his childhood, though, things changed.

The Yankees are one of those sports franchises that people either love or hate, like the Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Red Wings or the Los Angeles Lakers.  Traditionally, they spend the most money, have the most obnoxious fans and beat only the most sympathetic, lovable teams.  But I don’t reserve the same animosity in my heart for the Yankees that I do for the Lakers.  Partly, this could have something to do with me being from Sacramento and a longtime Kings fan (and to say that is to know heartache.)  But the Yankees also have an interesting history.

Essentially, the Yankees have traditionally been one of two teams throughout their history:

  1. Perennial World Series contenders
  2. Second division clubs with some awful luck

Granted, they’ve probably fallen into the first category a solid 85 percent of the time.  But the remaining 15 percent is heart wrenching.  It is comprised of times like the deaths of Thurman Munson and Billy Martin, and the injury-filled declines of Don Mattingly and Mickey Mantle (the retirements of Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio were sad too, but that didn’t stop the Yankees from the World Series in those days.)

Ed hit high school right around the time Mantle retired and, as he said, the Yankees couldn’t beat a Triple-A club.  The highlight I remember about them from the early ’70s is that two of their pitchers swapped wives.

That’s never good.

(Postscript: They had me in for a four-hour interview at their offices the following day.  I sat in on a webinar, interviewed with three separate employees and had lunch at the office.  It was the most intense interview I’ve been on in a long time, though they definitely have a cool company.)

As good a reason to have a blog as any

I just wanted a chance to write regularly.

When I was out with that group of people at Denny’s on that Friday early last year, I had no idea that the man sitting across from me had a son connected with this site, no idea that it would lead me to where I am now.

I had my second job interview in as many days today, my second straight interview where somebody had seen my resume posted online, clicked on the link for here and then sent me a nice email to see about meeting.  This time, it was for a sales position with a local State Farm office, another solid opportunity, not one of those “Do our payroll from home!” or “Free your mind with multi-level marketing!” scams that clutter my Inbox after every time I post a resume online.  Kids, this blogging business can lead to good things.

The State Farm agent was running late to our meeting today, so I had some time to talk with the office manager.  We got to chatting about my blog, and I mentioned that if you do a Google search on “best players not in hall of fame,” a post I wrote last May comes up on the first page of search results (as the second item from the top, better than offerings from NFL.com or ESPN— don’t ask me how this works.)  He then turned to a computer next to him, executed this search and saw for himself.

It was a pretty cool moment in my job interview history, right up there with the time I quoted a scene from Office Space to a potential employer, that clip where the sad-sack middle manager about to be laid off tells the consultants ruthlessly interviewing him, “God damnit, I have people skills!  Can’t you understand?” Surprisingly, I got hired that time.  No word yet on today, though I’m hopeful.

Potential employers: Do they like the Giants or the Dodgers?

I interviewed this morning for a copy writing position with CafePress, a web company in San Mateo, and baseball came up in conversation with my potential employers.

I met first with the head recruiter, and we hit it off.  Besides going to the same college, I learned we are both fans of the San Francisco Giants.  I mentioned having the opportunity to interview Will Clark next month, and we commiserated about how Giants general manager Brian Sabean consistently overpays for aging players.  Sabean had the right approach in the late Nineties, when he used low-priced veteran acquisitions like Jeff Kent, J.T. Snow and Darryl Hamilton, to join Barry Bonds and create a contender; in recent years, however, Sabean has done things like give Barry Zito $50 million more than any other team would’ve paid.  It’s not always been easy to watch.

After meeting with the recruiter, I met with the head of the online acquisition.  Turns out he’s a Dodger fan.  I said, “I’m sorry,” as I like to joke with Laker fans or anyone who went to a rival high school than me.  My interviewer and I laughed a little, and I had to agree with his assertion that the Giants are always about one big bat away from being a contender, as they already have a World Series-caliber pitching staff.  I told him how much I liked Vin Scully’s call of Kirk Gibson’s winning home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.  I found a stream of it on YouTube recently and have watched it a few times.  That was poetry, regardless of whose side you’re on.

Anyhow, I’m back from the interview now, and they just emailed me an application to fill out and fax over.  Thus, I am off now to FedEx Office (I still want to call it Kinko’s) and am crossing my fingers.

The pitfalls of being broke

Back in November I wrote a post here about a Hitters Hall of Fame at the Ted Williams Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida.  For that piece, I interviewed the executive director for the museum, David McCarthy.  After I published my post, McCarthy emailed me feedback and invited me to the museum’s annual induction dinner, to be held February 13.  Having just quit my job at the time, I told McCarthy I would have to get back to him and figured I wouldn’t be able to go.  It bummed me out, but that’s part of being an adult.

However, I heard that airline companies do deals after the first of the year, so I checked Travelocity a few weeks ago and saw airfare-plus-hotel packages starting at a few hundred bucks.  After doing some budgeting, I thought I could afford the trip and called McCarthy to RSVP.  Subsequently, though, I remembered a $300 check I wrote in December and realized I probably wouldn’t be able to go after all.  I’m holding out hope for a windfall; if anyone has any ideas, I’m game.

This story gets better.  When I called McCarthy to RSVP, the museum had announced Dave Dravecky would be added to a Pitcher’s Wall of Achievement.  However, an inductee for the Hitters Hall of Fame hadn’t been decided.  I suggested Mark McGwire, who hit 583 home runs and has a better career on-base percentage than Hank Aaron, Willie Mays or Al Kaline.  This was about a week before McGwire admitted he used steroids during his career.  McCarthy liked my suggestion, saying Ted Williams thought highly of McGwire.

After McGwire dropped his bombshell, though, I wondered if the museum would still honor him.  I checked the museum’s web site last night and learned it won’t this year. Instead, the inductees into the Hitters Hall of Fame will be Darryl Strawberry and my all-time favorite player, Will Clark.  I’m 26 and grew up in Northern California, coming of age when the first baseman nicknamed “The Thrill” starred for my San Francisco Giants.  Even just thinking of him now puts a smile on my face.

One of the stipulations for any player to be inducted into the museum is that he attend the awards dinner.  When I called to RSVP, I asked McCarthy if I would be able to interview Dravecky and he said yes.  Thus, I’m reasonably sure that if I went to this event, I would get to interview Clark, probably Strawberry too.  I contemplated asking my parents for the money and called a man I go to for advice.  He stressed the importance of being self-supporting and I really can’t argue with him.  I know the right thing to do here.

Thus, I left McCarthy a voice mail today, updating him on the situation and asking if I could do a phone interview with Clark and Strawberry if I can’t make the dinner.  Ideally, I’ll be able to attend.  Either way, though, this seems like an event worth writing about and even getting to talk to Clark over the phone would be, at the risk of sounding cheesy, a thrill.

(Postscript: McCarthy called me back a couple hours after I first posted this.  He said he’d tried unsuccessfully to get in touch with McGwire through the Cardinals organization.  McCarthy said he would still like to induct McGwire into the Hitters Hall of Fame and discussed maybe doing so next year.  McCarthy also said he’d do what he could about ensuring a phone interview for me with Clark and said I could still come to the event, even with last-minute notice.  Cool guy.)

An interview with Matt Walbeck

I have found work recently as a painter and was in a town here in Northern California called Danville last week, doing interior work on a house.  I got to talking with one of the homeowners, and it turns out she is from Sacramento, like me and went to high school with Matt Walbeck, a future Major League Baseball player. Walbeck broke in with the Chicago Cubs in 1993, as a catcher, played with four other teams in an eleven-year career and is now a minor league coach.

The homeowner said she still knew Walbeck, and after I explained about this site and inquired about interviewing him, she gave me his email address.  I sent Walbeck questions on Thursday, and he got back to me today.

The interview is as follows:

Baseball: Past and Present: You’ve been coaching for six years now.  Do you hope to make it to the majors as a manager?

Matt Walbeck:  I think if I continue to improve as a manager and at developing players I will manage in the majors.

BP&P: Do you think being a catcher prepared you better for coaching than if you’d been, say, a third baseman?

MW:  Having not played any other positions, I can’t compare.  There are a lot of solid managers that have played different positions.  Catchers are closely connected with the pitching coach, manager, umpires, position players and the pitchers.  Understanding pitchers is a big part of managing a baseball team because they make up almost half of the team.  Also seeing the whole field from behind the plate helps too.

BP&P: Have any of the managers that you played for influenced your coaching style?

MW:  They all have, and so did my Dad who coached my little league teams growing up.  My high school coaches Don and Jim Graf were very helpful also.  I gleaned a little bit from each of them, which is how any coach creates his or her own style.

BP&P: What kind of advice do you give young players?

MW:  Take care of yourself, love what you do, play the game one pitch at a time. And do something every day to become a better player.

BP&P: You were an eighth round draft pick out of Sacramento High School in 1987 for the Chicago Cubs.  If you could do it over, would you have gone to play baseball in college and entered the draft later or would you still have signed out of high school?

MW:  I wouldn’t change anything.  I feel that I learned a lot about life when I signed as a 17 year old and learned how to live on my own.  Wytheville, Virginia, the city where I played my first pro season was a small town of about 10,000 people and was like whole new world.  Being away from home made me realize how great the Sacramento area is, and how important family is.

BP&P: Baseball-Reference.com says you earned over $4 million in your career.  How far does that sort of money go?

MW:  It will go as far as you let it.  If you spend a lot and don’t save you go broke.  It boils down to your spending habits and investing wisely.

BP&P: Do you think you reached your potential as a player?

MW:  No.  Nobody is perfect and it seems everyone can always improve.

BP&P: How prevalent was the steroid culture in baseball?  Was it rampant or has the media made it out to be something bigger than it was?

MW:  I guess it was pretty prevalent throughout the years that I played.  Fortunately, I decided a long time ago that I wouldn’t try it.  The side effects scared me.  So, since I wasn’t interested in it, it wasn’t available.

BP&P: Do you still consider Sacramento home?  Are you still friends with a lot of people you grew up with?

MW:  I grew up in East Sac on 42nd and H and used to hang out at McKinley Park, Sutter Lawn, River Park, etc.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  My wife, three children and I now live in Old Fair Oaks which is near the American River.  There’s lots of outdoor activity and I love to Steelhead fish.  I still have lots of friends in the area, some who I went to high school with and others that I have met in Fair Oaks.

BP&P: Last question: Who is your all-time favorite baseball player from Sacramento?

MW:  Probably Derek Lee.  He’s a true  professional and is a tremendous talent both offensively and at first base.

Tim Lincecum: Will he stay or will he go?

I had my second job interview of the day this afternoon and sure enough, for the second time today, baseball came up in conversation with a prospective employer.  As my interview was wrapping up with the general manager and human resources representative for an organic food company in San Mateo, our talk reached the stage for final questions.  I had exhausted all of my queries, but the HR rep had one, based on me talking about this site: She wanted to know if I thought the San Francisco Giants would be able to keep Tim Lincecum.  I’ll repeat now what, in essence, I told my interviewers.

I think Tim Lincecum will stay.  I think it will cost the Giants a small fortune (my guess is $22 million a season) but I think he’ll stay.  The thought of him in Yankee pinstripes a few years from now seems compelling, maybe even plausible, but something about it doesn’t feel right.  Lincecum is the Giants’ biggest draw since Barry Bonds and their best homegrown talent since Will Clark, arguably even Willie Mays.  They’d be foolish not to do what it takes to keep him around, even if a slight risk exists of Lincecum getting injured with his unorthodox and hard-throwing delivery.  (For his part, Lincecum would be foolish, as well, to go to the Yankees.  The Bronx is the place where pitchers go to die, and Lincecum’s quirkiness probably wouldn’t go over too well with the organization either.  Consider the case of Jason Giambi.)

As a disclaimer, I say all this as someone who argued passionately two years ago that the Giants should trade Lincecum to the Toronto Blue Jays for Alex Rios. San Francisco still needs just short of an airlift to fix its moribund offense, even with the additions of Ryan Garko and Freddy Sanchez this past season.  Nevertheless, I think any deal from 2007 involving Lincecum would probably have come out worse than Andrew Bynum for Jason Kidd.

I didn’t get the job, but it’s always a pleasure to talk baseball, especially in an interview.  As an aside, this blog is helping tremendously in my job search.  I’ve been unemployed for a few weeks now, hitting Craig’s List and putting my name out there.  This site is the first thing that comes up in a Google search of my name, and I’ve even added the URL to my resume.  I feel fortunate to get to write here and thank everyone who reads, as well as everyone else who makes this possible.

Do you mention Frank Viola on your job interviews?

I had a job interview this morning, and my interviewer saw on my resume that I had gone to Cal Poly. She smiled and mentioned that she wished her children had gone there. She listed their colleges, saying her youngest had just made the baseball team for St. John’s University. I said I believed that Ron Artest went there, she said Chris Mullin was an alumni, and though I didn’t mention it, I know there’s a scene in Coming to America where Eddie Murphy goes to a St. John’s basketball game. Then I remembered Frank Viola.

Before winning 176 games in the majors, including 24 in his Cy Young award-winning season with the Minnesota Twins in 1988, Viola pitched at St. John’s with another future All Star, John Franco. They even helped the school make the College World Series in 1980. I didn’t bring all this up in the interview, of course, though I mentioned Viola’s name. I’m not sure if my interviewer knew who he was, but then again, St. John’s is really more of a basketball school.

I also brought up in the interview that I can name World Series winners from pretty much any year. I say this to a lot of people I meet, the kind of declaration that screams, Come on, I dare you to stump me. Some take the bait, some don’t. I should probably stop bringing it up with prospective employers, but with that said, it did help get me a job one time. It even used to be on my resume, under a “Fun Facts” section that has since been abandoned. That being said, my interviewer this morning didn’t take the challenge.