A special holiday salute from us, to you. (With pictures, of course!)
This holiday season, there’s a lot to be thankful for. Me? I’m thankful for Tim Kurkjian.
I know what you’re thinking. There have to be at least 100 people I should put on my list of life’s blessings before getting to Tim Kurkjian. Not that I don’t like Tim; in fact, not only do I think he’s the smartest baseball mind on the planet, he’s also delightful in person and just a heck of a nice guy.
But to understand why I’m thinking of my favorite ESPN baseball personality as I enjoy a little Yuletide cheer, I have to backtrack a bit — to mid-February, a few days after the entire baseball world reported to Spring Training.
At the time, I was covering the Astros for MLB.com. While many of my fellow reporters around the league already had blogs, I had stubbornly resisted. As if I didn’t have enough to keep my busy from day to day. And I stood by my convictions, until my boss informed us if we didn’t already have a blog, we had to start one. Immediately.
So there I was, sitting in the media workroom at Osceola County Stadium, trying to figure out the blog software. I figured posting pictures on the blog might be a nice little added touch, so I experimented with what I already had on my hard drive and eventually decided it was time to try to post one live on my new blog.
That’s when Kurkjian walked in, ready to do a spot for ESPN. Although Spring Training is casual — most people wear jeans and shorts and t-shirts — ESPN required its reporters to wear ties. The shots only show the reporters from the waist up, however, so Tim took a bit of a shortcut that many on-air folks take. He wore a button down shirt, a tie…and shorts and tennis shoes.
The imagery made me laugh out loud, and I snapped a picture. I asked Tim if I could post it and he gave his blessing.
So what “Video Killed the Radio Star” was to MTV, Tim Kurkjian is to me — the very first picture I ever posted on my blog. Little did I know, it would be first of hundreds of photos I would post over the course of the next several months, and it shot to the top of the list as my favorite thing to do while working. More on that later.
This brings me to the person I’m second-most thankful for — my good friend and colleague Matthew Leach. Matthew covers the Cardinals for MLB.com and therefore is the reporter whom I have spent more time around than any other in the last decade. Not only do we travel to each other’s cities three times a year, but we’ve spent many an October side-by-side in the press box, watching our teams play incredibly memorable playoff baseball the rest of the country missed because they were too busy watching Yankees-Red Sox.
But that’s not why I’m grateful to Matthew — no, I’m grateful to Matthew because he is the one who introduced me to Twitter.
We were, not surprisingly, in the press box, watching an Astros-Cardinals spring matchup in Jupiter, Fla. Matthew and someone from a St. Louis radio station were trying to explain Twitter to me, and, typically, I wasn’t quite catching on, because, frankly, it really didn’t interest me all that much.
“This is dumb,” I said flatly.
“Give it time,” Leach said. “Twitter isn’t something you can explain. You just have to experience it.”
I rolled my eyes, but gave it another try. And another. And another. And soon, as Leach predicted, I was hooked. Just like that, I was officially addicted to social networking.
In the ensuing weeks, I became somewhat of a new media madman. I didn’t go anywhere without my camera, and my blog became one gigantic photo gallery. I then started posting those pictures on a Facebook page that became less about my personal life and more about telling the behind-the-scenes story of the hometown nine.
What started as an enjoyable hobby turned into a fabulous job opportunity — with the Astros, who had already realized that social networking is not only here to stay, but is taking over as the No. 1 way teams are communicating with their fans and marketing their product. They created a new social networking position, and asked me to take it. I did, and I’m so glad I took the plunge.
“Real time” is a very real thing, and it’s been an absolute blast giving you the play-by-play as it is happening. Not the on-field play-by-play, but rather, the news, anecdotes and behind-the-scenes view that brings a baseball team to life.
From tidbits from the manager’s sessions to Puma one-liners to what players eat during flights to the funny interactions in the clubhouse before a game, I hope you’ve enjoyed the peek into what makes a baseball team tick.
In good years and bad, there are always stories to tell. The best part of social networking is exposing players as people — people who have families and personalities and interests, just like the rest of us.
Social networking in sports would be nothing without fan interest and interaction. So I’m dedicating this blog to you (although Tim Kurkjian runs a close second). As we head into the new year, please enjoy this pictorial holiday greeting from some baseball folks I think you’ll recognize. Happy holidays, from the Astros family to yours. See you in 2010!
Rhonda and Brad Mills
The Lyon family — Sara, Andrew and Brandon
The Sampson family — CJ, Heather, Colt and Chris
FS Houston’s Patti Smith
FS Houston’s Kevin Eschenfelder
FS Houston’s Greg Lucas
FS Houston’s Bart Enis
Athletic trainers Nate Lucero and Rex Jones
The clubhouse crew: Carl Schneider (home), Steve Perry (visitors), Dennis Liborio (home)
MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart
The end…(sort of).
Right after I took the picture of Wade posted above, Drayton walked in, grabbed my camera and thought it would be fun to include a picture of myself and Wade in this blog. I disagreed. Oh, did I disagree. But in true rock/paper/scissors fashion, owner beats professional blogger, every time.
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