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Farewell DC, and thank you

My final piece for UConn’s newspaper, The Daily Campus. Summing up my four years at the paper, and how it helped me become a better writer.


Just over four years ago, I was starting to think about what I wanted to study at UConn. I grew up in a journalism house, with both my parents working for The Providence Journal. I entered my freshman year undecided despite having a pretty good feeling I’d end up following my parents’ footsteps. During the fall of my first semester, I came across The Daily Campus booth at the involvement fair, and attended what would be my first of many meetings for the newspaper. I had always been interested in sports, both playing and watching, but the DC helped me realize how important a role sports would play in my life. static1.squarespace.co.jpeg

I left my first meeting as the new MLB columnist, with absolutely no idea where to start. My first few columns read like game summaries; essentially recaps of Sox games containing zero opinion or personality; the exact opposite of what a column should be. Each semester, I received more advice and feedback from editors both within the DC and back at home (wish my dad didn’t have access to red ink). I began to develop my own style of writing, and became more confident in my ability to use my voice. My takes got hotter, and my column gradually became more personable and opinionated.

Not only did my involvement with the DC help me develop my writing, it encouraged me to learn more about a sport I grew up loving. I was no stranger to the Red Sox, as my fandom started long before working at the DC. The column helped me evolve from just a Red Sox fan, into an all-around baseball fan. Some weeks I’d know right away what I wanted to write about, while others I would stare at a blank Word document for hours. One of my favorite things about living in Connecticut is having access not only to NESN, but also YES and SNY. In addition to watching every Sox game, I began watching Yankees games, Mets games and anything else I could find. The more I watched, the easier column topics came to mind.

Though I’ve decided to take my journalism career down the broadcast route, I want to thank the DC for giving me the opportunity to practice my writing every week, and develop my voice. As a female in the sports industry, I used to second-guess myself. I’d double and triple check something I was 100 percent sure I knew, in fear that I would l embarrass myself. The work I’ve put into my columns has helped me feel more confident in both my writing, and in general sports conversation. While broadcast and print are entirely different when it comes to writing, I feel more comfortable in my delivery as a result of learning how to show my personality through my work.

These 500 words a week started as just a job, and then gradually helped me shape my voice (and pay my nickel covers). To anyone who read my writing over the last four years, thank you, and let’s go Sox!

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Why women belong in sports

There seems to be a lot of people confused about the relationship between females and

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I’m here to provide a very complicated and in-depth explanation as to why women belong in sports: because they do and they can.

sports. Whether it be the trolls underneath tweets about the UConn women’s basketball team’s dominance, pouting about it not being a real sport or making an original comment about women belonging in kitchens, or maybe the guys I’ve met at bars that feel the need to quiz me on my sports knowledge to confirm whether or not I’m actually interested in sports, because me saying I am just isn’t nearly enough, female involvement in athletics can be a mystery to men.

I’m here to provide a very complicated and in-depth explanation as to why women belong in sports: because they do and they can. It should really be as simple as that, but in my experience thus far, that alone is not nearly enough.

Don’t get me wrong; conversations about old Red Sox players’ records and debates over rotations are perfectly fine. In fact, that is literally what I want my career to revolve around. Telling me I know nothing about baseball because I couldn’t tell you Fred Lynn’s batting average in 1976, however, is not fine. Two weeks ago I spent my Spring Break in Florida bouncing around spring training games. On the first day, a young man sat down next to me in the left field lawn. We chatted for a bit about the game, when he caught on that me, a female, was truly interested in what was going on in the field. That’s when the trivia started. These questions always make me laugh, because they’re often some insignificant stat that someone uses to make them sound sports intelligent.

“Oh, you know Lynn’s ’76 batting average? What was his average in ’77?” Look at that, you only knew that obscure stat because you heard it on MLB Network one day and it happened to stick. Guess we’re even now, and we’re both baseball idiots.

My other favorite response to the realization I’m a female trying to make a living in sports media is that I’m doing it for the attention of men.

“Do a little more research and you’ll make some guy really happy one day,” my spring training friend so kindly suggested to me.

“You want to cover baseball to date a player some day, right?” Another question I’ve been asked this past year.

Every long drive to a game or practice, standing in seven inches of snow trying to set up a tripod in the middle of January, the all-nighters spent learning Premier, the editing, then re-editing videos until I’m satisfied. I must be doing all that to impress a guy, or to weasel my way into dating an athlete. Certainly not because I care about my work and am constantly looking for experience and ways to get better. Not because I grew up watching baseball with my dad, playing organized and neighborhood sports. Not because I’ve dreamed of being a reporter and an athlete, and found a way to combine my two passions into a career.

The next time sports come up in conversation with a female: debate, discuss, and engage. Just don’t immediately test their sports knowledge in an attempt to exploit yours and feel dominant (and if you insist on doing so, at least make sure you know your own trivia because WAR stands for “Wins Above Replacement” not “Wins Against Replacement”).

While these questions and comments sometimes briefly get under my skin, the ignorant statements will only fuel us to work harder. And as females we will continue to thrive in a once male-dominated industry.

Leave the game alone

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With the Cubs looking to end their 108 year Championship drought, Game 7 of the 2016 World Series saw the highest MLB ratings in 25 years. (ABC News)

Last year the NFL’s ratings went down nine percent during the regular season, and six percent throughout the playoffs. There were many excuses tossed around after the decline, including the election and a Tom Brady-less start to the season. The NFL made efforts to gain back its viewers with Thursday Night games streaming for free through Twitter, but clearly that didn’t work out.

Though professional leagues are constantly trying to increase their viewership, now is an even better time than ever to expand their demographic. With one league’s viewership taking a major dip, other leagues will look to appeal to new audiences.

This is a potential reason behind why the MLB has been pushing pace of play changes lately. A huge complaint about baseball is that the games are incredibly long, and therefore boring. Though I can’t disagree that baseball is a rather long game, I also happen to love the sport. I’m fine with the league making some gameplay changes that aim to trim a few minutes off the clock, but I have a serious problem with some proposed changes that entirely alter the game. Attempting to speed up the pace of play in order to appeal to a new demographic might actually drive away current viewers who enjoy the sport exactly the way it is.

Some modifications have already been made for the upcoming major league season, while others are still in the testing stage at the minor league level.

Starting in 2017, intentional walks are still legal, but pitchers no longer have to throw four lobs to their standing catcher to do so. Replacing those four pitches will be a signal from the manager to the home plate umpire, prompting the batter to be sent to first base. This isn’t a deal breaker for me, but I’m not a huge fan. Pitchers can be easily spooked, and tossing four un-hittable pitches while staring down a home-run smashing designated hitter isn’t necessarily an easy task. The long tosses to the catcher could easily turn into wild pitches allowing runners to advance or worse, one floating right over the center of the plate. How long does it even take to throw four pitches? If you’re telling me that the time saved by erasing four pitches is what’s keeping you from watching MLB games then I’ve got news for you: I don’t think you like baseball.

Another rule modification imposed for this upcoming season is the 30-second limit given to managers to decide whether or not to challenge a play. The addition of replay review is already slightly maddening to me, but that’s not going anywhere. Half a minute is more than enough time to decide if you’re challenging a play, so this one I’m OK with.

Perhaps the most ridiculous change being proposed has to do with extra innings. Starting in the minors this year, extra innings will begin with a runner already on second. So we’re going to make scrappy changes to the nine innings preceding extras, then speed up perhaps the most exciting part of the entire game? Got it. This is a rule that I’m hoping crashes and burns in the minors and never finds its way to the big league.

Am I opposed to imposing some rules to speed things up? Absolutely not. Am I opposed to changing the actual game for the sake of potentially gaining a few viewers? You bet. I’m all for giving baseball more attention and increasing the audience, as long as the sport I love doesn’t have to suffer. Perhaps the league should stop chasing people down on Twitter for sharing videos of their games, and allow for interest to generate online. Let’s give batters less time to step out of the box, get rid of the painstakingly long replay reviews, and maybe take fewer television timeouts to speed things up. If it takes a ton of changes and shaving minutes off the clock for you to enjoy watching MLB games, then baseball just might not be for you.

Sports Reporters: Embrace your fandom, don’t hide it

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Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell speaks to reporters in the dugout during the 2013 spring training season. (AP Photo/ Carlos Osorio)

If you follow me on any social media, you probably know that I’m a big Red Sox fan; I don’t attempt to hide it. In my four years of journalism courses at UConn, the topic of bias has come up many times. Political reporters are advised to not declare a party affiliation, not to attend rallies or protests and to monitor their political opinion postings and sharing on social media. For aspiring sports journalists, a similar suggestion is often made: remain neutral, and don’t affiliate yourself with a certain team. While there is some value in this advice, I think it’s fairly outdated.

Chances are if you’re in this industry, you have an interest in sports. That interest likely stems from growing up as a sports fan, and more specifically a fan of certain teams. Being a fan involves knowledge as well as passion, two traits I consider to be highly valuable in this career. Rather than abandon a fandom when entering this field, you should embrace it, while also practicing objectivity.

“Old school” sports reporters may suggest that being a fan in this career makes you less credible, and is potentially inappropriate. The credibility argument has always baffled me. I know few fans, if any, who do nothing but praise their team and their organization. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Fans are the biggest critics, constantly analyzing their team’s performance and management decisions. As a sports journalist, this is a useful tool if you apply it to all teams rather than just your own. Disguising your fandom arguably makes you less credible, as you’re ignoring a part of your life.

Balancing being a fan and a professional sports reporter provides a human element to your work while giving your readers/viewers honest insight.

Another issue that seems to arise within sports reporting is player interaction. The question of what’s appropriate in terms of how you gather information, and how comfortable you should be with the players and coaches you work with.

Rob Bradford is a columnist for WEEI, and the Boston Herald’s former Red Sox columnist. A few weeks ago, Bradford hosted Sox pitcher’s Joe Kelly and Rick Porcello on his podcast. The set up of the podcast caused some stirring among the industry, as the three guys did the podcast from a bar. But wait there’s more! There were even beers involved. The old school guys probably passed out at the mere idea of a professional reporter sharing drinks with athletes while doing their job.

While there is still value in the reporters that gather stats and attend press conferences faithfully, the fact is, that stuff has gotten boring. Sure, there’s still a huge interest in hearing what athletes and coaches have to say post game/practice, but fans want more than that. Fans want personal stories, athletes opening up beyond the often robotic post game pressers where they recite cliché lines you’ve heard 1,001 times before. Those stories and moments don’t come in conference rooms or offices, those stories come from comfortable, relaxed environments (such as bars) where athletes have a built up trust with their interviewer. Of course there are lines to be conscious of crossing, but this form of interaction is incredibly valuable for sports media.

As a student reporter, I’ve faced similar situations with being a fan and also with player interaction. The athletes I cover are also my classmates, and in some cases, my friends. Maintaining both a personal and professional relationship with the athletes you cover is possible, and adds value to your reporting if done appropriately. Being cautious of crossing lines and remaining objective are vital in this industry, but the personal connections we have to teams and players is not something to be ignored, but embraced.

Chris Sale is on the Red Sox

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(Adam Hunger, AP)

Yesterday I complained about Dave Dombrowski being silent at Winter Meetings. And then Tuesday came.

A little after 1:00 today, Ken Rosenthal (the GOAT of baseball breaking news) tweeted that the Red Sox had traded for Chicago’s all star pitcher, Chris Sale.

I had to leave class to read it again for confirmation, and to then furiously scroll through twitter for more information and reactions.

Chris Sale for top prospect Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, no. 8 prospect Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz. This is relieving, exciting, terrifying, all at the same time.

It seems like talks of a Sale trade have been going on forever now, so to finally have him landed somewhere, especially Boston is an incredible feeling. Hearing for months what he was going to cost for the Red Sox had me terrified. Benintendi, JBJ, Betts, Moncada, Kopech, were all involved in the talks.

As of now, this deal could be considered a steal for Boston, taking into account who else could have ended up getting shipped out.

With that said, giving up Moncada and Kopech has me very weary. Moncada made his major league debut last year, and made it apparent his defense was not fit for the majors, and he struggled immensely against major league pitching. Kopech is listed as the no. 5 prospect on SoxProspects.com, right behind Jason Groome: Boston’s first pick in the 2016 draft.

It’s a matter of present vs. future. Moncada and Kopech could, and likely will prove to be all star caliber players down the road, but Davey is thinking about the present. Sale has been a CY Young candidate for multiple years, and received multiple MVP votes as well. In 2016 he posted a 3.34 ERA for Chicago, with 230 strikeouts in 226.2 innings pitched.

I’m still processing the fact this this actually happened, but for now I think I’m happy. We’re taking a huge hit losing three top ten prospects, but Chris Sale is on the Red Sox alongside Rick Porcello, and David Price and that is pretty damn awesome.

Red Sox become active in Winter Meetings

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Relief picherTyler Thornburg signs a ball for a fan at Fenway Park in April 2014. (Bob DeChiara USA Today Sports)

I woke up at 9:31 Tuesday morning, realizing immediately I had missed my mandatory philosophy exam review. For a second I felt bad, until I checked twitter and saw something that made me feel much worse.

Travis Shaw had been sent to Milwaukee in exchange for relief pitcher Tyler Thornburg. Along with Shaw went two prospects; infielder Mauricio Dubon and pitcher Josh Pennington.

I was sad at first, despite Shaw’s numbers last year he was someone I really enjoyed having on the team. Then I felt a little bit more positive after checking out Thornburg’s numbers, and then it finally hit me.

With Travis Shaw gone, Pablo Sandoval would without a doubt be our main third base-man this upcoming season. I’ve exhausted all belt-popping and body fat percentage jokes so we’ll just leave those out.  It might seem unfair to judge Sandoval before giving him a real chance, but the problem is he’s been given a lot of chances. Chances to lose weight, to play up to his worth and earn his spot during spring training. Instead, it’s being handed to him.

“He still has to earn his job… It’s not like we’re going [to spring training] and saying, ‘No matter what you do, you’re our third baseman.'” Dombrowski said at the Winter Meetings.

Well who else is going to take the spot Davey? Yoan Moncada, who made his major league debut last fall, striking out 12 times in 19 at bats and

After being beat out for the spot by Shaw last year, and then facing a season-ending injury, you can’t blame Red Sox fans for being weary of Sandoval’s return.

Breaking down the new CBA

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(AP)

 

The first of December is significant for a multitude of reasons.  For me it marks the unofficial start to winter, the day my Christmas music is justified despite playing it since November. This year, the first of the month was a little more daunting. For weeks, the Major League Baseball Players Association and owners struggled to reach common ground on a new labor deal, as the current one expired at midnight on Thursday.

At 8:45 Wednesday night, Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the collective bargaining agreement was done, just hours before the deadline. Had a deal not been met, a lockout would eventually take place. Of course, a lockout in the spring would have more of a noticeable impact. An off-season lockout wouldn’t prevent winter meetings from going on, but without clear policies in place owners would be reluctant to making many moves. The compromise extends the 21 years of “peace” within the league, with the last lockout occurring in 1994.

All the CBA talks can be hard to follow, so let’s breakdown what was debated and the compromises that were eventually made. There are a lot of numbers coming up, so bare with me.

We’ll start with free agency and how qualifying offers will change. Under the new agreement, players will no longer be allowed to receive a qualifying offer (QO) more than once. QO’s are always one-year deals with fixed amounts offered to free agents. The amount is determined by averaging the salaries of the top-125 players of the previous season. Teams that give up a QO free agent will be granted a pick (number dependent on team’s market size) only if the free agent signs a contract above $50 million. In the past, teams that signed QO free agents would have to sacrifice a first round draft pick. Now, any team over the luxury tax picking up a QO free agent will have to give up a second and fifth round pick in addition to $1 million in international bonus money. Teams under the luxury tax will give up a third round pick in exchange for the QO free agent.

So let’s talk about the luxury tax. While the MLB does not have a hard salary cap, they attempt to control team’s spending through punishment by a luxury tax. The new CBA will raise the luxury tax slightly at first (from $189 million to $195 million) and then up to $210 million by 2021 when this CBA will expire. Though the raise isn’t monumental, repeat offenders will face much heftier punishment. By third offense, a team will have to pay 50 percent when they go $20 million over, then 62.5 percent for the next $20 million and a whooping 95 percent after going $40 million over. These changes in penalties will take effect in 2017.

The new labor deal put an end to the god-awful All-Star game rule. In the past, the winner of the All-Star game also won home field advantage in the World Series. I can kind of understand wanting to add incentive other than pride to an otherwise meaningless mid-season game. However, allowing a mash up of players from various teams to determine something as important as home field advantage is absurd. Instead, home field advantage will be determined by which team has the better record. Wild concept.

Other additions to the deal include a ban on chewing tobacco for all new players, and season openers being moved to the beginning of the week starting in 2018 to allow for more off-days.

Some issues were not fully addressed, such as the possibility of a 26-man roster from April-August. According to sources, owners were concerned with the extra opening, and players were split so the issue may be revisited.

As for what didn’t make the cut: an international draft. Numerous top prospects and Latin American players expressed their opposition to the idea, including David Ortiz, Edwin Encarnacion, Gary Sanchez and Carlos Santana. Most of the players agreed that an international draft would have negative effects on prospects, as they would see a significant decrease in signing bonuses. Owners would have more control over the players, as they would lose the freedom to negotiate with various teams. Some of the top Dominican prospects felt strongly enough to speak at the meetings in Dallas, which extended until 5 a.m. Wednesday.

Unless you’re into baseball for the business aspect, you’re likely wondering how all this will affect the players. In short, there’s no solid answer. Though a lot of details on the new agreement have surfaced, there are still a lot of unknowns. Each day we’ll learn more and more and everyone will surely voice opinions on what’s good and what’s bad, but in reality all we can do is sit back and see how it plays out.