I truly believe we can all be almost anything we want to be. I think it just takes hard work, perseverance, some creativity, and, maybe, a little luck. Sometimes, I think, we also have to modify our dreams a little. Last week, I got to live out, in a sense, one of my childhood dreams.
I always wanted to be a Major League baseball player. As a kid, I was certain that I’d get there. I thought that one had to love baseball, unconditionally, in order to be a Big Leaguer. I certainly met that requirement. I played baseball all of the time. If I wasn’t outside having a catch or battling in an epic Wiffle Ball game, I was in my basement throwing rubber balls against the wall and living out imaginary contests as I became each of the Yankees as the ball ricocheted off the cinder blocks. There was no one better (at least in my world) of making diving catches onto the hard cement floor. (For some reason it never hurt to dive into the air to catch the rubber ball that was almost speeding by me.) All of this convinced me that one day I’d be a Yankee.
It wasn’t to be.
Out on real baseball diamonds, around other kids, my baseball skills were lacking. I didn’t hit all that well. I had a weak arm. And it took me a long time to realize that I wasn’t even particularly good at fielding. When I dove for balls outside on the grass and clay of the local baseball fields, I usually missed them. Sadly, I also missed more than my fair share of balls hit right at me.
Realizing that the Yankees were never going to give me a contract, I set my sights in a different direction: sportscasting. If I couldn’t be a player, I’d do the next best thing, I’d talk about the players. I figured that one day I’d either be the Yankees radio play-by-play guy or the next public address announcer at Yankee Stadium. (I have always set my sights high…for me it was only, and always, about the Yankees.)
The calling of education got in the way of my dreams of being an announcer. I think was a good thing. I think (I hope) I’m a better educator than I ever would have been as someone blabbering on the radio. Still, I often wonder what it would have been like.
It’s funny, I always loved writing. I write a lot (obviously). But, I never pictured myself as a baseball writer. For some reason, I never seriously considered having a job that allowed my written words do my talking about baseball.
And yet, I wrote about baseball a lot.
After some positive feedback on many of my baseball related blog posts, I began to wonder a bit about sports writing. And, a number of months ago, I secured a position as a part-time writer for “It’s About the Money,” Yankee blog that is part of the ESPN SweetSpot Network.
And through this, I have begun living out small parts of those dreams from long ago…
I have already published a fair number of articles on the Yankees blog. And, now that the editing of my latest book is completed, and I have finished a lot of the report writing that is the life of a school principal in the spring, I should soon have time to write a bit more.
Then, a week, or so ago, I was part of my first-ever podcast. In other words, I talked Yankee baseball on the Internet for others to hear. I was surprised when I received a great deal of positive feedback on my podcast performance. It was a start.
Next came, my small, and very brief, introduction into the world of sports reporting…
I figured that I needed a venue to learn what is involved in writing about sports live at a professional venue. And, I found just the right place to start…
My son Ethan has always loved and rooted for Tim Tebow. We both are sad that he never really made it as a NFL quarterback. (I tend to root for my children’s favorite players – even though my children are now all adults. I guess there will always be a part of me that imagines them as little kids.)
For those who may not know, Tim Tebow is now attempting to make a career for himself in baseball. He was signed by the New York Mets organization.
In order to live out his new dream, Tim Tebow is now playing Minor League baseball.
Last week, Tebow’s team, the Columbia Fireflies, played a series in Lakewood, New Jersey against the BlueClaws. Since the game was about 90-minutes away, I decided to take Ethan to see this football star trying to make it in baseball.
Before heading down to Lakewood, I contacted the team, and requested a press pass.
I was somewhat shocked and amazed when my request was granted. After all, this is all brand new to me. I am figuring it all out. This proved I was actually considered a sportswriter…
We arrived at the ballpark, purchased Ethan’s ticket (I picked up my pass, and entered the ballpark. We arrived after the first game of a double header had started. After all, we couldn’t leave until after school. And then we had the long drive and the typical Garden State Parkway traffic.
Ethan and I enjoyed the sights and sounds of the small stadium. We ate some stadium food and we saw Tim Tebow bat twice. He failed to get a hit both times. We talked baseball together. We laughed. I love spending time with Ethan. This is his last summer before he heads off to college.
I was trying to develop a story for the blog, trying to get a feel for the stadium and sports reporting, when after a short while, Ethan encouraged me to head up to the press box. “That’s what you are here for Dad.”
(I may have reached the age where my kids know more than I do.)
So, I left Ethan in his element, among and with the faithful baseball crowd, and ventured off to what might be my new element.
With my press pass I was admitted into the elevator that brings one to the press box. I got off the elevator, walked down a short hall, opened the PRESS BOX door and…
And nobody said, “GET OUT!”
Instead, they all seemed to immediately accept me.
I looked around, I saw people working, and I tried to pretend like I had done this all countless times before. Granted, this was the low Minor Leagues, Single -A, but it was still professional baseball and it was a big step for me.
Just like Tebow, I was getting my start in the minors.
Eventually I introduced myself to the other reporters. I told them it was my first game. They could probably tell – after all, I was wearing a suit. I was definitely over-dressed for the occasion. They smiled. “Who do you write for Paul?” one reporter asked. My reply, “The ESPN SweetSpot Network” was met with nods of approval.
I was (I am) a sportswriter.
And so, for a few innings, in the second game of a double header, before it got too late, and we had to head north on New Jersey’s favorite toll road, I sat in the booth with the writers and jotted down notes about the game. Tim Tebow didn’t play in that second game. His absence sent some of the reporters home early. They were there for the big story. An otherwise ordinary low level minor league game isn’t exactly big media worthy. My first game wasn’t something that the New York tabloids were interested in covering.
It was an interesting dynamic to be enjoying this new experience, in and among people who were working at their profession. For them, this wasn’t necessarily something fun, it was their occupation. While I was able to leave my professional worries at the stadium gates, my fellow writers in the booth were hard at work. They had stories to write, tales to tell, and deadlines on the horizon.
I crafted a story of my experience that I hope will be soon published on the baseball blog. (I will post a link here when it is.)
Over the summer, I plan to do this as much as I can with Ethan. We’ll go to some games. I’ll go up in the booth, he’ll sit with the fans. I plan to do some reporting on the Yankees minor league players for “It’s About the Money.“
But, on this first occasion, I needed to just to see what the whole experience was all about. I wasn’t quite ready for prime time. I learned a lot. Mostly, I learned that this is something I can do.
It was a start, but we all have to start somewhere.
We really can make our dreams a reality. All it takes is hard work, perseverance, some creativity, and, maybe, a little luck.
Impossible really is an illusion.