Nov. 5 marked somewhat of a personal milestone for me as a sports reporter. It was three years ago that night I covered my first game as an official press member. In college I guess you could say I was a press member, being the Sports Editor of the student newspaper, but there was something unique about getting hired by a local newspaper to cover sports post-graduation.
I figured I’d use this post to tell some fun stories and memories of the past three years, being a (post-college) sports reporter. Anything to help get my mind off that Boston World Series win.
The first game
The first post-college game I covered (Nov. 5, 2010) was a high school football game: Yorktown (N.Y.) vs. Clarkstown North in a DeMatteo Bowl game at White Plains High. I had been hired by the North County News, a hyper local newsweekly in Westchester. It was a little overwhelming, not to mention cold, but turned out to be a great game and an overall great experience.
The Yorktown Huskers won 21-13, and a neat angle to take with the article was the fact that the game took place on the quarterback’s birthday. Senior Justin Mabus, in his last game as a high school QB, gets the win – and it was birthday.
Doesn’t get any sweeter than that. Last I heard, Mabus was playing lacrosse at Towson.
I pointed out my milestone on Twitter and was actually congratulated by Mike Rescigno, Yorktown’s head football coach. He not only offered congrats, he also pointed out Yorktown had won another DeMatteo Bowl this year, beating the Headless Horsemen of Sleepy Hollow HS. In a way, it felt as if the whole thing had come full circle.
The best quotes
Sometimes the most genuine stories stem from the best postgame quotes from athletes. At the high school level it’s oftentimes difficult to get the best quotes out of a player. They are apt to get embarrassed in front of their teammates, I’ve learned; they can become shy when talking to the press, no matter the sport.
On one occasion though, it was a reporter’s dream for an excellent story.
In the spring of 2012 at Croton-Harmon high (N.Y.) I was covering my favorite sport (obviously) – baseball. I had since jumped from the North County News to The Examiner, the company I currently work for. The Croton Tigers were pitted up against the Valhalla (N.Y.) Vikings.
Valhalla’s pitcher and its second baseman were brothers: Matt Cassinelli (P) and Justin Cassinelli (2B). Matt started the game and did a nice job, only letting up three runs. Justin, as fate would have it, drove in the deciding run, ultimately giving his team – and his brother – a 4-3 victory.
The first question I asked Matt after the game was, of course, how he felt about his brother driving in the run which led to him notching the W.
“I think I’m going to make him a big dinner when we get home.”
When you have an amazing quote as such, your story is bound to be an awesome read.
Once in awhile as a sportswriter you will come across an ending to a game that will leave a lasting impression. There have been quite a few photo finishes I have witnessed over the past three years; probably too many to count, but there are two which stand out like a pair of roses in a bed of thistles.
The first: March 3 of this year. And coincidently enough, it was a game I wasn’t even covering.
I had arrived at the Westchester County Center early that afternoon, as I was to cover two girls’ hoops games: Ossining (N.Y.) vs. the high school I graduated from in 2005, Our Lady of Lourdes (Poughkeepsie, N.Y.), followed by Peekskill (N.Y.) vs. Albertus Magnus.
The New Rochelle vs. Mount Vernon boys’ game happened to be in its final minutes, and I stood witness to what will forever go down as “the shot.”
Vaguely, I even made it into the photo captured by ESPN.
The other extravagant ending happened to come on Aug. 31, though it wasn’t a high school game I was covering.
Over the summer my editors usually keep me busy by having me cover one of our semi-local professional baseball teams, the Hudson Valley Renegades, as it’s been well-documented in Yankee Yapping over the last couple years.
I’ve written about this finish before, but I’ll refresh the minds of the readers.
The Renegades were pitted up against the Yankees’ Single-A affiliate from Staten Island. Locked in a 12th inning 2-2 battle with playoff implications on the line, the Yankees loaded the bases with nobody out. Up came Staten Island left fielder Daniel Lopez, who shot a liner up the middle that, thanks to a couple Renegade errors, brought four runs to the plate.
It may not have counted as an inside-the-park grand slam, but it was just as good, and went for one of the wildest finishes I’ve ever had to report on. The Yankees of course won the game after 12 frames, 6-2.
Championship games & MVPs
It’s pretty much understood as a sports reporter you’ll be given the opportunity to cover games with everything on the line. At the high school level there are tournaments, playoffs, and championship games. It’s been an honor to report on title games, and watch the teams you’ve spent the entire year covering celebrate their victories.
I’ve watched everyone from the Yorktown girls’ lacrosse team to the Ossining and Peekskill girls’ basketball teams win NYS Section 1 titles. One of my favorite memories was being on the field the night the Hudson Valley Renegades captured their first New York-Penn League title since 1999, last September.
As it’s been mentioned several times, interviewing two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning these past two years was such an honor for me, it’s included in my Twitter bio.
I’d say covering title games and interviewing outstanding players is the best part of the whole job.
Kind words of encouragement
Far be it for me to go fishing for compliments – no reporter, or hard worker of any sort, ever should. Yet it is nice when a coach or a manager recognizes your work and calls you on what a nice job you’ve done.
I was conducting a phone interview with the Lakeland (N.Y.) high baseball coach in the spring of 2011, and at the tail end of the interview, he snuck it in: “nice job on that last story on us, by the way, A.J.”
It’s nice to know your hard work doesn’t go for naught.
One of the most meaningful compliments I ever received from anyone came last summer, after my first article on the Hudson Valley Renegades ran. After I conducted my interview with skipper Jared Sandberg, this is pretty much how the conversation went down:
“Which paper are you with again?” he asked.
“The Examiner,” I replied.
“Oh, I saw that article from last week!” he exclaimed. Frightened, I had no idea what he was going to say next.
“That was really well-written and very nicely done; nice spread – and the pictures came out great, too.”
It meant so much to hear him say that. Jared Sandberg after all is the nephew of Chicago Cubs’ Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg; he also spent time in the bigs as a third baseman with the Devil Rays. It was overly encouraging to hear such an established baseball man compliment me on my work, out of nowhere.
I’d just like to thank everyone who has supported me to this point in my career, and those who continue to support me. I hope bigger and better things await me, in the future. In particular I need to send special thanks to Adam Stone, Ray Gallagher, Rob DiAntonio, Andy Jacobs, Mike Sabini, and Mike Perrota.
Without these fine journalists teaching me and giving me a shot, I’d pretty much be nowhere.
It’s been a wild three years. Thanks again to everyone. I promise the journey is far from over.
One last shout out
Though I graduated in 2010, I caught wind (of course via Twitter, what else?) that my alma mater Mercy College had its women’s soccer team playing for an NCAA DII national title this weekend. The lady Mavericks, seeded fifth, traveled up to Albany to faceoff with No. 4 Adelphi in the tournament, but came up short this afternoon, 5-0.
Working as Sports Editor on The Impact (Mercy’s student paper) for two years, all too regularly it became difficult to pen game recaps, mainly because the sports teams suffered so many losing campaigns playing in the East Coast Conference (ECC) matched up with so many formidable DII opponents.
As I remember, the men’s hoops team went 0-26 one year I was Sports Editor.
Yeah, I know. Ouch.
But it looks as if they’ve made strides since the days of losing seasons, and have come a long way to build the athletic program up – as evidenced by the women’s soccer team stepping up to become a juggernaut this year.
Tip of the cap to the lady Mavs on a winning season!
While there’s plenty of offseason left and the Yankees haven’t seen a lot of back page action, there’ve been a few recent stories from the so-called “Bronx Bomber Front,” if you will.
First and foremost, the Yankees signed back 2007’s two breakout pitchers, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, inking both to one-year deals to avoid arbitration. Hughes was signed back for $7.15 million while Chamberlain was given just $1.88 million – startling, considering these two were pegged as the future of the Yankee pitching staff, and they’re coming back on a dime with no long-term commitment.
The 27-year-old promising rookies of ’07 haven’t exactly shown much promise.
In this writer’s opinion, 2013 will be their final chance to prove whether or not they are truly the new breed of Yankee arms. Last year Hughes went 16-13 with an ERA of 4.23, which is somewhat respectable for a middle-of-the-rotation starter, but he was second in the majors in the home runs allowed category with 35. Not to mention he gave up two more long balls in the playoffs while posting a record of 0-1 in October.
If Hughes doesn’t get it straightened out this coming season, I’m afraid his time in pinstripes may be up. His main problem, as noted every year in Spring Training, seems to be his faith, or lack of faith, in his breaking ball. Hughes is characteristically a high-fastball pitcher, and when he hangs his breaking ball, hitters absolutely feast off it.
Bottom line: Hughes needs to right many wrongs this year, if he wants to stay a Yankee.
Chamberlain’s biggest problem in recent seasons has undoubtedly been his inability to stay healthy. In 2012 Chamberlain logged just 20.2 innings in 22 games, a bizarre ankle injury claiming most of his season.
It got worse for him in the playoffs when, in Game 4 of the ALDS, Matt Wieters of the Baltimore Orioles shattered his bat facing him; the broken shard of wood coming back and striking Chamberlain in the elbow, forcing him out of the game.
Aside from an electric debut in 2007 and a 2009 World Series ring, I would say it’s not unfair to compare Chamberlain to another injury-prone pitcher: Carl Pavano – who, I just read today, ruptured his spleen shoveling snow.
Why am I not surprised? Only Pavano. I mean…who else would that happen to?
But back to Chamberlain.
2013 will be a test for him. And if he fails, like Hughes, Chamberlain might have to bow out of the Bronx – and as we saw with Nick Swisher, it could potentially be a not-so-gracious departure.
Along with Hughes and Chamberlain, the Bombers announced the re-signing of another 27-year-old pitcher, David Robertson. The setup man from Alabama received $3.1 million for one year, also avoiding arbitration.
Typical move that made sense. Obviously the Yankees weren’t letting go of him. I suppose they got him for so cheap because of his 2-7 record last year – as he also proved he may not be suited to fill Mariano Rivera’s cleats. In his first save opp following Rivera’s season-ending injury, Robertson blew it vs. Tampa Bay and lost the closer role out to Rafael Soriano, who as we recently learned walked to the Washington Nationals.
Thankfully for the Yankees, Rivera is returning. And I expect Mo to be Mo, barring any lingering effects from his torn ACL. If his body responds nicely, it’s good news for the Bombers. However, as we saw with Chien-Ming Wang a few years back, leg injuries can damage a pitcher’s footing, causing a world of problems.
Then again, Wang’s injury was different from Rivera’s. Wang injured his pivot foot running home during an interleague game in Houston. Nonetheless, we’ll find out just how Mo will do after he runs out of the Yankee bullpen in April, “Enter Sandman” blaring through the Yankee Stadium speakers.
In addition to the retention of some pitchers, the Yankees announced that on March 30, in their last exhibition before Opening Day, they will travel to West Point and face the ARMY baseball team at the United States Military Academy.
Ever since they announced this special game, I’ve been wondering which key players the Yankees will bring to West Point. Being two days before Opening Day, I’m not exactly sure if many of the regulars, like Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Kevin Youkilis, Ichiro, Mark Teixeira, and Robinson Cano, will be playing.
I could see them bringing a few bigs, but certainly not all of them. I’d also like to explore the possibility of covering this game, if humanly possible. I might have to ask my publisher and editors to contact West Point for a credential to get in. I’d be honored to cover such a game, even though it’s simply an exhibition.
One player who won’t be at West Point on March 30 (at least not there to play, anyway) is Alex Rodriguez. The third baseman had surgery on Jan. 16 to repair a torn labrum, a procedure that was said to have gone off without a hitch.
Today Yankee General Manager Brian Cashman was interviewed on WFAN radio in New York and said Rodriguez may miss the entire 2013 season, although it is believed he could be back after the All-Star break.
A-Rod is signed on for a long time – through 2017, to be exact. I’m probably not in the minority here; a lot of folks probably feel the same way, but I for one would be interested to see how the Yanks would fare for a whole year without the 37-year-old slugger-in-decline. The postseason, should the Yankees make it, would be most interesting sans A-Rod, for sure.
Think about it: if the Yankees go all the way with no Rodriguez, it’ll be the classic “we never needed A-Rod to win” mind frame. By chance the Yankees get ousted early – or don’t make the postseason at all, for that matter – it’ll be the heavy “we need A-Rod to win” spiel.
Again, interesting for sure.
In the meantime, pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Tampa on Feb. 12 and their first full workout will take place the very next day. Position players report to camp on Feb. 17; their first full team workout scheduled, again, for the following day.
The Yanks’ first exhibition game will happen on Feb. 23 at the Braves – the tune-up games beginning nine days earlier because of the World Baseball Classic this spring. Teixeira will play for the USA team, which will be managed by former Yankee skipper Joe Torre.
Cano will play for the Dominican Republic squad, so even though real, meaningful baseball will not completely return until April 1, we’ll be treated to some Yankees playing in games featuring quality competition.
Until then, basketball and next Sunday’s Super Bowl are dominating the sports pages. Just for the heck of it, I’ll entertain you guys with a story from a high school girls’ basketball game I covered a couple weeks back.
Basically this winter my editor put me on the girls hoops beat. My responsibility is to attend games and write about the girls’ basketball teams in our coverage area – and our newspaper has two of the top-ranked teams in New York state, which makes the job a lot of fun. The girls have been enjoying a tremendous amount of success these past two months.
On Thursday Jan. 10 I was covering a game; the final score being 38-32. Pretty close and low-scoring game, all the way through.
After interviewing the coaches from the winning team and the losing team, collecting their thoughts and impressions, I went to interview the girl with the most points on the winning side. The young lady, a junior forward, finished with 19 points (including two, 3-point field goals) leading all scorers.
Before I could conduct my interview, her friend ran up to her and embraced her, giving her a big hug. Standing next to her with my recorder in hand, ready to conduct the interview, her friend (in an attempt to be discreet, although I heard every word) asked her,
“Is that your boyfriend?”
She looked at me chuckled and replied, “No, he’s…the interviewer.”
Confused, yet aware of what her friend had asked her, I looked at her and said,
“Wait, did she just…”
Smiling, and clearly a little embarrassed, she mustered the response,
“Yeah, she did.”
With a beat red face I tried my best to shake it off, and then carried on, conducting my interview with her.
First of all, at 25 years old I’m so glad I look young enough to still be in high school. Makes me feel so grown up. And secondly, when things like this happen, it gives me more and more motivation and incentive to want to take the next step in my career; cover pro sports and not just high school games – risking incidents similar to this one because I apparently look as if I belong on “Barney & Friends.”
Not that I haven’t had a taste of pro sports coverage – I did, covering the Hudson Valley Renegades and Eli Manning’s appearance at the Guiding Eyes Golf Classic this past summer – but I’d like to expand upon that; do a lot more of it, more consistently.
MLB.com. YES Network. #GetAtMeBro
While the Yankees are Mets – and most baseball fans in New York – are gearing up for what’s expected to be a well-played Subway Series at Yankee Stadium this weekend, another team is preparing for a big day tomorrow.
The Briarcliff Bears, one of the local High School baseball teams I have covered this past season for my newspaper, is gunning for a state title. Last Wednesday the Bears won their section, beating Keio – a team that had beaten them 8-1 during the regular season – by a score of 5-0. (Ironically enough the Bears won their Section at Dutchess Stadium, the same Stadium I interned at…yeah, I had to throw that in).
Briarcliff went on to win its region and this weekend will compete in Binghamton for the Class B New York State title. The Bears from Section 1 will take on Albany Academy from Section 2 tomorrow morning. If they beat Albany, they play the winner of Fredonia (Section 6) and Oneonta (Section 4) later in the day for the state crown.
Best of luck, guys.
I had the pleasure of writing Briarcliff’s season preview back in March, and I covered the Bears multiple times this season – and each game of theirs I covered, they won.
At the beginning of the year on April 5, the Bears hosted their annual Diamond Classic tournament. They made the finals and routed rival Irvington 20-7, winning their own tournament for the first time since 2009.
Power-hitting senior third baseman John Fussell – who has received offers to play baseball next year at Wake Forest, UMass, and Virginia Tech – collected six hits throughout the Diamond Classic, including a home run. He took home the honor of tourney MVP.
“I’m proud and it’s a great way to start the year off,” Fussell said. “It’s a good feeling; I’ve been doing what I need to do so far and I hope I keep it up.”
Outfielder Spencer Kulman earned all-tournament honors, as he clubbed his first varsity level home run vs. Irvington. His teammates ran out of the dugout to congratulate him on his first round-tripper, and Kulman was just as happy with his feat.
“It was my first real home run,” he said. “I’ve had a couple in scrimmages the last two years, but it’s good to finally have one count and it was nice to have them come out for me; a good feeling.”
On May 18 the Bears once again won big, beating another rival, Pleasantville, 10-4. Briarcliff had lost to Pleasantville 2-1 two days earlier, but let out all their aggression in the fourth inning, plating nine runs.
Bears’ Head Coach John Consorti attributed the big fourth inning to some tweaking.
“I think we made a little bit of an adjustment in our at-bats,” he said. “Our at-bats were a little better, we were more patient, and we had more opportunity to use some of our speed on the bases, so it was a very positive inning.”
Lastly, on May 26, I covered their quarterfinal game vs. Putnam Valley, the second stop on the road to their Section title. The Bears, seeded at No. 1, had beaten Croton-Harmon 5-0 the day before in the opening round. Unlike a lot of their other games, however, the Bears didn’t win big.
Briarcliff squeaked by Putnam Valley, 3-2.
Bears’ senior pitcher Paul Henshaw had done a nice job shutting PV down the entire game. That is, until the last inning. Ahead 3-0 in the seventh, things got a little dicey for Henshaw, as he let up two runs with the tying run standing on third base with two outs.
But in the pressure-laden predicament, Henshaw remained calm. He got Tigers’ third baseman Chris Wright to ground out to first, as Briarcliff finished the ninth-seeded Tigers off.
Before Henshaw got Wright to ground out to end the game, Consorti made a visit to the mound. The coach talked to his ace, calming him down when the game was on the line.
“He told me to relax and keep doing my thing,” Henshaw said of the powwow. “He told me to bare down and I was able to regain my focus and keep doing what I was doing, which was jamming them inside.”
The Bears only led 2-0 going into the sixth inning, and Henshaw was saved by pinch-hitter Matt Pasternak – who lined an RBI single to left field to drive in Kulman in the frame. The decision to pinch hit paid dividends for Briarcliff, and Consorti was happy Pasternak came up big when he sent him to the plate.
“Well, it made me look good,” he said of the move. “Matt has more of a short swing and is a contact hitter, so I figured I’d give it a shot and it worked out pretty well.”
Overall, it was a lot of fun to be a small part of the Bears’ team this season. I can only hope they make it all the way and bring home a state title tomorrow.
I’d also like to send a special shout out to the Byram Hills baseball team, another squad I was able to cover this year. The Bobcats were seeded at No. 9 and made it all the way to the Class A section finals. Unfortunately they lost to Harrison, but nonetheless, I’d say it’s very impressive for a nine seed to make it that far.
Byram Hills collected a playoff win at Beacon – a field I’m very familiar with. I made a lot of memories when I played summer ball for the town of Beacon and I’m glad they were able to make some memories there, too.
Although they didn’t win, congrats to Head Coach Scott Saunders, Andrew Slosberg, Scott Rose, and the rest of the Bobcats on a wonderful season. It was a lot of fun covering you guys this year.
(Photo Credit: LoHud, Examiner News, Google, Patch)
On Thursday night I was working, covering some high school hockey here in upper Westchester, New York. My job doesn’t require me to take photos of the athletes I’m covering, so usually my editor (who is also a photographer) will show up at the games and shoot the players for pictures.
In between periods during the hockey game I received some really interesting news.
My editor was giving me some background information on the game I covered last night, which happened to be a boy’s basketball game. After he let me know what to watch out for at the boy’s hoops game, he looked at me and said,
“I should be sending you to the Byram Hills/Fox Lane girls’ basketball game. Bernie Williams might be there.”
“His daughter Beatriz is a senior and plays on the Byram Hills team, and he attends a lot of her games,” he continued. “She’s pretty good; she got her 1,000th point the other night.”
I had no idea Bernie’s daughter plays on one of the teams my newspaper covers – and I didn’t know she was that good! 1,000 points in a high school career is quite impressive.
The news got even better when my editor explained to me that Bernie is very approachable at these games. In fact, one of the other reporters working for our paper met him at a game last year and has interviewed him already.
I was then told I could ask him for an interview as well, and maybe write a feature story on him and Bea. I can’t think of anything more amazing than writing a story on one of my favorite Yankees; a player I grew up with and might have the chance to interview.
Not to mention it would put Yankee Yapping over the top! If I can get this interview, I will undoubtedly write about the experience here. Maybe it would put Yankee Yapping into the category of elite internet Yankee blogs?
In any event, according to the local schedule, the Byram Hills girls play their next game on Friday Feb. 3 at home – most of the teams are off next week because of high school midterms. I remember those, and no, I do not miss them.
My editor is probably going to send me to that game, and that could very well be the night I get to talk to and possibly interview (or set up an interview with) Yankee legend Bernie Williams. I don’t want to get my hopes up if for some reason it doesn’t work out, but nonetheless I think it’s pretty cool his daughter is on one of the teams I’ll be covering.
Just getting the chance to shake Bernie’s hand and maybe getting to talk to him for a minute will be enough for me. He has always been and will always be one of my favorite Yankees, ever.
And speaking of communicating with Yankees, I was on Twitter this afternoon and noticed Joba Chamberlain tweeting about the New York Rangers vs. Boston Bruins game. I decided to switch over to the hockey game and attempted to tweet with the Yankee hurler.
Eventually I got Chamberlain to re-tweet me about the action. The Rangers were supposed to be going on a power play, and I asked him if he thought the Blueshirts could convert. But right after I tweeted the question, the referees reversed their decision and didn’t call a penalty.
“4-4. No PP.”
I can now put Chamberlain with Russell Martin on the list of Yankees who have replied to my tweets. Remember, if you want to follow me on Twitter, my handle is @AJ_Martelli.