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Evan Drellich ’09 returned to Boston at the start of this baseball season for his second stint covering the Red Sox, this time for the Boston Herald. He left Boston in late 2013 to join the Houston Chronicle, where he covered the upstart Astros for 2½ years. He misses early-morning visits to The Spot diner after Pipe Dream was sent to print.
Answer: I had a baseball blog of my own in high school and college. Later, I also wrote for MetsBlog.com. So I was on the journalism path without quite saying to myself, “This is what I'm going to do.”
As a freshman, I walked into Pipe Dream’s office and told the sports editor, Sean Lishansky ’07, that I wanted to write about the Mets. He said this was a student paper with student teams, and I could write about one of Binghamton’s sports.
That spring, I took the men’s lacrosse beat. Next year I was an assistant sports editor. (In the photo, I'm interviewing soccer player Adam Chavez.)
Pipe Dream’s a fantastic environment, plus I did internships and two separate stints at the Press & Sun-Bulletin. Journalists Frank Roessner and Mary Haupt, both beloved professors at Binghamton, made impacts too.
It’s very difficult to climb the ladder in journalism without either running through the internship circuit as an undergrad or going to journalism school for a master’s. I went the former route.
I covered the Binghamton Mets and Brooklyn Cyclones (Mets minor league teams) for Scout.com, eventually became Pipe Dream’s editor in chief and was an intern and stringer for Newsday on Long Island, covering mostly sports but some news as well.
Newsday was a big break in 2009, but so, too, was landing an internship at MLB.com in 2010. I was No. 31 of 30 on the internship coordinator’s list and, luckily for me, someone dropped out. I got the offer to go to Los Angeles and cover the Dodgers, who were still managed in 2010 by the great Joe Torre.
That internship coordinator, Bill Hill, still calls me “31” to this day.
MLB.com hired me after the 2010 season. I moved to Boston, where I was a backup beat reporter and admittedly frustrated.
I was in a spot where I couldn’t be any closer to being a lead beat writer — the one who travels most of the time and steers the coverage — without an outlet willing to take a chance on someone who hadn’t been a lead reporter before. Understandably, most outlets want experience. But how do you get experience if no one gives you the first break?
I got lucky again in 2013 when an entirely new position was created. The Republican in Springfield, Mass., and its website, MassLive.com, decided to cover the Sox full time. I got the gig, Boston won the World Series, and after nine months I jumped to a much bigger outlet in Houston.
This is what I’ll remember about my college years: In 2007, I was covering the Binghamton Mets for free for Scout.com. So when the B-Mets were in town, I went to their games. When they were on the road, I worked the phones at the Press & Sun. I took box scores — agate, as it’s called — wrote basic stories and learned how to be a tight, clean writer. (Thanks, former editors Charlie Jaworski and Al Vieira.)
Essentially, I worked every day. And because I grew up in New York City, I didn’t have a car.
So I biked to and from my house on the West Side to either the Press & Sun office or the B-Mets stadium every day, and those weren’t fun bike rides going home around midnight. Later that summer, I got my first car, a ’96 Grand Am that met its fate in the snow in Rochester a few years later.
A: I worked the full Dodgers home schedule and half of the Angels home schedule in 2010 at MLB.com. I also covered the Astros for more than two years, including their playoff run last season, for the Houston Chronicle. (In the photo above, Astros outfielder Colby Rasmus douses me in beer after the Astros clinched their first playoff berth in 10 years.)
In my time at MLB.com, I filled in, covering other teams during spring training and the playoffs. I’ve now covered all of baseball’s big events: World Series and All-Star games, the winter meetings and Hall of Fame inductions.
A: I grew up in Manhattan and went to high school around Union Square, at Friends Seminary. Binghamton was my first real exposure to life outside of New York City — it was hard to handle at first but very important.
A: It was the first school I visited. There was a Mets minor league team in town. It was cheaper than Syracuse. Is that good enough?
I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do. Even though baseball was my passion and I had already taken to writing on my own, I wasn’t exactly in love with doing homework in high school. It just seemed like the right environment to figure it out.
In the end, because Binghamton doesn’t have a journalism school, there proved to be something of a big-fish, small-pond advantage — if you want to succeed as a reporter, the opportunities are there at Binghamton, and there aren’t quite as many people who made up their minds they wanted to be journalists at 8 years old competing against you for, say, the top roles at Pipe Dream as there might be at schools with dedicated journalism programs.
I’d recommend people major in something other than journalism even if there is a journalism major available. Journalism is learned best in practice — having an economics degree to draw on for stories, for example, would be helpful.
A: English, technically, but Pipe Dream was functionally my greatest classroom. (Above is a photo of the staff attending a conference in Portland, Ore., in 2007.)
A: Interviewing Binghamton’s own Tony Kornheiser in 2009 was a trip.
The incredibly late nights at Pipe Dream stand out the most, though. Putting together a paper brings a small group of people very close together, for better or worse, for a long time. Sometimes a few of us would drive to The Spot, which is a 24-hour diner on Upper Front Street, after everything was done and get breakfast or a second dinner. Seeing the paper later that day was gratifying, even when we were sleepwalking through class, as long as we hadn’t screwed anything up too badly.
A big lesson I learned along the way and while covering matters other than sports, including the terrible massacre at the American Civic Center in 2009, is if you want to be a reporter, you need to be a reporter first — just one who happens to write about sports.
I should say that my Baseball Writers’ Association of America card that I wear every day to go into any major league stadium is attached to a Binghamton University lanyard.
And, you know, there’s always Tom and Marty’s.
A: Baseball’s grind is unlike any other sport’s. There are 162 games in a season in a span of 183 days (I probably cover roughly 110–120), not counting spring training or the playoffs. Finding new storylines takes a real feel for nuance, which is why it’s called the writer’s game.
Spring training might be the most trying time of all. The days are longest, because there’s practice to cover in the morning and usually a game in the afternoon, and you’re away from home for most of the six- or seven-week period.
But much of the fun is tied to travel and new experiences. The stories can be very gratifying too, and it’s fundamentally mind-blowing that someone pays me to get on a plane and watch a baseball game.
Still, it is a job, and it takes many more hours than people think and the lifestyle is odd. You show up for a 7 p.m. game at 2:30, and you leave anywhere from 11:30 at night to 1 in the morning, typically.
I don’t have regular weekends; there are no happy hours. Winter is stressful because of player transactions and the rumor mill related to those transactions, and to answer the question I get most: I cover baseball year round. It doesn’t stop when the games stop, and there are significant events in November and December.
What you gain as a beat writer, with access to the players and the clubhouse and the staff every day, is a feel for the team that is impossible to get from afar, and bringing that perspective to fans, acting as a sort of bridge, is a satisfying position. People really, really care about their teams. I should know, because I have more than 3,000 posts on a message board from my days of being a crazy fan.
A: Nothing beats having time to really think through and revise a story.
Sunday features are the most enjoyable. Twitter is a blessing and a curse. All news breaks there, but the troll population needs to be culled. That, sadly, is a pipe dream.