Saying Goodbye to the Reason I’m a Baseball Fan

The first time I ever heard of Ichiro was while eating breakfast with my family during a spring break trip to Seattle in 2001. My dad pointed out a boy sitting near us who was wearing an Ichiro jersey t-shirt. He explained Ichiro was a rookie who had just come over from Japan but hadn’t done so well in the previous night’s spring training game. I must have asked what his first name was because I remember my dad explaining the first-name-on-the-back thing and thinking that was weird.

We all know the 2001 Mariners went on to have a dream season, winning 116 games. The guy with his first name on his back won the AL MVP and Rookie of the Year awards. The Mariners were a big deal.

I don’t remember every detail of following that team, but I know I was in love with them. Dan Wilson, Bret Boone, Edgar, Mike Cameron, John Olerud – they were all the greatest. And Ichiro was the greatest of the greatest.

I could go on about my favorite memories of being a young Mariners fan, but more important than specific moments of that 2001 season is that the 2001 season happened in the first place. If the Mariners hadn’t been a big deal, or hadn’t had an exciting player, or not been broadcast on Portland-area TV and radio, I probably never would have become a big baseball fan. My dad’s love of the sport may have rubbed off on me, but I think there’s something about having a team distinctly “yours” that makes it easy to develop an obsession.

As the years wore on, the Mariners became pretty bad, and I didn’t follow the team as closely as I did in the early 2000s. But Ichiro was always there. Sure, Felix is exciting and the Cy Young was awesome, but that’s not the reason most people my age became Mariners fans in the first place.

Until today, Ichiro had been a Mariner longer than I’ve had my braces off. Longer than my family’s lived in the house I’d consider my childhood home. Longer than one of my siblings has even been alive.

This trade is obviously not the kind of life-altering event that shifts your whole world, but for me – and I’m guessing for many other Northwest natives my age – it’s surreal. I thought it would be weird to hear Mariners games without Dave Niehaus behind the microphone; it’ll be weirder to hear them without Ichiro in the lineup.

When news of the trade broke on Twitter this evening, no one knew how to react. There had been talk he wouldn’t stay a Mariner forever, but he’d been so constant in our lives as Seattle baseball fans it didn’t seem like he would actually leave. I wish him the best and I’ll root like crazy for him to get a World Series ring someday, but right now I’m sad that the one remaining constant of my life as a baseball fan is gone. At least he stayed longer than my braces.

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Anticipating, Doing, Ending.

No matter how long you anticipate something – a wedding, a birthday, a vacation – that thing always comes to an end. And the end always leaves you with a “where do I go from here?” feeling. Such is the case with my internship at Sports Illustrated, which ended yesterday.

My Oregon-centric cubicle decor (with special guest appearances by a Michael Pineda picture from a recent SI, and two photos of my sisters).

Working at SI had consumed my thoughts from the day I got the internship in mid-March. I remember receiving a call from a lady in Time Inc.’s Human Resources department. She told me that I had been accepted to Sports Illustrated’s internship program, and I think she laughed at how enthusiastic I was while accepting the offer.

When it’s mid-March, “August 5” sounds like lightyears away. It still felt lightyears away when I started work at SI on June 6. But now it’s just another “X” on my calendar (a figurative calendar; Oregon Ducks day-by-day calendars don’t have X’s). The day carried a surreal, last-day-of-school feeling, and leaving was bittersweet. As excited as I am to return home and get back to school, I absolutely loved working at SI. Every day was different, and I was able to diversify my public relations experience. I grew as a person and as a professional, and was lucky to work with a wonderful group of people who graciously offered their support in the future.

From a PR perspective, I learned more at SI than can fit here, so I’ll probably write a few posts over the coming weeks that dive deeper into my experience. I will say, however, that I learned a tremendous amount about social media (and took my first foray into the world of social media analytics) and have a fresh outlook on how to creatively approach media relations. More to come on those subjects and others, but I’m still processing everything.

My friends and I are also in denial about the fact that we only have one week left together in the city. (One of my friends, Chase, has already left. And he gave me a hard time about never actually calling any of my “New York friends” by name on my blog. So, Chase, I hope you’re happy.) Every day, we add five or ten items to our “to-do list” even though we inch closer and closer to our departures. We’ll leave with unfinished business, but it’s an excuse to come back.

Just as I have too many PR lessons to fit into one post, I also have too many good NYC photos/stories/recommendations. So expect a few posts on my favorite places/foods/sights/etc., too.

On that note, it has been two weeks since I last posted. I think pictures could tell the story better than I could (plus I’m feeling too lazy at the moment to write all those stories) so here are three glimpses into the past several days. (And yes, I know one of the pictures is the one of my cubicle, which is also posted earlier. When it comes to WordPress quirks, I pick my battles. And I didn’t pick that one.)

As always, thanks for reading. There’s a lot more to come as I continue processing all I’ve learned and accomplished this summer.

*Also, you should check out my cousin’s band, Brave Chandeliers.

Baseball Games with a Football Score. Welcome to the Dog Days.

17-7. That’s not a baseball score. That’s a relatively low-scoring football game, maybe, but it’s definitely not a baseball score.

Unless it is yesterday’s Yankees-A’s game.

View from our seats in the left field bleachers. An optimal Curtis Granderson viewing section.

I was at this game (or at least, I was for 6.5 innings). A friend in my building had two friends from school coming to New York for the weekend, and they needed a fourth person in order to buy seats together on StubHub (no cheap tickets were being sold in threes). So I went. And we had a great time, but we boiled in the heat.

The phrase “dog days of summer” has never been more clear to me than it has over these past two days in New York City. A recent string of 100+ degree days (if two days counts as a string) has plagued everyone’s existence.

En route to the game, water leaked from a vent in the subway car ceiling and the lady standing underneath it said, “Oooh, that felt kind of good.” That’s how you know it’s hot.

The game was slow, but in an odd way, it was the perfect complement to a scorching Friday night. What’s more “dog days of summer” than a slow baseball game in late July where the final score is 17-7? (It was 14-7 when we left during the 7th inning stretch at 10 p.m. By then, games that started an hour later than ours were practically finished. And in case you were wondering, the Yankees won.)

We even witnessed a Mark Teixeira grand slam, and I loved knowing that just a few hundred feet away, John Sterling was yelling “You’re on the Mark, Teixeira!” into his microphone.

It was a scorcher, yes. And it wasn’t a great game. But it was the perfect way to welcome in the dog days.

Lessons in Transparency from Jorge Posada

How does a baseball player become famous? By playing the game well. Whether it’s a pitcher who seems to strike out every batter he faces, or a hitter who sends balls out of the park with each at-bat, some players are enshrined in the hearts and minds of baseball fans everywhere for their fantastic ability to play the game.

So, what would you think if a player started attracting attention for not playing the game?

That’s exactly what’s happening to New York Yankees’ designated hitter Jorge Posada. After being removed from the Yankees’ lineup on Saturday, shortly before the start of their game against the Boston Red Sox, Posada has sparked controversy and debate across the baseball world.

This intriguing sports story holds a lesson for public relations practitioners about the value and necessity of transparency.

Yankees DH Jorge Posada

In order to fully understand how this relates to PR, you should familiarize yourself with the Posada situation. After serving as the Yankees’ regular catcher for more than 10 seasons, Yankees manager Joe Girardi moved Posada to the designated hitter role this year. Posada will turn 40 in August, and moving from catcher to designated hitter allows him to play a less physically taxing position.

However, he has been struggling all year in the DH spot. By the time of Saturday’s game, he had the lowest batting average in the major leagues. Shortly before that game, media reported that Posada had removed himself from the lineup, but controversy has been swirling: Did Posada ask for a day off (reportedly to rest his aching back), or did Yankees manager Joe Girardi remove him because of his poor performance?

Rather than set the record straight, Posada and the Yankees have kept things under wraps and left everything to speculation. In his post-game news conference, Girardi dodged reporters’ questions about Posada’s absence from the lineup, saying Posada simply “needed a day.”

Differing reports are coming in from all over the sports media landscape. Neither party has clarified its position with an official statement, so media and fans are left to piece the story together on their own. ESPN The Magazine senior writer Buster Olney believes that “we will never hear just one unchallenged version of what actually took place” during Posada and Girardi’s conversation.

Because neither Posada nor the Yankees have volunteered to fully disclose what happened during the Posada-Girardi pre-game

Yankees Manager Joe Girardi

conversation, fans and media can interpret the situation however they’d like. The issue will linger until someone steps up and reveals the true reason why Posada did not play.

“Things tend to blow over when you tell the truth,” Sports Illustrated writer Chris Mannix said this morning while guest hosting The Dan Patrick Show. While he made this comment in reference to Posada, it holds true for any public relations situation. Withholding the truth gives the public power to speculate and come to their own conclusions about who is at fault.

Obviously, this is not a life-or-death situation. The world will still go on even if it is revealed that Jorge Posada told Girardi to take him out of the game. However, regardless of the weight of the situation, it emphasizes the importance of transparency in sports public relations and the way in which a quick, honest response can shape public opinion in your favor.

Photo credits:

Posada: Mike Segars, Reuters (from this New York Times article)

Girardi: Keith Allison, Flickr

Pink Steps up to the Plate for Breast Cancer Awareness

If you watched a Major League Baseball game on Sunday, you probably saw a player wearing pink cleats or swinging a pink bat. Those pink shoes and bats were a visual representation of MLB teaming with Susan G. Komen for the Cure to enact the “Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer” campaign, which heightens breast cancer awareness and increases MLB’s corporate social responsibility efforts.

The pink ribbon logo used by Major League Baseball on Mother's Day.

Since 2005, the organizations have partnered to “pink-ify” Major League Baseball games on Mother’s Day. Players are allowed to wear pink items like cleats, wristbands, bracelets and necklaces. The campaign is geared toward increasing breast cancer awareness and raising funds for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, as some of the pink benefits will be auctioned online to benefit the organization.

The partnership allows Susan G. Komen for the Cure to receive broad national exposure. Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig noted how the partnership also allows MLB to further its corporate social responsibility efforts. “Major League Baseball’s partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, through the Going to Bat Against Breast Cancer program, represents one of our most significant causes,” he told MLB.com.

However, this partnership is unique because it exists not only between major league teams and Komen, but between Komen and major league players. Wearing pink cleats or swinging a pink bat gives players a chance to “talk the talk” of philanthropy and social responsibility. Rather than simply writing a check to an organization, the Komen/MLB partnership allows players to put their philanthropic intentions to practice in a high-visibility setting like national television.

Certain players, like New York Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher, use the day to tell stories of how cancer has personally affected them and why they support Komen. While he has not had a family member diagnosed with breast cancer, he has had family members affected by brain cancer and leukemia.

Swisher understands the value of MLB’s partnership with Komen and how it can boost support for breast cancer research. He told the New York Daily News, “They’ve done a great job of getting the word out and branding what that means. Not only raising money, but getting the word out in general. It’s a fun day.”

While enthusiastic players like Swisher demonstrate how the campaign was a success, it must obtain the support of every player if it wants to generate even more support in the future. Some players, like Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, are less willing to sport the pink apparel. According to Yahoo!’s “Big League Stew” blog, Konerko did not want to wear pink cleats, but eventually gave in after the encouragement of his teammates. (Going pink paid off, however, as he went 5-for-5 at the plate during the White Sox’s eventual 5-2 win over my lowly Seattle Mariners.)

Even though it would be ideal for every major leaguer to support the program, MLB’s partnership with Susan G. Komen for the Cure demonstrates how professional sports can be a driving force for positive change nationwide.

Pink ribbon photo credit: “MLB, Red Sox, celebrate Mother’s Day by raising breast cancer awareness” – Boston.com

Life, Post-Whirlwind.

The last two weeks have been nothing short of crazy.

Since my last post, I have:

• Turned 20
• Seen my mom and sister in person after nearly a month
• Attended baseball games at Citi Field, Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park
• Sat in on a satellite media tour (in which the editor-in-chief of Bicycling does several short interviews with morning news anchors in various cities)

Whew. It’s been a whirlwind, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Tour de France started Saturday, so Bicycling had a lot on its plate. If you’re like me, you associate “Tour de France” with “Lance Armstrong,” but there are a lot of other great riders out there who I am excited to follow this year, like Lance’s bitter rival and defending champion Alberto Contador of Spain.

We’ve been doing a lot of work to promote Bicycling’s coverage of the Tour de France: its website features tons ofslideshows, previews, rankings, analysis and videos. I created a list of notable and reputable cycling bloggers and am now reaching out to those bloggers – basically, showing them how Bicycling is covering the Tour and letting them know that we’d love for them to take advantage of those resources.

It’s awesome, because I get to practice pitching and communicating with media while learning how to pitch bloggers and traditional media differently.

On the morning of my birthday, July 1, we went to a studio in Manhattan where Loren, Bicycling‘s editor, basically sat on a set for three hours and did short interviews with morning news anchors in different cities (known as a satellite media tour, or SMT, in the PR world). She previewed the Tour de France,

Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel was doing an SMT in the same studio that morning - you can see his being announced on the left screen. Loren is on the right.

answering their questions about the race, Lance Armstrong’s chances, doping, etc. My main job was to record the questions she was asked and just soak up the experience while hanging out in a posh “green room” filled with muffin trays. I was able to see and hear all of the interviews through a screen hooked up in the green room. My view:

Despite not being the world’s greatest socializer, I’m doing a pretty good job of keeping busy and getting out into the city with friends. Lately, I’ve been a baseball fiend, seeing Mets, Yankees and Red Sox games (all in one week). I went to the Mets game with a couple of friends – the Mets lost, but it was fun to see their new stadium (it opened last season) and be part of an enthusiastic crowd. Sorry, Yanks fans – I’d take a game at Citi Field or (gasp!) Fenway over Yankee Stadium game any day.

Going to Fenway Park was ridiculously cool – it’s kind of like a baseball Mecca. (Yankee Stadium is, too, but I have

An outside shot of Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox.

been to the new and old stadiums before this year so the excitement has worn off.) Fenway is old with narrow concourses, but Sox fans are great, the atmosphere around the park is fun, and singing “Sweet Caroline” in the middle of the 8th inning – a Fenway tradition – embodied everything that is great about baseball.

Tuesday night, I saw the Broadway performance of Mary Poppins because the housing service I rent through was offering cheap tickets. Yes, it was a little cheesy and geared toward a younger audience, but it was fun, especially the part when Bert tap-danced on the ceiling.

Thursday was my 20th birthday. Birthdays are so much better because of Facebook. Of course, they wouldn’t be the same without the customary phone calls and birthday cards, but opening Facebook to find bunches of notifications from friends and extended family is a sweet reminder of how many fantastic people are in my life and how blessed I am to have such dear friends.

The day was made even sweeter because I got to see my mom and sister. I hopped on the Bolt Bus to Boston after work and met them there so we could spend the long weekend together in a city we’ve never explored. (Bolt Bus = free Wi-Fi and electrical outlets = glorious.)

We toured MIT, which my sister is considering for college, saw the Sox game and walked the Freedom Trail (which I highly recommend – educational and enjoyable, especially if you’re into American history). The Freedom Trail can be a bit of a trek and ye be warned: climbing to the top of the Bunker Hill Memorial will leave your legs in pain the next day.

My sister Hope (left) and I with the Paul Revere statue on the Freedom Trail.

Another cool Boston spot is the JFK Presidential Library and Museum. It’s situated on a beautiful spot overlooking the bay. You can’t go wrong in a museum where they feature a bunch of Jackie’s outfits, Frank Sinatra music and old Walter Cronkite live footage.

After getting in last night, I headed downtown to watch the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks display on the Hudson River. I didn’t get too close in an attempt to avoid a huge mass of people, but I watched from a sidewalk and had a pretty good view. Even more impressive than the fireworks, though, was this (pardon my crappy phone-quality picture):

The Empire State Building decked out in patriotic colors.

Speaks for itself. Hope you’ve had a relaxing 4th of July weekend, and thanks for reading!