Athletics After Dark at A’s Media Day

Athletics After Dark at A’s Media Day

Each of the A’s players and coaches who attended A’s Media Day on Thursday––new and current––made it perfectly clear they’re equipped to contend in 2011. That swagger didn’t come from a bunch of self-absorbed, overzealous youth; it came from a group of well-spoken, professional ballplayers who, thanks to the A’s offseason upgrades, believe their club is good.

On Thursday, January 27, a chunk of the A’s roster swaggered into the Coliseum’s East Side Club for the team’s annual media day. Players in attendance included Jerry Blevins, Chris Carter, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Michael Wuertz, Brad Ziegler, Josh Outman, and newly-acquired Josh Willingham, Grant Balfour and Brandon McCarthy.

Athletics After Dark, my podcast and blog I launched for hard-core A’s fans last August, was also in attendance. While I’m not sure if I was the first podcast ever allowed at media day, I was honored to be able to conduct sit-down interviews with several players and coaches, and also meet other reporters and radio voices, like MLB.com’s Jane Lee and Chris Townsend, the A’s fiery, post-game radio host. When I first started my site, my goal was to generate fan interest, and since I was an author who’s interviewed hundreds of big-league players, I figured the A’s would grant me instant access to interview their players like other media.

Not so fast.

Although I’ve exchanged email with Debbie Gallas, the A’s Media Services Manager, over the years for my book, Bash Brothers , and other writing projects, I hadn’t met Bob Rose, the team’s Director of Public Relations. “You need to officially introduce yourself to Bob Rose,” Debbie suggested via email. “Good idea,” I responded.

My first email to Bob included a formal introduction and request for a sit-down interview with A’s pitcher Gio Gonzalez. A day had passed, and I hadn’t heard back from him.

Hmm…

He finally responded a few days later; and his response wasn’t one I wanted to hear. In a nutshell, he said, “Who the hell are you? And there are hundreds of baseball blogs around––why should we give you access to players? We can’t grant every A’s blog around access.”

While reading his email, I saw my vision crumble right before my eyes. Honestly, I was humbled and a bit angry, mostly because my podcasts, especially during the offseason, were getting fans excited about the A’s, who had a pretty depressing offense last season. Plus, a lot of fans were downloading our shows on iTunes. Heck, Billy Beane came on my show to launch the site, and even he was excited about my plans for it.

“I’m getting thousands of fans to think about the A’s in late October, and this is what I get from them?” I asked myself.

Even though I felt defeated, Mr. Rose taught me a very valuable lesson: “Dale, when you’re new to the media scene, it’s kind of a walk before you run proposition,” he emailed. I interpreted those words to mean that I needed to be patient, and slowly build a relationship with the organization. Disappointed,  I respected his outlook and was willing to try.

Bob and I lost touch for several months, although I kept podcasting and blogging away. The season ended and he never granted me any media access, however, he did assure me he would monitor my site, and even agreed to meet with me when the season ended. We eventually met for about 45-minutes at the A’s offices in early November, and our in-person meeting went a lot better than our first email encounter. He told me his concerns as a PR Guy; I told him about my passion as a journalist. We shook hands, and our meeting ended. He said he’d put me on his list of media outlets to receive A’s press releases, and even said he’d consider setting up some player interviews for my site next season.

The lesson here is that––despite my sincere intentions––I needed to earn Bob’s trust (not that he completely trusts me now), and trust isn’t earned immediately in the media scene; it takes time. And if you attend enough media sessions and press conferences, you’ll discover that columnists, reporters and other media members run in packs; they’re very cliquish, protective and can spot a visitor a mile away.

So there I was, a stranger, at  media day, posing questions to Bob Geren alongside a pack of veteran scribes––John Shea, Susan Slusser, Glenn Dickey, Jeff Fletcher, Lowell Cohn and Mark Purdy. Weeks before, Mr. Rose welcomed me to interview some players at the event, but advised me to let more established media outlets ask most of the questions. My microphone had our logo on it, and I lowered it in front of Bob Geren’s face as he held court with reporters. “Rich [Harden] is not competing with anyone but himself this spring,” he told them. Doing my best to appear confident, I was self-conscious after asking each question. No matter how brilliant you package a question, you see, when you’re new, the pack sizes you up; they check you out.

Who’s this guy? What paper does he write for? Where did he come from?

About 4:00 p.m., players started leaving and the media migrated back to their cliques. My clique was my brother, Robert, who lugged around a video camera and filmed my interviews. It was a long day; I was drained and wanted to go home. But not only did I acquire hours of video footage to post on my site, I also learned an important lesson in life: patience pays off.

Before I left, though, I needed to say goodbye to one more person who was packing his stuff, too: “Thanks, Bob.”

The End