My First Foray into a Locker Room

My first time inside a clubhouse could have gone better, but I definitely learned a few things! (Staff photo/Pawtucket Red Sox)

WEEI sent me to Pawtucket, RI, Sunday to cover Bobby Jenks’s second rehab appearance with the AAA Red Sox. You can read the results here. But since I was going to be at McCoy Stadium anyway, the station wanted me to profile pitching prospect Kyle Weiland. Here are five things I learned about sports journalism on Sunday:

1) Do your homework. In many ways, I was not prepared for this trip. Yes, I knew who I wanted to talk to, but at no point did I bother to learn what Weiland, catcher Luis Exposito, manager Arnie Beyeler or pitching coach Rich Sauveur actually looked like. So I had to surreptitiously search for photos on my iPhone or ask other coaches (not players, that would look unprofessional) for help. I’m sure I’m not the first media member to look something up on a smart phone in the locker room, so I doubt I looked as ill-prepared as I felt. But still, this strikes me as something I should have realized ahead of time.

Interviewing Weiland, Exposito and the coaches went fine. I should have memorized the interview questions so that I wasn’t bouncing between the questions sheet and my notebook while trying to juggle a digital recorder and a mic (which felt as awkward as it sounds). More than that, I wish I had learned more about Weiland ahead of time, some kind of ice-breaker. I still think my interviewing skills are the least-developed part of my journalistic repertoire, and these interviews felt stiff. Too formal. Knowing something about musical preferences or favorite movies might have made it all flow more easily. Moral of the story: prepare extensively for interviews ahead of time.

2) Locker rooms aren’t so bad. From my teachers’ descriptions, I pictured locker rooms as these cramped, dank, humid rooms filled with naked men. Yes, I saw a couple of naked men either at their lockers or entering or exiting the shower area. But most players wore underwear most of the time. The Pawtucket clubhouse was spacious, with comfy couches, a large flat-screen television, and a nice little dining area. Well-lit and relatively odor-free. Any discomfort I felt was more from feeling out of my element and unprepared, not from the physicial space.

3) There is a lot of free time. I got to the stadium over two hours before first pitch. Check-in for media was no problem, and I quickly found my way to the clubhouse. Beyeler ushered me into his office, where I hung around with the play-by-play/color team for a few minutes. I didn’t know what to do, so I just listened to their conversation, then improvised a question about Weiland’s development. After that, I excused myself and headed back to the locker room. After figuring out who Weiland was, I waited for him to finish eating (at a teammate’s request, which seemed reasonable), then we did our thing. When that was done, I waited for Sauveur to return to the clubhouse. When that was done, I waited for Exposito to come out of the trainer’s room. All that time I was waiting, I just kind of stood around, mostly watching the Red Sox-Tigers afternoon game. I wasn’t there to do stories on anyone else, but I didn’t know anything about any of the players (hence the need to do homework) that I could have used to start up a regular conversation. I looked over, there was Hideki Okajima, but as a journalist, I couldn’t talk to him about how fun he was to watch in 2007. There was Jenks playing cards, but I figured I’d have time to talk to him after the outing (more on that later). So really, I just sort of hung out in a corner until Exposito finally was available. After that, I high-tailed it to the press box.

4) Free food in the press box! Watching the Pawsox eat before the game made me feel hungry. I passed a hot dog stand on the way to the press box and figured once I got there and got a seat I’d come out and buy some dinner. No need, ol’ chum! Dinner was provided! And it was pretty good! Beef short ribs or pork chops, very edible peas, and pretty tasty mashed potatoes. Free soda. And three gorgeous looking apple pies! I could get used to this!

5) Sometimes, you just get screwed. So Jenks had his outing. The e-mail I’d received ahead of time told me that the media would be allowed into the clubhouse to interview Jenks as soon as he was done. I asked an official if Jenks needed a moment before the press was allowed in. The man called someone, then told me they would announce when Jenks was ready. So I waited. And waited. And waited. I did all of the statistical analysis (pitch selection, speed, accuracy, etc.). The game got later and later. Still nothing. I had seen Jenks yucking it up with the team before the game, so maybe he wanted to stay and watch the whole game. Or make the press do so, if he was the vindictive type.

The game ended. Pawsox won 9-2. The two other reporters and I headed down into the locker room. We interviewed Beyeler about the game briefly, then asked about Jenks. Whereupon we were told that Jenks indeed left the dugout after the first inning. To go eat dinner at Outback Steakhouse. And then leave. Apparently, Jenks felt no need to stick around for interviews about an outing in which he gave up a walk and an RBI single. Meanwhile, us journalists were left with nothing. I tried to salvage the situation by interviewing Sauveur again, asking him basically the same questions I would have asked Jenks. I e-mailed my boss those answers. But as I made the hour-long return to Boston, I couldn’t help but feel as if I’d wasted much of an evening.

Oh well. I’ll get ’em next time.

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