John C. Longton III
Joe Bruno Stadium and the ValleyCats came to town in April of 2002. Since then it has been the only professional team continuously in the Capital Region in any of the three major sports (football, baseball and basketball). They are a minor league baseball team for the Astros and have sent 39 players to the MLB to date. Every year the roster looks different and most of the players are comprised of draft picks that are rookies.
Last year I covered the Hudson Valley baseball team and was at every home game. They share the stadium and it’s facilities with the ValleyCats and it gave a professional feel to a community college campus.
At one game that I was covering I noticed that the ValleyCat’s media relations manager, Chris Chenes, was in the stands and I went over and introduced myself. I told him that I was covering the game and that I was also interested in doing something along the same lines with the ValleyCats in the upcoming season. He scheduled a meeting and we sat down a week later and had an in depth conversation about what my goal was for the summer and career. At the end of the meeting he offered me a press pass, which allowed me to go to every game and work in the same suite with the rest of the local media.
Chris gave me a pass thinking that I was going to write my article and post them on the Hudsonian website. The problem was that we take summers off. I didn’t want to tell him that and risk me not being able to cover the team. Someone once told me that it’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission. So I created a website that I worked on for hours where I put information on the team and my game stories. That website is longshotlongton.com.
Before the season got started the ValleyCats held their media day where the local media came to the ballpark and interviewed the players and coaches. This let the media and the players in the organization to establish a relationship before the season is underway. This was my first day on the job.
I was a little nervous being around professionals on both side of the spectrum. On one side were the baseball players with major league aspirations and on the other side were local media members who had careers in the field I was trying to get into. I didn’t really know either and media day would be my first interaction with the two.
I didn’t know much about the roster so I used media day to talk to different players on the team and get a feel for talking to the players. About 90% of the team were newcomers that were just drafted and were kind of in the same spot as I was. They weren’t really sure what to do and that was a little comforting.
When the season got underway I started working in the press box side by side with all the local news stations and papers. They taught me the intricacies of the game and how to conduct myself. One thing that I didn’t know was that you’re not to root in a press box. I learned that the first night when a ValleyCat player got a base hit and I started cheering. I was pulled aside by Josh Roltenburgh, a sportscaster for news channel 10.
“You’re not supposed to cheer in a press box,” said Josh. I didn’t realize I was doing anything wrong. Then he said, “If this were Yankee Stadium you would be thrown out even if you were rooting for the Yankees.” This made me realize that even though I knew a lot about sports, I had to work on my professionalism and “The Joe” was a great learning tool for this.
Covering a game itself was a little tough. I wanted to pay attention as much as possible while taking notes and live tweeting about the game. When I went to a sports journalism conference in Nashville this past February, professional sports journalists including Buster Olney, for ESPN, reminded us that It’s crucial to use twitter and social media during games to try to establish a following. So while the game was going on I would live tweet every half inning about the play and take as many notes as possible. Before each game there would be packets of notes and stats up in the press box for everyone to refer to while watching the game.
The first couple of games I got lost in notes and didn’t really get a good feel for what was happening on the field. As the season went on I got away from taking a lot of notes and would get lost in the sights, sounds and the emotions of the game. I felt like my game stories were better when I didn’t distract myself getting every stat and paid more attention to the big spots and the player’s body language. This would help my postgame questions.
In the beginning of the season I kind of piggy-backed off the rest of the media’s questions at the postgame press conferences. I paid attention to every detail that the local reporters were covering and I tried emulating the same and maybe even take it a step further. Before the end of the season, I knew what questions would be asked and by who and I would try to tailor my inquiries so they didn’t sound as generic as the rest.
I learned a lot in just a short season and I’m very grateful for the opportunity that was presented to me. I talked my way into getting a spot where no other person without credentials were allowed to go and I took advantage of the situation. I met a lot of people in the field, where I’ve made contacts and gotten internships all from a place that is right here at Hudson Valley. I didn’t really know what “The Joe’ was until I covered the Hudson Valley baseball team in the spring and turned it into a summer gig. And that I will never take for granted.