Spring training 2009, Day 5 (“O’s get their crack at me”)

February 20, 2009 | Drew Forrester

TGIFF, from sunny Ft. Lauderdale.

Never let it be said that I don’t review, digest and, sometimes, act upon e-mails and blog comments from listeners to the Comcast Morning Show and readers of WNST.net.

Yesterday’s Day 4 blog entry from spring training was met with varying levels of enthusiasm.  Some people out there are interested in my daily-doings from South Florida and others are, well, not pleased with my work.  

Like Jay-Z sings in the opening of “Hollywood” —  ”It ain’t for everybody…”

Anyway, Tom Underhill wasn’t happy yesterday.  He asked me to stop blogging from Ft. Lauderdale.  Dave Hittinger wasn’t happy because, well, I don’t think he’s happy in general.  At the very least, he’s never written anything remotely close to “happy” sounding.  Must be tough going through life like that.  Chris wanted to know when I was going to “give it up” and just admit that I am fighting a losing battle.  But, the one that stood out from Thursday came late in the day from Eric Woolens.  It sure READS as if Eric isn’t happy with me.  That’s how I took it anyway.  I’ll save you some reading time and just offer this:  the first paragraph was all about how Eric doesn’t like me (“never have, since the day you started”) and how low on the totem pole I am in the sports talk market in town (“can name 20 other people in town who are better than (me) you, including her down the dial”) and how I can’t go work anywhere else (“if you could go somewhere else, you would, like Rob Long did”).  That sums up the first paragraph, minus an assault on my golf game and an attack on my fund-raising efforts for Maryvale.  

But, it was the second paragraph that hit home.  Sometimes, your harshest critics take you on the guided tour to your highest of heights.  I think Eric did that.  Here was his parting shot:

Just once, I’d like to see you have to sit in front of the Orioles and allow them to punish you with questions and demand answers from you in the combative nature you do with them.  I’d love nothing more than to buy a ticket to that and watch them chew you up. I bet you’d sweat like an Amish farmer in July.  You’d crumble in front of them like your beloved Capitals did last year in the playoffs.  

That was the gist of it. 

And, like I said, I think Eric has hit on something.

I SHOULD have to face the Orioles.  So, that’s what I did today after the pitchers and catchers work out in Ft. Lauderdale.  I put up a hand-written sign around 8:30 am.  I attached it to the outside of the locker room where the players and executives all read the daily itinerary.

“Press conference today.  12:30pm.  Drew Forrester of WNST Radio will answer all questions from the team. 3rd base side, box seats.”

*********

I was shocked to see a host of O’s employees in place when I got there around 12:20 pm.  The guy who runs the team was the there.  (“I wonder if I should make small talk with him about Derek Lowe?”, I thought…”probably not”).  The fellow who runs the team’s PR/Media department was on the scene.  Maybe my glasses are fogging up but I swear that looked like foam seeping out of the corner of his mouth.  One of his very capable assistants in the Media department was on hand too.  She’s the cutest member of the department for sure.  That does look like a scowl, though.  I’m not sure I want to face her questions. There’s the man who runs the PR for the Middle Atlantic Sports Network.  (“MASN’s in the house”, I said to myself.  ”Must be a big deal if the TV stations are here…”).  There were a few other people hanging around too.  I’m pretty sure that’s the manager of the team, but he’s in shorts and a t-shirt that reads, “There’s only one Moz”, so I have to take a second look.  Yep, that’s him.  I wonder if he likes the new CD?  A few players stroll over too.  Nothing like watching a public flogging in person, I guess.

With that, I sat down precisely at 12:30 pm and read a very brief statement.

“I’d like to thank you all for coming out today.  While I’ve been down here in Florida covering spring training, some questions have been raised by listeners and e-mailers about the unbalanced nature of the relationship that exists between me and you, the baseball team.  So, today, I’ll allow you all to ask the questions and I’ll give you the answers, as best I can.  I’m prepared to address any issues you have.”

Question #1 comes from the guy who runs the club:  ”What exactly do you have against me?  You’re always on my case.”

DF: “I don’t have anything against you.  I don’t even know you.  Therein lies the problem.  You arrived here in June of 2007 and you’ve never answered one of my e-mails or taken 5 minutes to talk with me.”

Question #2 comes the PR chief:  ”During this time of turmoil between you and the team – we’ll call it that for lack of a better term – why haven’t you reached out to ME, personally, and requested a meeting where we can all sit down like professionals and discuss our differences?  Wouldn’t it make sense for you, at some point, to reach out to US and say, “Hey, look, let’s try to be reasonable here.  We both know there are issues between us but why don’t we at least sit down and air them out so that we might be able to move forward and have a better working relationship’.  Why haven’t you done that with us, Drew?”

DF:  ”Umm, I did do that.  I did that in January of 2007.  You guys didn’t get back to me.”

PR Chief:  ”It just makes so much more sense than for us to keep fighting like –”

DF: “And, come to think of it, I did that in January of 2008.  And in May of 2008.  And in November, 2008.”

PR Chief:  ”A meeting like that would go a long way in –”

DF: “And, I did that again in January of 2009 too.  I offered to meet with you people on a number of occasions to try and resolve – or, at least, better understand – our differences.  And you charlatans never got back to me.  Never returned a call, a text message or e-mail.  In fact, last year you instructed me to NEVER call or e-mail you again.  I ignored that request, of course, because you – in the communications business – can’t think it’s reasonable to ask someone else to NOT communicate with you.”

Manager looking guy:  ”What’s a charlatan?  Aren’t they a band?  What’s music have to do with this?”

DF:  ”You’re thinking of CharlatansUK.  They were pretty good, actually.  The definition of charlatan is: a swindler or person involved in scamming the public.”

Cute’ish PR girl:  ”I’m always amazed at how out of touch you are with things that are going on in our organization.  That’s my problem with you.  We have players who do great work in the community.  We send out press releases and distribute information about what they’re doing.  Like, for example, Brian Roberts and his work with the Children’s Center.  Those are things you should be talking about and promoting on your show.  Why don’t you do that?”

DF: “Actually, I read all the press releases you send me.  In fact, the Brian Roberts charity situation is interesting, because I contacted YOU, personally, to try and arrange for Brian to come on my show and promote his event last September.  You never got back to me after I inquired about having him on the show.”

Cutey:  ”What do you mean, ‘never got back to you’?”

DF:  ”Never. Got. Back. To. Me.  As in, no return call.  No return e-mail.  No reply at all, as Phil Collins sang a long time ago.”

MASN TV:  ”You’ve been highly critical of MASN and our synergy with the baseball team as it relates to revenue re-disribution, rights fees, expenses, etc.  Why wouldn’t you, instead of going out there and doing all of that exhaustive research yourself, just contact me – as the PR Director for MASN – and ask me the important questions about revenue, rights fees and expenses?”

DF: “Umm, I did do that.  I sent you an e-mail last summer and you sent me a nasty reply telling me I was wrong.  I sent you a reply saying, ‘If I’m wrong, show me where…here are the numbers I’ve come up with through industry research.  Tell me the RIGHT numbers then.’”

MASN TV: “And, what was my response to that follow-up e-mail?”

DF:  ”I never got one.  You stopped talking to me at that point.”

PR Chief:  ”Why wouldn’t you try and fit in better by going to the ballpark more and covering the team during the season?  Don’t you think that would help our relationship?  If we saw that you were really trying to be an active member of the daily media at Oriole Park, don’t you think we would treat you better?”

DF:  ”I did that in 2007.  I covered 17 of the team’s first 40 home games before my wife gave birth to our son and then I didn’t come back much in the final two months of the season.  Hard to cover the team at the stadium when you’re changing diapers.”

PR Chief:  (raising his voice) – “And what about LAST SEASON?  WE NEVER SAW YOU AT THE BALLPARK. IT’S LIKE YOU VANISHED.  YOU NEVER SHOWED UP AND THEN YOU EXPECT US TO TREAT YOU WELL?”

DF:  ”Umm, you asked me not to come back after the 3rd home game of the year.  Remember?  You saw me in the press box and said, quote, ‘We don’t even consider your station a factor in the marketplace.  You have one listener.  In fact, I couldn’t care less if I ever see you here again.’  Remember saying that?”

PR Chief:  ”You’re not answering my question.  You don’t show up at the stadium and then you want us to treat you well.  Like, this spring training thing…why wouldn’t you come down here and prove to us you’re serious about covering the team like a responsible media member by doing your show here in Ft. Lauderdale.”

DF:  ”Umm, I offered to do that this year.  I e-mailed you, text messaged you, and called you.  I filled out your credential forms.  I contacted others in the department.  No one ever called me back.  Or e-mailed me. I never heard from any of you.”

PR Chief:  ”That’s a weak excuse.  Listen, why wouldn’t you just do what some of the folks do at the pro-Orioles web-sites in town like Orioles Hangout and The Loss Column?  Why not just become an obvious, over-the-top homer?”

DF: “Oh, and avoid actually seeking and speaking the truth about the team like Dipper9 or BaltimoreTerp or Dan-the-man?  I guess I could do that.  I’ve never actually lived in Fantasy Land before.  It might be fun to join those guys there for the summer.  On second thought, no thanks.  I think I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing.  Praising the team when they do good things.  Applauding the team when they do the right things.  And criticizing the team when they do the wrong things, which, unfortunately, includes losing games, seeing the stands 70% empty and treating me unprofessionally for speaking out about it.”

Player:  ”Why do you keep subjecting yourself to this, dude?  Don’t you get it?  The team doesn’t like you.  I don’t think I like you.”

DF: “Well, I don’t know how YOU don’t like me, you don’t even know me.  You’ve never seen me in the locker room because you got here last season and I got blacklisted last season.”

Player:  ”Oh, you’re the guy they banned?”

DF:  ”Yeah, that’s me.”

Player:  ”Wow, I had no idea.  That’s a helluva an accomplishment.  This is my 3rd big league team and I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a team banning a member of the media.”

DF:  ”Gee, thanks.”

Player:  ”Who’s going to win The Masters?”

DF:  ”Good question.  Geoff Ogilvy is my early pick…as long as he can putt the greens.  Might go with Retief Goosen as a semi-longshot.”

PR Chief:  ”Are we finished here?  You look like you’re about done anyway.  You’re sweating like an Amish Farmer in July.  I figured you’d buckle under the pressure.”

DF: “Sure, we can wrap it up.  I have to go meet with Laywer Jim about an Anti-Trust case he’s working on in his spare time.”

**************

So, that’s how it went earlier today.

I gave them a chance to fire all the tough questions at me, like my e-mail buddy Eric wanted.  

It was hot as hell down there in the box seats. 

I WAS sweating like an Amish Farmer in July, I’ll admit to that. 

But I never got real nervous about it.

Why get nervous when you know you’re right?

Epilogue:  Number one, Eric, don’t ever challenge me again like that.  Number two, the Capitals did NOT crumble last April, they lost Game 7 in overtime on a hors***it penalty call from that scallywag Don Koharski.  Say what you want about me.  Don’t make fun of the Caps.

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