Back on deadline

A couple of weeks ago, before the fall high school sports season began, Jimmy Zanor of the Middletown Press called me and asked if I was ready to write for the paper again. Of course I was and couldn’t wait to get started.
The first assignment he gave me was a season preview for Portland boys soccer. I thought, “no problem, I’ve done these before,” but it wasn’t that easy. I mean, yeah, it was short, but after looking at last season’s record (not a single win) I knew it was going to be tougher than expected.
When I got to the field for practice the coach joked with me saying, “must be a slow news day if you’re coming here.” Yeah, I don’t really know why Jimmy wanted me to do that story, but I did it anyway and it came out well for being my first story in a few months.
After the weekend he asked me to profile the girls team from Portland, which would be a little easier since they had a lot to talk about. Last year they played in the class S state finals, so saying they would like to finish the job this year in about 500 words was easy.
After submitting these stories to Jimmy to edit and seeing them on the website, it felt good to be back. He had made some edits, but I’m always learning and seeing the changes that make my stories sound better make me want to be better.
The first game story I did this season was Coginchaug vs. Haddam-Killingworth volleyball. Last fall I became a big volleyball fan after watching Central Connecticut State and lots of Shoreline Conference contests, so this game would be fun. It was a great match with H-K winning in five sets.
I drove home and wrote my game story in about an hour or so and got it in well before deadline, but the pressure of getting a story done in time was fun…again. It feels good to be back on deadline.

Softball and such

Hmmm, what I have been doing lately?

Last Thursday I got to the office about 15 minutes before Joe showed up, which has happened a few times, so I sat there looking over what was going on for the day. When he walked in he told me that there wasn’t much happened and told me to go to the Wesleyan softball game. That sounded like a good idea to me, especially since I have been following the CCSU softball team for a few years now.

I left the office and drove up Washington St. to the field, grabbed my game program just as Allee Beatty lined a triple down the right field line to lead off the bottom of the first for Wesleyan. I had no idea who any of the players were or knew anything about the team, but I quickly figured out why the Cardinals were atop their division in the NESCAC. I introduced myself to the SID behind the plate keeping score and he told me it was no problem talking to whoever I wanted after the game.

I walked down the third base line towards left field and watched a majority of the game there. In the sixth I went back towards home plate to watch the end of the game and made sure the SID saw me and would let me go on the field afterword.

After the coaches were done talking with their teams, I talked to the Western Connecticut State coach first and then made my way over to the Wesleyan side and got a shot interview with the coach and winning pitcher, freshman Susan Pardo. She had just thrown her third complete game shutout of the year and held a 9-0 record.

I drove back to the office and wrote the story. I thought I had a good lead written about how WCSU knew they had to keep Beatty off the bases, but didn’t account for the best pitcher they had seen all year in Pardo. Joe liked it, but wanted something different, so we went back and forth for a while on it and came up with the one in the story I linked above.


It rained all day.

The Rock Cats game got postponed in the morning so I couldn’t go to that and almost every CIAC event got postponed due to the weather, so I had to come up with something to do. I thought about doing a college notebook and when I walked in, that’s exactly what Joe said. I worked on that for the entire time I was in the office, which was only a couple of hours, but it was fun to see these local athletes doing great things in college.

At the end of the night Joe was going over the internship guidelines and realized that I only had two weeks left. We both were surprised and I almost got a little sad. I will write a reaction to that soon, but we talked about a final feature for me to write. I have been looking into that this week and should have something good for next week.

Spring Sports Bombardment

The last couple of weeks at the Middletown Press, for me at least, have been pretty slow. Basketball season ended and we didn’t have all the scores coming in every night, well, that changed tonight.

I put all the spring sports schedules in my Google calender to begin the day and it showed me just how many games we had to cover every day. Then there was a little bit of downtime before the results started to come in. The one call I took was from the Mercy golf coach. The Tigers lost their first match of the season 224-228 to Cheshire.

A lot of the springs sports coaches email in their results which is nice, but when you start to see them all pile up, it’s a bit intimidating. I wrote up some tennis and golf today along with Joe doing the other stuff. The worst thing I may have heard was that today was a slow day, just wait until tomorrow.

I looked at the Shoreline Conference baseball schedule the other day and was hoping I would be able to go to the Haddam-Killingworth vs. Cromwell baseball game for a number of reasons. Cromwell is the reigning Class S state champion and H-K was the Class M runner-up last year. Cromwell has one of the best pitching staffs in the state and H-K has a couple good hurlers as well, not to mention Brian Moskey, my friend Kellie’s brother who I have heard can bring it, but haven’t seen him play yet.

Joe told me that Jimmy Zanor is covering the game, but I could go. Then he almost changed his mind and had me go to the Middletown vs. Vinal Tech baseball game, which I would have no problem covering, but the other game is way more appealing.

Cromwell and H-K softball teams are playing at the same time also at Cromwell High School, so Joe asked me to keep an eye on that game as well. That’s the trade-off I had to make in order to go to the baseball game. I’m sure I will also have a bunch of other games to write about when I get back to the office.

I’m excited for baseball season and hoping I am busy for the rest of the time I am at the Press.

Late Night Compliments

Spring break was last week and I kept the tradition alive by not going anywhere, doing a lot of sitting on my couch and watching Sports Center, but I also went into the Middletown Press on Tuesday for a change of scenery.

We had been working on the spring sports capsules, so that what I worked on for a couple of hours, making sure the names were spelled correctly and the season outlook by the coaches were well developed sentences. It was tedious, but had to be done. There really wasn’t much else going on so I left early, but before I walked out the door, I discussed with Joe what was going on Thursday and we decided that I would go to the Middletown High vs. Xavier baseball scrimmage and find a story.

I found my way to Middletown High on Thursday around 3 p.m. and walked over to the baseball field. There weren’t too many people there for a couple of reasons, but the big ones were; it wasn’t a real game and it was cold. I walked around and watched the players warm up for a little while, before introducing myself to the coaches. I should have done it right when I got there, because I’m sure it was awkward for them watching me walk around, but I’ll get better at stuff like that.

Xavier showed up about 20 minutes later, began warming up and then the scrimmage began.

A junior, Malcolm Alleyne, started on the mound for Middletown and after watching the kid warm up, I could tell he was going to be good, but not good enough against the Xavier bats. From the first pitch he threw, the Falcons lineup blasted shot after shot deep to the outfield. Xavier is just bigger and stronger than Middletown.

The scrimmage kept going on, players moved around and so did the umpires. Three came to the game, two worked a couple innings while the other watched and then they would switch spots; each one even took a turn behind the plate. It was nice standing in the sun, but once it went behind the clouds and got later, it got freezing. Just when I thought the game was over, they played another inning. Then when I heard the game was going to be over, the Middletown coach asked the Xavier coach if they could go another half to get some work in. This is dedication.

Play finally ended, the players gathered up their gear and sought warmth as fast as they could. I walked onto the field and talked to Richard Magner, the Xavier coach first for about four minutes and then made my way to the Middletown coach, Jason Serra, after he was done giving his team a talk in right field. Both coaches were very friendly and cool and know baseball very well, I knew I had a good story.

I got to my car, emailed Joe telling him that I could barely move my hands from being out in the cold and I would write the story Friday and that’s what I did.

I sat in my bed, transcribed the quotes and began writing. I knew I had to come up with a good lead because this wasn’t a game story, it was like a short feature type piece mixed with a season preview. I wasn’t going long, but it needed to be informative and tell a story and I did just that. As I finished the story I told my mom that I thought it was pretty good and I was happy with it. I never say that about my writing, so it must have been good…or really bad. I didn’t know, so I just sent it off to Joe and was done with it.

I had to wake up for work at 7:30 a.m. to be there at 9 a.m. on Saturday, but couldn’t sleep. I rolled over, looked at my phone and saw a new email. This is what it said. It was at about 2 a.m., but I didn’t care about work anymore, this was awesome.

That made me feel amazing. It was probably the best compliment I had ever gotten from anyone on my writing and coming from someone I respect and work with and am learning from made it that much better.

I took a screen shot (as you can see) and posted it on Facebook and Instragram. When I woke up I had about 10 InstaLikes and another 15 on Facebook with some comments and these people hadn’t even read the story yet.

The story is running in today’s Middletown Press sports section and the high school baseball season begins Wednesday.

Spring Season

So, what have I been doing lately? Well, I didn’t go into the office last week, because Joe has Thursday and Friday off after working 10 straight days due to the weekend of the basketball state championships at Mohegan Sun. He emailed me early last week and wanted me to come up with a feature idea, but I really had no idea. I’m not too good at pitching ideas right now, it’s something I hope to get better at. So instead Joe told me that we were starting the spring sports capsules and he would be sending out emails to all the athletics directors in the area and we would be putting those together, i.e. me.

The last week I have been getting the return emails from the coaches forwarded to me and I have been organizing the sports capsules as they come in. It may be tedious work, but it’s interesting and helps me learn about the teams in the area. We cover baseball, softball, tennis and lacrosse and whatever is going on. Spring is my favorite sports time of the year.

That’s really it. This week I am on spring break and I don’t go anywhere, EVER, so I emailed Joe last night and asked if I could come in maybe a different day if there was something going on and he told me to come in Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, so that’s what I’m doing. This week will hopefully be interesting and I’ll be back at it.

Working On The Road

I went into the Middletown Press today, because I missed last Thursday and Friday due to the snowstorm. When I walked in, both Cathy and Jeff were surprised to see me, but I quickly told them the reason and they got back to their work.

I didn’t really have much to do, so Joe basically told me to research Weaver high school girls basketball, because the two of us would be going to Plainville for the Cromwell and Weaver Class M semifinal game.

Cromwell, the Shoreline Conference champions and winners of 26 games in a row, rolled over Weaver Monday night 60-44. Weaver never really had a chance, they trailed 14-4 after the first quarter and 30-11 at halftime. The closest they would get would be within 11 late in the fourth quarter, but it was too late. This was all done without Janelle Harrison, the Panthers leading scorer and rebounder who sat most of the first and third quarters with foul trouble (she finished with 7 points).

Weaver came into this game as the #12 seed in the tournament, while undefeated Cromwell is #1. The last loss for Cromwell was against Weaver in last season’s semifinals when the Beavers were #1 and would go on to win the Class M state championship. Last night Cromwell would avenge that loss in dominating fashion.

But what did I do?

I went along with Joe to the game at Plainville High School and I knew it was his story, he had done a few Cromwell stories this season and he knew the most about the team. I was just there to help out if need be and see how he works. I had the opportunity to go to New Britain High for the Mercy and Glastonbury game with Cathy and Jimmy, but I’ve worked with them before, so I decided to go with Joe.

It was us from the Press and two guys from the Hartford Courant covering the game, a photographer and reporter. That’s the difference between the largest newspaper in the state and one of the smallest, we had the sports editor/reporter/photographer and an intern; the Courant had two pros.

I kept my own stats for the Weaver team while Joe kept Cromwell stats and at the end of the game when he went to interview the coaches and players, I didn’t really know what to do. Eventually I went over to the score book and took a picture of it with my phone so we could have the official stats while one guys said, “What did reporters do before they had cell phones? They actually had to work.”

It’s true, but it makes things so much easier.

Joe was able to connect to the WiFi through a student at the school and this also made thinks much easier. He was able to tweet, while I was tweeting from my phone and was able to write his story and set up the rest of the pages in the gym after everyone left. We were in the gym until a little after ten waiting for stories from Jimmy and Mary Albl and pictures from Cathy. While the janitor swept the bleachers and cleaned up the gym, we were sitting at a small lunch table putting together the entire sports section of the Middletown Press.

It was a pretty cool experience. It may suck having the earliest deadline in the state, but to know that the paper thousands of people will be reading was finished in the corner of the Plainville High School gym is pretty amazing.

On assignment

Joe gave me my assignment for tonight, yesterday. I would be going to Haddam-Killingworth High School for their second round state tournament game versus Northwestern. I was a little nervous, because this would be my first time on assignment on my own, but I was ready.

I arrived at the school about 20 minutes before game time, made sure I had everything I needed: notepad, recorder, pen, phone, wallet, press pass…I must have checked about five times before I even walked away from my car, but I was ready to go. I showed the ticket takers my press pass (they gave me a strange look, but I’m official, don’t worry).

All of the basketball games I have been to so far this year, I have sat at or near the scorers table or at the press table, like they set up at Coginchaug for the Shoreline Conference tournament, but tonight I sat with the fans. I walked over to the scorers table before the game started and awkwardly introduced myself to the scorer and told him I would need the stats when the game was over. I thought he would tell me where to sit, but didn’t, so I made my way back to the other side of the gym and sat in the second row with the fans.

I’m not going to bore you with the game details, because you can read that in the paper tomorrow, but I’ll tell you what I did do. I kept my own stats with my pen and paper and tweeted during every stoppage in time, like I always do, but especially for the Middletown Press. Joe retweeted me a couple of time, but he was at Cromwell for their game vs. Rocky Hill. Jim Bransfield was covering Mercy and Jimmy Zanor was covering the Shoreline Conference boys final which pitted Valley and Old Lyme. The thought of having four reporters out in one night covering four different events for the same paper was pretty cool. I felt like I was apart of a real newspaper team. 

In addition to tweeting from my phone, I also took pictures of the scorebook at the end of the game with it and wrote my short game story from it using my Google Drive account. To this day, I believe that program is the greatest thing ever invented.

I got a couple quotes from the HK coach and walked out to my car, turned the heat on and started writing. I believe I wrote a pretty decent game story and no one has to know it was done on my phone.

Not so calm before the storm

It’s been a few days and one giant blizzard, but I am back to tell you about what I did at the Middletown Press on Thursday night, the night before Blizzard Charlotte or Nemo or Snowmaggedon or whatever you want to call it.

I parked in my usual spot, but was wondering why Joe’s car was not there yet. Cathy, the photographer was sitting in her Jeep writing down her mileage, so I stopped and talked to her for a few minutes. Her and Joe had just got back from doing a story about Vinal Tech senior Dante Watson scoring his 1,000th career point last week. I walked into the office and took my spot at my desk when Jim Bransfield walked in with a big story.

He had met with the athletic director’s of both Middletown High School and Xavier that morning when they announced the 15-year tradition of playing football on Thanksgiving Day between the city’s two high school’s would be ended. This was a bigger deal than I thought it was. Joe came in a few minutes later, got the story from Jim and posted it online. The tweet containing the story was posted around 4:30 pm and by the time we left at 10:30 that night, there were 42 retweets. (As of right now, the tweet has 58 Retweets and 7 Favorites)

For the next hour or so, Joe and I looked through the game stories of the last 15 years and wrote up three or four sentences summarizing the annual game. This was pretty cool, especially reading about the amazing performance by current Detroit Lions safety Amari Spievey (Xavier grad). I started at 2012 and Joe started at 1998 and we worked our way to the middle. I only got done through 2008, but the plan worked and we had a cool collaboration for the front of the sports page on Friday.

I put together a few “By The Numbers” stats based off of the game, that was a lot of fun. I love figuring out stats and living by the numbers.

When I was at the Mercy basketball game last week the coach, Tim Kohs told Cathy that senior Jordyn Nappi would be scoring her 1,000th point on February 7. I thought I would be going back there for the game, but when I came in I was told she needed 28 points to reach the goal and it likely wouldn’t happen that night. My girlfriend, Kara’s sister attends Mercy and she went to the game Thursday night. I told Kara that if Nappi did get to 1,000 I would like her to take a picture and send it to me.

I got the picture.

I walked up to Joe and showed him, he almost couldn’t believe it. We blew it. I saved the picture and tweeted it. Once Kohs called in the score later that night, he apologized saying that his stats were off and she only needed 18 points, she finished the game with 20.

I finished the night by writing up a bunch of high school basketball games and then was told not to come in Friday because of the snow. The rest of the reporters were working from home and their deadline was 4 p.m.

Oh, and I love tweeting from the @MPSportsEditor account. I tweeted all of the scores that came in and Joe didn’t even realize it until he checked TweetDeck at the end of the night. That was cool when he was happy to see it.

I can’t wait to get back in the office this Thursday and get back to work.

Learning Something New

So, what did I do Thursday and Friday at the Middletown Press???

I told you what I was doing Thursday while my editor and the photographer were at the Middletown Athletics Hall of Fame…I sat in the office and blogged about that. When they came back I was given the task to find one more college story from a local athlete to finalize the “College Notebook.” After checking on a few athletes, we decided on Erikson Wasyl, a freshman basketball player at Vassar College in New York. Wasyl has just begun to start and as I write this post I am reading that he hit a clutch three-pointer on Saturday to send the Brewers to overtime vs. St. Lawrence University. Vassar won the game 84-80 in extra time.

Those four stories would be my second byline while at the press, but my next “real” one would be on Friday. I was sent out with the photographer again to cover the Mercy basketball game. This would not be a good game, it was actually a really poor game to watch. Mercy defeated Hillhouse 63-23. So how the heck do I write a semi-interesting story about a 40-point blowout??? That comes in the interviews.

I talked to Mercy coach Tim Kohs immediately after the game and he talked a lot about defense and how they worked on their zone Friday night against a team they knew they were going to beat handily.

Joe and I discussed what I was going to try to do differently for this story to make it better before I left and the two things I decided on were: 1. Take better notes and 2. Talk to a player…I did both.

I got a couple good detail plays from the game and talked to both Maria Weselyj and Jordyn Nappi after the game outside their locker room. Both seniors are looking forward to the SCC tournament and the state tournament, where they have been to the finals the last three seasons, they haven’t won and they feel like this year their team chemistry is great and they have their best opportunity to bring a state title back to Middletown.

I rushed back to the office and had about 45 minutes to get my story done before the ridiculous deadline of 9:45 p.m. I finished right at deadline and then Joe reworked the piece a little, put it on the page and sent it off to print. After the pressure was gone he wanted me to rewrite it for the website. I added a nut graph and some extra quotes and made the story more about defense and less a straight game story. One of the news reporters then read my story and gave me some suggestions. This was so cool. The best compliment of the night was from Jeff Mill. He said reading my story was exciting! I never thought about that, but I like that still. I want people to get into the story and keep them on edge.

I left the office around 11 p.m. with Joe and Jeff after another successful and educational night at the Middletown Press.

Chillin’ In The Office

There are only a few high school basketball games going on tonight in the greater Middletown area and my editor is at the Middletown sports hall of fame ceremony, so I am in charge of the sports department right now.

This is only my fifth day on the “job” and even though I don’t have much responsibility other than answering calls from coaches, it feels kind of weird being here alone. There are two news writers on the other side of the office arguing about the economy and it’s hilarious, but other than that, NOTHING happening right now.

Most high school basketball games begin at 7 p.m. and while I wait for some of the tweets to come in and then the games to end so I can start to take calls from coaches, I am sitting here on my computer. I am in love with Twitter, as most of you know, so that is what I am doing, staying up-to-date on my news and following the #ctgb and #ctbb hashtags used for boys and girls high school basketball in the state.

I can’t wait to tweet some sports scores, that’s my thing…