Getting a Shot

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I used to be one of those guys that didn’t promote something like this; an audition for a shot at a regular broadcasting gig. One thing I’ve learned is that superstition is more confining than defining. And damn, this has been a long ride, so why not reflect on what has come before?

I was about 12 or 13 when my late (and great) uncle, George Greco, suggested to me that I’d be a great baseball broadcaster. When I protested, citing my baseball playing ability, he smiled and repeated himself.

“You’re going to be a great baseball broadcaster.”

Eventually, my lack of control, inability to lay off the high or inside fastball and a greater appreciation for the stage (something I was infinitely more talented for) convinved me that Uncle Georgie was right to suggest that my future was likely not on the diamond.

I don’t regret my decision to serve two masters in college. Alternating a career in drama and musical theater with majoring in Communications (Broadcasting) allowed for the making of a great many friends, not the least of which was meeting my beautiful future wife in the Queens College theater’s green room my senior year.

I spent that senior year dating the now-mother of my three children; sending out hundreds of demo tapes, and auditioning for Off-Broadway plays. When I was cast in the critically-acclaimed Actors Equity showcase “Custody”, the decision to pursue acting won the first round.

Rob Claus, an agent for J. Michael Bloom saw something enough promise in me to start sending me out on auditions. However, without good old Uncle Georgie to counsel me, I couldn’t wait for New York City to recognize my talents, so when the opportunity to move to Hollywood came up, I took it.

(I have to add that shortly before I left, Al Harazin had acquired Bobby Bonilla, Eddie Murray and Bret Saberhagen, and I was annoyed I was going to miss a great 1992 Mets season)

Two earthquakes, the Rodney King riots, and getting robbed at gunpoint on my way to work at LAX were the lowlights of my Hollywood adventure, and I came back home about a year later; humbled but wiser. I did make some incredible friends, and was introduced to my future father-in-law’s wonderful family and circle of friends. (Name Drop #1 – The amazing writer Michelle Moran is my wife’s first cousin, and is a constant inspiration)

A few regional plays followed my return to New York, including a role in Total Abandon working with great freinds and eventual groomsmen Chris Cardona and Michael Puzzo and the lead role in “The Pizza Man Delivers” with Dan Brennan at the Viilage Gate, but I started to feel as if my future lie elsewhere.

***

Having never lost my passion for sports, especially baseball, I began feeling out of place in the theater world.

While still passionate about the stage, I had really wanted a film career, and I never got close enough to realizing that dream. Sports was the only other career I felt I had a decent future in, so I made a decision.

In the year preceding my marriage, I got a job with Simpson, Thacher & Bartlettduring the day (where I worked directly under Vincent Coleman, whose eventual work at Harlem RBI would get national recognition), and attened Connecticut School of Broadcasting at night. I managed to get an internship at WFAN for the 1995 baseball season, and with help from the now legendary Mike Breen, entered the radio world.

With Breen’s help (he gave me a big list of things to change on my resume, tape, and how to get on air), broadcasting jobs at WSTC-AM (producer, reporter, anchor) in Stamford, CT, WRKL-AM in Rockland County, NY, (Evening News Director/Anchor) prepared me for my next career change, a seven-year stint at Associated Press, the largest and most respected news agency in the world.

It was here that I learned how to become a reporter.

At AP Sports, I was given an incredible opportunity; writing daily, nationally published content covering MLB as well as the NFL, NHL, NBA, and men and women’s college athletics.

I also got an education in the politics of media.

I tried hard to be taken seriously. Having spent the formative years of my post-college experience in a completely different medium, I thought I had to impress everyone with my ability, knowledge and passion. They noticed all right; I quickly became labled as ‘the talk radio guy”

I was unaware of the print media/broadcast media bias at the time, and once I did, became quite outspoken about what I felt was an unfair stereotype. I also started to develop a fascination with the growing Internet message board community, something I would soon learn was verboten in the ultra-traditional world of AP Sports.

***

Longing to be a full-time baseball writer, I took on several free-lance assignments during to — what I thought — fully develop my reporting skills. The first notable gig was a three-year stint as the Brooklyn Skyline’s beat reporter for the Brooklyn Cyclones, beginning with the club’s first-ever season in 2001.

During that time, other chances came along, begining with a semi-regular stint the then-official Mets official magazine Inside Pitch.

Freelance work wasn’t forbidden at AP, but it wasn’t exactly encouraged either. But as long as I was writing feel-good stories about the Cyclones or Howie Rose, no one really seemed to care.

Then I wrote this. And all hell broke loose.

The story was originally published on NYFansonly.com, the online entity of Inside Pitch, about 15 hours before the Kazmir trade became news. I didn’t “break” the story; Bob Klapisch was the first one to float the rumor (on the old MSG Sportsdesk) about a week or two before the deals were made. But I felt compelled to investigate what a lot of Mets fans thought was bull. I said to myself; “Klapisch has impeccable sources, and he wouldn’t be reporting such a thing if it wasn’t at least being discussed.”

At the time, having covered the Mets minor league system since 2001, I had more than enough contacts to try to pin down more info. I stopped calling people after seven people in the team’s organization independently confirmed the trade talks, so I wrote the story.

The Mets, I was told at the time, tried to have the story taken down from “their site” (which they didn’t own), and because “it made the organization look bad”, was the unofficial play-by-play from an former official at Scout.com.

Scout.com refused to take the story down, as it checked out (the trades were made later that day), and I thought to myself, finally, the break I needed.

Well, it didn’t quite work out that way.

The Mets decided to end their “official” relationship with Inside Pitch, and AP forbade me to write anymore freelance material about the Mets after complaints by Mets PR guru Jay Horwitz reached their ears.

It wasn’t all bad; AP didn’t take any disciplainary action (other than the Mets embargo, which lasted only a few months), and I was asked by several outlets to contribute my work, which I did under the psudeonym Joe Curcio (my late grandfather).

It also got me started to thinking about life after AP.

***

In the winter of 2004-05, wanting to cover baseball full-time, I started to think about ways to accomplish that goal. A spot on the baseball desk wasn’t about to open, and lacking a Journalism degree, didn’t think a newspaper job was going to happen as quickly as I would have liked. So, I dreamed up Gotham Baseball, a magazine and website that would cover all of New York’s baseball teams.

I left AP in January of 2006, and have been plugging away ever since. Gotham Baseball has received critical acclaim; Amazon.com named GBM one of the Best New Magazines of 2005, the only sports periodical so named and the Baseball Hall Of Fame came calling in 2009.

It hasn’t been easy, but many, many people have helped along the way. Darin Byrne and Max Siegal made sure I was a regular on-air contributor to “Mets Weekly” on SportsNet NY for fouyr seasons, and Lou Pelligrino keeps booking me and Scott Ferrall keeps supporting me by having me as a regular guest on “The Scott Ferrall Show” on SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Great friend John Fitzgerald cast me in the “Playing For Peanuts” television series about former Met Wally Backman. .

In Dec. of 2009, I was named the Online Editor for Baseball Digest, and host of “Baseball Digest LIVE” on the award-winning “Fantasy Sports Channel” on BlogTalkRadio.com.

So tonight kinda means a lot to me. I now have a real opportunity to make it in this business, and I hope that if you’re reading this, you’re rooting for me. Thanks for reading.

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