Saturday, May 29, 2010

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

So in my last post I told all of you about what my internship entails when I'm at the studio. While sending highlights to affiliates and cracking jokes with my main man Tim is certainly a fine way to spend an evening, days when I get to accompany my boss, 710 Mariners reporter Matt Pitman, to Safeco Field are a whole 'nother level of awesome. Wednesday was my first such day, and it was pretty much everything I've ever wanted out of life.

Before the game I followed Matt into the broadcast booth, where I sat with him while he did the pre-game show as I marveled at the view of magnificent Safeco Field. It's a really gorgeous ballpark if you haven't been or seen pictures. I would have taken some of my own, but I was busy "Acting Like I've Been There Before" instead of like a wide-eyed college student completely and totally ecstatic about being let into a big league ballgame for free and getting to walk around everywhere wearing a press pass. After Matt did his thing, I got to meet a few of the Mariners radio announcers, but unfortunately not local legend and Hall-of-Fame inductee Dave Niehaus who has been calling games for the Mariners since the team joined the Major Leagues in 1977. Next time.

I even wore this around my house a little bit

After that we headed down to the press box where the rows are lined with journalists, some of whom type up notes on their laptops while a larger proportion check their Facebooks and update their fantasy teams. As for me, I kept score with a little bit of help from Matt who helped me work on my scorecard technique. I think the finished product came out pretty good, especially given my handwriting limitations.

The Mariners' half of my scorecard. Sweendog, ftw!

Former Met Jason Vargas (sent to the Mariners in the ill-fated deal that brought us Sean Green, JJ Putz and Jeremy Reed) pitched competently if not spectacularly and the Mariners staged a dramatic late-inning comeback to beat the Tigers as I ate free hot dogs and watched from directly behind home plate. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon. After the game I was sent downstairs to the visitors' clubhouse to "gather sound" for the postgame show from Tigers manager Jim Leyland and starting pitcher (and Pasco, WA native) Jeremy Bonderman. This means that I go up to the aforementioned parties and hold a high-powered recorder up to them as they are interviewed by reporters. Since I am an unpaid intern, I am forbidden from asking any of my own questions. In the wake of Stallingsgate, this is probably in everyone's best interests.

(A moment then, to explain Stallingsgate to those readers who do not work for the sports department of the Daily Tar Heel or the UNC Athletics Office. The most embarrassing moment of my journalism career to date came in the wake of a walk-off grand slam by UNC's Ryan Graepel that gave the Tar Heels a 6-2 victory over High Point. Now it would seem that Graepel's home run would be the big story all of the reporters wanted to talk about in the post-game interview with UNC coach Mike Fox. However one intrepid student journalist (me, in case your reading comprehension skills have failed you) was more curious about a home run hit earlier in the game by Jacob Stallings, the first one he'd hit of the season. Naturally, I came out with one of my usual well thought-out and hard-hitting inquiries, "How 'bout Jacob Stallings first home run?"

While you may not believe me, this seemed like a very good idea at the time. Coach Fox paused for what seemed like forever and answered my question with a question "Yeah…how 'bout that?"

Still blissfully unaware of how badly I was embarrassing myself, I answered Fox's question with another of my own, "Yeah…right!?"

Unimpressed by this bit of first-rate journalism, Fox reiterated his earlier response of "…How 'bout that?"

In listening to the recording after the fact, it is at this moment that I seem to have caught up to everyone else in the room in realizing I was a moron, briefly attempting to salvage the moment by rephrasing my stupid question before ultimately giving in to my own idiocy. On tape you can almost hear the wheels turning in my head: "Yeah, what'd you think of that especially after he…okay sorry, that was a bad question..." To his immense credit, Fox cut me off and sympathetically answered my question anyway, giving me a pretty good quote in the process.

Still, when I arrived for my gig as one of the softball team's Public Address announcers a few days later, the softball Sports Information Director (SID) informed me he'd heard from the baseball SID that I'd had the "question of the year" at the High Point game. As you can imagine, my friends at the sports desk have all done an excellent job of reminding me of this particular post-game interview.)

ANYWAY! Going down to the visitors' clubhouse was extremely cool. Though I was not able to speak to Leyland, I could practically taste his post-game cigarette from how close I was standing. After the interview in the manager's office, I ventured into the Tigers locker room. Although I've always known that, by their very nature, locker rooms are places people go to shower and change, it was still sort of weird to see players talking to reporters while undressing as if this were a totally normal thing to do. I guess when you're a professional baseball player it's just part of the routine. More than anything though, I was just totally blown away by the fact that I was standing 10 feet from Johnny Damon and nobody was acting like I didn't have every right to be there. This experience will be especially surreal if I get to go to the stadium for any of the games against the Yankees and have the opportunity to get up close to all of the players I have grown up detesting from afar (except Mo Rivera. I love that guy).

Despite battling a steady stream of thoughts that amounted to little more than "OHMYGOD,DONTRELLEWILLIS!" I was able to maintain my composure and professionalism. I succeeded in collecting audio from the people I was assigned to get sound from, and part of the stuff I recorded from Jim Leyland was played on the air during the post-game show. It was probably the most thrilling event of my young journalistic career, and I can't wait to go back.

See you soon, Safeco!

A couple of other quick updates before I hit the hay:

  • I learned to cook my first non-processed meal yesterday, ground turkey quesadillas. My housemate Jake taught me how to make them and they actually came out pretty good. That sound you hear is my mother's head exploding.
  • While I had made a goal of reading John Steinbeck's East of Eden, I have instead been spending most of my spare time watching the first season of the West Wing. The show has an Entourage-like quality in that it is endlessly entertaining in its sharp dialogue and "cool stuff happening," but never seems to go anywhere because everything always turns out okay in the end. However, I feel like this won't last for long. A show can't employ the bad guys from both Wayne's World and Billy Madison without one of them turning on the President somewhere along the way.
  • I have not yet found out the name of the mysterious ice cream scooper around the corner. I attempted to make another trip Thursday, but was shocked to look into the window and see some guy working behind the counter, instead. I did not bother getting ice cream.
  • The New York Mets are pretty much the greatest team in the history of baseball, having taken 2 out of 3 games from the defending champion New York Yankees, and winning three straight games against the hated Philadelphia Phillies by a combined score of 16-0. That's 27 innings for the Phillies without a run, if you're scoring at home.
  • I ran five miles today. Just thought you guys should know…

I'm really flattered by how many of you have told me you've been reading and all of the nice things you've had to say. Thanks again for all of your support, and please do send any constructive criticism to Thanks so much for your time.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Hey folks,

I'm about settled in here in the Emerald City, so I figured I'd give everyone an update on what I've been up to.

As some of you know, I'm out here to do an internship with 710 ESPN Radio Seattle, which I started on Monday. It's been a lot of fun so far. There's not a whole lot for us interns to do while the games are on. While I'm on call in case any of the producers, soundboard operators or talent need me to do anything, my primary responsibilities during the game are to watch baseball and go on food runs. This works out nicely because eating and watching baseball are probably my two favorite things to do. Before and after the games I transcribe interviews, make rejoiners (basically the thing that's like "You're listening to Mariners baseball!...on the Mariners radio network!") for the postgame show (this skill is still a work in progress. Adobe Audition has supplanted Final Cut Pro as the editing software most likely to drive me crazy), send off highlights to our affiliates and answer phone calls from listeners. Things get sort of hectic after games because most of the workload comes in all at once, but I think I'm learning to adjust a little better day by day. I'm confident I'll be able to do everything smoothly in the very near future.

The station itself is pretty sweet. There's lot of cool memorabilia and it's pretty neat being in a working radio studio after watching Mike and the Mad Dog on YES for all those years. The people have all been pretty friendly thus far. The other intern working on 710's Mariners coverage is a pretty solid dude. I like him because he does play-by-play of everything he sees and does, and has a deep, dark past in professional wrestling fandom. Plus, he's a Catholic, which has always been my favorite Christian sect. We get along swimmingly.

Shot of the 710 Studio and Matt, who runs the soundboard

When I haven't been working, I've been spending my time watching the West Wing on my computer and exploring the University District and U-Dub's campus. I'm pretty comfortable exploring the Ave by now and have found a good gyro place, my new coffee spot and several really good places to get chicken teriyaki, which seems to be something Seattle specializes in. The U-District is cool because it's sort of like a traditional college town the way Chapel Hill is, only it's nestled inside a major city. There's also a really awesome ice cream place around the corner from me that was featured in the New York Times. I'm not sure whether it's just because I associate her with ice cream or not, but I have a pretty massive crush on the girl that works at the counter. I'm not really sure what to do with this, but I think finding out what her name is strikes me as a necessary first step.

The Varsity Theater...Seattle

Campus itself is really cool, and sort of reminds me of UNC a little bit. They even have a sunken brick courtyard that serves as the center of campus, only it's called "the Red Square", which is infinitely less cool than "the Pit". They have a long bike/running trail I've been (slowly) making my way through the past few days. It's really pretty, but has taught me that I am woefully out of shape after avoiding physical activity for the past two months. I also went to a softball game for the Daily Tar Heel since UNC was playing at UW. Both the UW softball park and the football stadium (Husky Stadium) have a pretty incredible view of Lake Washington.

The view of Lake Washington from Husky Stadium

I also snuck into the UW sports hall of fame inside the basketball stadium and saw one of Tim Lincecum's Cy Young awards and an exhibit on my main man and three-time Slam Dunk Contest Champion Nate Robinson. I very seriously considered dropping $60 on a Robinson Knicks jersey I saw in a store on the Ave.

Tim Lincecum's Cy Young

Because I know the vast majority of you are curious, I've also gotten a taste of the nightlife here in the U-District. I went out with a couple of my housemates and a friend from UNC who was in town to a bro bar called Dante's. Dante's is really awesome on Thursday nights because they have beer pong, air hockey, foosball and $2 pitchers of Miller Lite. There were very few females around, so I decided it would be a good idea to drink two pitchers and see how drunk it would make me. In case you were wondering, the answer to this query is "very drunk". After a fairly successful outing at the beer pong table, my friends and I decided to move the party to Earle's. For the Tar Heels reading, Earle's is the U-District's answer to Players. For those of you who've not had the pleasure of visiting Chapel Hill's #1 nightclub, Players is a poorly-lit establishment where people go to listen to awful top-40 music, grind up on drunk girls and make generally poor life choices.

By the time we got to Earle's I was not quite out of the game, but the pitching coach was definitely at the mound telling me to settle down and throw strikes. Unfortunately, Earle's' signature drink is its infamously potent Long Island Iced Tea. Perhaps more unfortunate is my habit of, as I'm known to tell people in a drunken stupor, "repping Strong Island, son!" I'll refrain from further detail on the evening's events, but I will continue the poorly constructed baseball metaphor from earlier in this paragraph and will say that I did not have a relief liver warming up in the bullpen and the results were most unpleasant.

Anyway, that's about all I've got for you guys right now. I'm planning to put up a post of "Sports Thoughts" at some point of the near future. For those out of the loop, we're about halfway through a week of monumental importance to a certain baseball team I'm known to be fond of. If you're one of the people who reads just to check up on what I'm doing with my life, you're totally free to spare yourself and skip that one. I won't hold it against you.

I can't thank any of you enough for reading, and I hope y'all are having excellent summers wherever you're reading from. Feel free to e-mail me any comments, questions or concerns at . I'd love to hear from you.

Stay fresh,


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hello, Seattle

Greetings from the University District of Seattle, Washington!

I got in to my home around 4 PM Pacific Standard Time (7 PM real time) yesterday and have since been getting settled in and enjoying the company of my new housemates. I live with (I think) seven other guys, six of whom are University of Washington students. Everyone seems really cool.

The house is probably not the cleanest place I've ever been, but I think that's to be expected of a place housing eight college-aged guys. What it lacks in cleanliness, I think it more than makes up in charm (it is sort of like Wrigley Field in this respect). Below is a picture of the common room's large and beautiful television from behind a pair of super-comfy couch recliners. On the right is my housemate Jake returning from a day at the chemical engineering building. Almost everyone in the house is a science major of some sort. Hopefully they will like me enough to let me mooch off them when they are successful and I am a starving journalist working the Division II baseball beat for the St. Cloud Times.

The living room is also equipped with two beer pong tables, one of which can be seen here a day after several intense games of battle pong. For the uninitiated, battle pong is a really fun way to get really drunk, really fast.

There are beer cans pretty much all over the house, which is awesome. Here are some of the special issue U of Washington-themed Bud Lights used for decorative purposes above the entrance to the kitchen.

This example of decorative creativity, however, pales in comparison to my housemates' pièce de résistance. This painting was originally of Jesus guiding some guy as he steered a boat. However, the guy's face has instead been replaced by a picture of University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker. Perhaps if I hang a similar picture of TJ Yates in my apartment, UNC might beat NC State this season.

The drive to Washington was somewhat exhausting, but a ton of fun. After hitting Chicago, I drove through Wisconsin which was surprisingly really cool. The weather was pretty gross as I drove through, but there was a lot of nice scenery with a lot of little lakes and rivers to look at. I stopped at a place called Coffee Grounds in Eau Claire to get some caffeine in me. Little did I know the Coffee Grounds is not only an internet café, but a local beer emporium, as well. Jackpot. I picked up a trio of six-packs for my future housemates, two of which I found to be pretty good. If you ever get a chance to try Oso beer, you should definitely do that. I unfortunately did not pick up a six-pack of "He'Brew".

After Eau Claire, I crossed the Mississippi and lit out for the territories. There's not a whole lot in the state of Minnesota after you get past the Twin Cities. I ended up spending the night in Bismarck, North Dakota, which was similarly not much to see. However, western North Dakota is all sorts of awesome. On a whim, I decided to make a detour to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the ND badlands. Despite the lack of vegetation, the Badlands are really pretty to look at. I went for a mile hike, but it was really hard for me to leave. I'm definitely planning to budget some more time there on my way back and look forward to future photo opportunities like the one seen below. Note my road trip scruff and spring break t-shirt.

The eastern half of Montana, however is probably the most boring place I've ever been in my life. When you drive through, you have four choices on your radio dial: Christian talk, contemporary Christian, classic country and contemporary country. Choosing a station is like picking a favorite son if you hate all of your children. You can imagine my elation then when I stumbled upon a station playing "Should I Stay or Should I Go," the greatest driving song of all time. Rolling through the high plains blasting the Clash at 90 mph was easily the single most perfect moment of my road trip. The second most perfect moment was my visit to the unfortunately named "Kum & Go" of eastern Montana. They serve a frozen drink a called a "Koolie". I don't think I really need to write a joke here.

Western Montana is pretty cool because of all the mountains and stuff. Unfortunately I wasn't able to snap any really good pictures of the landscape, but take my word for it—it's a gorgeous mix of open green spaces and imposing snow-capped mountains. I'm dying to make a trip across the Wyoming border to Yellowstone on my way home. Washington is a pretty sweet state to drive through as well. I didn't get to snap any pictures of my trip across the bridge to Seattle which offers a nice view of the city, but here's a cool picture I took above the Columbia River in the eastern part of the state.

I'm currently living in the U-District of Seattle which is a neat blend of city life with a neighborhood feel because of all the college students. It's right next to the University of Washington, which has a really nice campus despite being located in a major city. There's a trail to Mt. Rainier that I really need to see. I also live about a block and a half from the fifth Starbucks ever built. As you might imagine, Starbucks is a pretty huge deal here in the Emerald City, as evidenced by the fact that three of my housemates rolled in with frappuccinos about a half hour after I moved in. The Starbucks on University Way (or "The Av," as everyone seems to call it) was pretty cool to see, since the original five Starbucks all have this creepy old logo in them that the newer ones do not.

I'm starting my internship at 710 ESPN Radio Seattle tomorrow, which is equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking. I just hope I'm able to do a good job and that my employers like me. I think I'm going to go hang out with some of my housemates a bit now that they're all done studying for the night (UW is still in session). Before I do that, though, I leave you with the most Seattle picture ever. It is of me wearing a Mariners cap and updating my blog while drinking a mocha from the fifth-ever Starbucks. The picture is taken by my housemate Sean, who has a sick beard and likes photography and indie rock.

Thanks for reading. I love you all.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

99 Problems but a Ticket Ain’t One

Greetings from the Second City!

For those that don't know, this is a nickname for the city of Chicago, Ill., intended to prevent anyone from accidentally comparing Chicago to New York (implicitly the "First City", or just "the City"). I'm currently staying with my Aunt and Uncle, whom I do not see nearly enough, after two long days of driving across the eastern half of the United States.

A random sampling of thoughts from my trip thus far:

  • My trip across the country has been especially exciting because I am really, really bad at driving. I started out the trip on a high note at the drive-thru at the McDonald's of Port Jefferson Station. I mention this now, but seemed to have forgotten it at the time when I drove past the giant menu board where one customarily orders and instead went straight to the pay window. It was only when I got to this window that I realized I had nothing to pay for and likely became the first customer in the history of the MOPJS (and maybe McDonald's, anywhere) to pull up to the drive-thru in reverse. I've ordered a lot of large cokes in my life, but this was easily the order with the most style.

  • Not only did I commit a social faux pas in reverse, I have already broken the law on two separate occasions (Welcome, Mr. and Mrs. Taube!).

    I was driving 80 in a 65 mile-per-hour speed trap near Youngstown, Ohio when I accidentally passed a police car posted up in the median. Or rather, the policeman had been posted in the median until he started following me. It was at this point that it occurred to me that, in the future, I should probably refrain from speeding while driving with an expired license. It also occurred to me, once the police car's siren went off, that in the present I was completely and totally fucked. On the bright side, I thought as I pulled over to the side of the road, I would at least get to pretend I was Jay-Z in 99 Problems. I was about a quarter of the way through my fantasized interaction with the police officer ("'Cause I'm young, and I'm Jewish, and my hat's real low?"), when I caught a glimpse of the car in question whizzing by my passenger-side window in pursuit of an 18-wheeler. I'm sure there is a valuable lesson in here somewhere, but I can't quite put my finger on it just yet.

    This near disaster came less than 24-hours after a similar near-dustup with the law in New Jersey. For those that have been fortunate enough not to have spent any time in the Jerz, it is actually a violation of state law for a driver to pump gasoline into his or her own car. The picture below is of a gas station attendant at a disarmingly redneck truckstop in northwestern NJ near the Pennsylvania border. You will notice, though, that our friend has his back turned to me while he pumps gas into min-van with New Jersey plates. I, however, am a New Yorker perfectly capable of pumping his own damn gas. It was then that I turned off my car and sprung to action, filling my car with a tank's worth of revenge for all of unnecessary tip money the rest of us have been fleeced out of in America's Largest Landfill.

  • Gary, Indiana is actually nothing like it's portrayed in the eponymous song from the musical "The Music Man". I won't go into further detail, but if there's any way you can avoid a trip to Gary or nearby East Chicago, you should probably do that.

  • Just out of principle, I'm not shaving until I reach Seattle.

That's about all I've got for you guys right now. Everything's been great, and I'm really excited to get back out on the road. I should be crossing the Mississippi today, so I'll let everyone know how that goes.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Aaron Goes West

Greetings from the bustling metropolis of Port Jefferson, NY (Population: 6,000)!

Sorry it's been so long since I've updated, I 've been real busy with finals and packing up so I could head home for a few days.

I say for a few days because, as some of you likely know, I will be leaving shortly for the Seattle, WA, where I will be working at 710 ESPN Radio Seattle for the summer. I know what you're thinking. "But Aaron, Seattle is really, really far away from Long Island. However are you going to get there?"

I'm driving. Clear across the country, all by myself and hopefully in four or five days. Along the way, I'll be taking notes on what I see and rocking out to SO much Jay-Z. I plan to keep you folks updated of my whereabouts and share stories of the open road. If I play things right, I can be like a less obnoxious Sal Paradise.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go try and find music to load onto my iPod (any suggestions?) and start getting everything ready for my journey west. Talk to y'all soon.