People old enough to remember the original TV version of “The Odd Couple” might think sportswriters look like Jack Klugman’s grizzled Oscar Madison. But the reporters who cover sports teams today are increasingly younger. We spoke with 28-year-old Jared Diamond, who covers the New York Yankees for The Wall Street Journal (both MarketWatch and the Journal are owned by News Corp.
), about what it’s like to cover players who make more money in a year than he’ll make in his lifetime — and what it’s like to travel around the country during baseball’s grueling 162-game season.
MarketWatch: You’re 28 years old. Are most of the reporters who cover the Yankees also young?
Jared Diamond: All sports beats have gotten younger in recent years. It used to be mostly older reporters covered teams. You had to work your way up to it. Reporters are younger now partly because of all the travel. Now it’s either really young or older reporters who have covered baseball and will never cover anything else. It’s so hard to be away as much as baseball requires.
MarketWatch: How’d you get the job?
Diamond: I graduated from college in May 2010 and started at the Journal in January 2011. I was sports editor at my college paper at Syracuse, then covered one season of the AAA baseball team the Norfolk Tide for the Virginia Pilot newspaper. Then I was hired by the Journal, where I was a news assistant in the sports department for two years before covering the Mets for three years. My goal when I started my career was to cover baseball by 30. It’s been a thrill. I’ve done it now for four seasons and covered the World Series last year. It’s been a blast.
MarketWatch: Are you a lifelong baseball or sports fan?
Diamond: I’ve been a baseball fan my whole life and was a Yankees fan growing up.
MarketWatch: What kind of access do you have to the players?
Diamond: The access to players is phenomenal. For a 7:00 p.m. game, we’ll have access to them from about 3:00 to 4:00. After the game, the clubhouse is open as well. But the manager pretty much only speaks in press conferences.
MarketWatch: Are there any players who’ve been especially nice to you?
Diamond: When I first started, I was 25, and the Mets signed Latroy Hawkins. He was 40. This was in 2013. And for no reason other than he’s an unbelievable guy, he called me over to his locker in spring training and said, “You must be new.” And he basically walked me through my first spring training and taught me how not to be terrible at my job. Many reporters could tell you Hawkins stories like that. We still talk.
Sometimes I look at a player and think, “You’ve made more money this season than I ever will.”
MarketWatch: Has there ever been backlash from a player or manager after something you’ve written?
Diamond: Not too often, but here’s one example: After [Hall of Fame baseball player] Tony Gwynn died, the big story was that his health problems were related to tobacco dipping. I wrote about Mets players who dip. One player who was a huge dipper talked to me on the record. He said he knew it was bad but was going to keep doing it. I ran the story and the next day he was really mad. He got in my face a little. He was mad because his wife saw the story and she didn’t know about it. He doesn’t dip at home. The key when something like that happens is to make sure you’re in the clubhouse the next day so the player can talk to you. Before publishing a story, I always think: How will I defend it to the player? But something like that can make the relationship stronger in the long run. It became a running joke for us as the season ran on.
[Editor’s note: The player was Josh Edgin. Here’s the story from The Wall Street Journal.]
MarketWatch: Do players read press about themselves?
Diamond: They all say they don’t, but my hunch is more of them do than care to admit it. I would tell them not to read anything.
MarketWatch: What’s it like being around multimillionaires all the time?
Diamond: It’s definitely an interesting dynamic. You don’t ever forget that they are so rich. They know it. You know it. So much of the job is about money — contracts and payroll. On one hand, I think: These guys are my age; we should have a similar life experience. But we have no shared experiences. Sometimes I think, “You’ve made more this season than I ever will.” Most of the younger players don’t talk about it, but no one will ever forget who has the power in the relationship.
MarketWatch: How about the discrepancy between how reporters travel and how the athletes travel?
Diamond: Most teams charter planes. The Mets and Yankees use Delta
. It’s cheaper to pay Delta than to own your own plane, I think. Not long ago — maybe the 1980s — reporters traveled on plane with teams. But not anymore.
MarketWatch: Any advice for someone who wants to be a sportswriter?
Diamond: Write as much as you can. Go cover prep schools for your local paper. Intern at local papers. If there’s a basketball game, ask the visiting team if you can cover it for them. For example, when I was a student at Syracuse, Long Beach State came to play. I didn’t think they’d send a reporter to cover it, so I offered to write about it for a California paper.
“Mama’s is the best concession in all of baseball.”
MarketWatch: What’s the best part of the job?
Diamond: The travel is the best and worst part. love the traveling. I do my best work on the road. There’s more access to players. And you’re not thinking, “I can go home,” so you make the extra phone call for a story. And the travel is fun. You get to go to all these cities across the country. You go to Pittsburgh and Milwaukee. Places you normally wouldn’t go. I genuinely enjoy it. I also wish i could do it a little less, and see my wife and family more often.
MarketWatch: What’s the worst part of the job?
Diamond: Besides the travel, it’s the 24/7 nature of it. News can break at any moment.
MarketWatch: Do you book your own flights and hotels and get reimbursed, or book it through the company?
Diamond: If it’s the playoffs, or I’m on short notice. I’ll use my own credit card. But mostly I book travel myself through the company’s travel portal. I like doing it myself. I value traveling the way i want to travel. I look for the flights first elsewhere and then I’ll go to the travel portal and get the ones I want.
Diamond lives in New Jersey and likes to fly United
out of Newark. He books flights in coach and sometimes gets upgraded to first class, based on how many miles he has amassed and what his status is. He currently has 300,000 United miles and says he’s had more in the past. When he’s on the road, he charges all meals and hotels to the Journal. He doesn’t have a set per diem, but always tries to keep the charges reasonable.
So what tips does someone who travels for a living have?
Get TSA Pre or Global Entry
“If you travel even a tiny bit, you should have TSA Pre or Global Entry. They save you so much time. I’m usually through security in 5-10 minutes. And you don’t have to take off your shoes or take out your laptop. And you use a regular metal detector.”
Don’t underestimate the power of points
“When it comes to airlines and hotels, pick a chain you like and stick with it. I don’t pay for any personal travel anymore. I was mainly Marriott for three years. Lately I’ve switched to Starwood because I realized I could get platinum with both. My wife and I went to Costa Rica and points paid for the hotel and flights. It’s like extra salary. I cash them in every December for a trip. I also have a United credit card.”
“Tampa is really good — really fast and easy. I try to find smaller airports to fly into. There’s one in Toronto and it’s downtown. I could walk to my hotel from it, and can fly there from Newark nonstop.”
“Dodgers. I love it. It reminds me of a version of Los Angeles that probably never existed, but you wish did. It’s like a glamorous old California. And it has amazing views. The sky is bluer and the grass is greener than anywhere else. And I don’t even love L.A.”
Best stadium food?
“Citi Field [in New York] or AT&T Park in San Francisco. Far and away the top two. My favorite is Mama’s sandwiches in right field at Citi Field. And there’s incredible variety: Pat LaFrieda. Danny Meyer pizza. Shake Shack. Mama’s is the best concession in all of baseball.”
View more information: https://www.marketwatch.com/story/dream-job-alert-what-its-like-to-cover-the-new-york-yankees-for-a-living-2016-09-09