“Don’t be shy. They won’t snap at your questions. Remember, you’re here to get the scoop, so make sure you take good notes.”
On the flip side, what took place at McCoy Stadium last Thursday morning may go down as the largest press conference ever attended by PawSox hitting coach Rich Gedman, infielder Mike Miller, and catcher Jake Romanski.
With 80 middle school students from Pawtucket, Central Falls, Woonsocket, and Providence on hand, the PawSox personnel conducted mock interviews in conjunction with the Sixth Annual R.I. Write on Sports camp, a nonprofit organization that encourages the youngsters to embrace the writing process with a sports topic of their choosing serving as the narrative.
“Who wants to be brave and ask the first question?” said PawSox Director of Baseball Operations & Community Relations Joe Bradlee to the group of campers as they opened their notebooks to a blank page.
Someone raised their hand and asked Gedman what he thought of that day’s opponent, the Louisville Bats.
“They’re the Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds and right now, they’re a little worse than we are,” said Gedman, referring to the PawSox coming in to the game with 38 wins while the Bats on the season had won 37 games. “We’re hoping to push them a little further back so they don’t catch us.”
Another youngster asked Gedman for his thoughts on the PawSox moving to Worcester, his hometown.
“It’s kind of a neat turnaround. Growing up in Worcester, I was a big Red Sox fan. Sixty years later, I’m now able to go to a ballpark in the city I grew up in. Good stuff,” said Gedman. “At the same time, it’s tough knowing that it’s not going to be (at McCoy Stadium) anymore.”
Steve Krasner, a retired Providence Journal sports writer and executive director of R.I. Write on Sports, asked Miller – known for his ability to play three of the four infield positions – if he was a versatile sort while growing up in California. Miller explained that playing different positions was new terrain upon getting drafted by the Red Sox in 2012. Selected in the 11th round, Miller told the campers that since he was teaming up with minor leaguers with a much higher draft pedigree, he needed to become a player who could be slotted here or there. “I worked with the infield coaches and even played some center field,” said Miller. “Any chance you can get onto the field, it’s a bonus and something you need to take advantage of.”
Miller attended California Polytechnic State and graduated with a degree in finance, a fact that speaks to one of the points conveyed to the R.I. Write on Sports participants. You might be directing questions to athletes, yet it’s just as important to do your homework which, in turn, allows you to unearth neat anecdotes that, when phrased properly, can help showcase the athlete to the audience in a whole new light.
Another interesting tidbit for the youngsters came from Gedman, who signed with the Red Sox after not getting drafted out of high school. He told the campers that if he didn’t reach the majors by the time he was 24 or 25, he would have enrolled in college. The backup plan remained on the backburner, with Gedman going on to spend 11 seasons with the Red Sox before shifting gears and becoming a baseball coach.
“There wasn’t a second thing that I liked to do,” Gedman told a captive audience of aspiring writers. “The only vocation I knew involved baseball games.”
Like Miller, Romanski also hails from California and went to Cal Poly. An inquisitive camper wanted to know what it was like to chase one’s baseball dream while family and friends were back home.
“Luckily, I have my girlfriend with me; she helps me get my head out of the game,” said Romanski, “but it would definitely be awesome to have my family come into town. You get that comfortable feeling. It’s difficult not having them here.”
After the campers were done with Gedman, Miller, and Romanski, they stuck around McCoy to watch the PawSox take on Louisville.
“Some of these kids have never seen a baseball game,” said Krasner. “It’s neat to just to see it through their eyes as they watch the game.”
The exposure the kids have received to the world of sports journalism proved to be first rate.
Over the course of the two-week camp, the participants also interacted with student-athletes from Providence College and Bryant University. The jotted notes would prove quite handy when the time came to produce a print story. The camp concluded with the presentation to the middle schoolers of booklets containing each’s published prose and a handy checklist of writing guidelines.
“We’re trying to share with them what it means to be a journalist,” said Krasner.
As he looked out at the McCoy playing surface, Krasner reflected on his own journalism career.
“The first game I ever covered on my own for the Providence Journal was at McCoy Stadium,” said Krasner. “I covered Rich when he was with the PawSox and when he moved up to Boston. It was nice to see him again, and he was nice enough to give his time and share stories with the kids.”
The R.I. Write on Sports camp at McCoy is recognized as a PawSox Act of Kindness, the 31st of the 2019 season. In conjunction with Pawtucket celebrating 50 years as a MiLB affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, the PawSox will complete 50 Acts of Kindness throughout Rhode Island.
The PawSox take on Rochester Friday, August 2nd at 7:00pm ET on YurView, Cox channels 4 and 1004 in Rhode Island.