On June 29th, I interviewed Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter Anthony Andro. Anthony is one of the beat writers for the Rangers and his material is now carried in the Dallas Morning News as well. He also does a blog with Jeff Wilson at http://startelegramsports.typepad.com/foul_territory/. Anthony does great work and I’ve really enjoyed getting to read his Rangers coverage in the Morning News. I would like to thank him for giving me so much of his time for this interview.
Me: When did you decide that you wanted to cover sports for a living?
Anthony: Probably when I was sixteen, when I was a junior in high school. I started working for my school paper in Plano and then I started working for the city paper in Plano when I was about seventeen. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do since.
Me: Did you cover sports for your school paper and the city paper in Plano?
Anthony: That’s all I covered. The name of the school paper at Plano East was The Panther Print and then I also covered sports for the Plano Star-Courier. They used me on weekends. And then my senior year of high school, I was the sports editor at the school paper and I worked for the city paper then as well.
Me: That’s pretty cool.
Anthony: Yeah, it was a lot of fun.
Me: How did you prepare yourself to be a journalist?
Anthony: My major in college at Texas A&M was journalism and it was a lot of English. My minor was English because you obviously have to do a lot of writing. And I worked at the school paper at Texas A&M, The Battalion, for two years. I was a sports writer at The Battalion too. So from the time I was sixteen, all I’ve ever done is written sports. So when I graduated from college, I took a job as a sports writer in Port Arthur, which is a little town, and all I did there was cover sports. In a little town like that you cover everything. And then I went from Port Arthur to Fort Worth.
Me: Good school choice (A&M).
Me: What led you to working at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram?
Anthony: My wife was also a journalist and in 1999, she got a job offer from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. We were both in Port Arthur and so we basically found a job for me up here with the Home Town Star, which was a little community paper they used to do. So I came up here with her in 1999 and worked on the Home Town Star and then in 2000, they moved me over to the regular Star-Telegram ,working on high school sports.
Me: Is your wife still working for the newspaper?
Anthony: No, my wife’s a teacher. She quit the newspaper business last summer.
Me: Have you done anything different in your writing since your stories began being carried by The Dallas Morning News as well as the Star-Telegram?
Anthony: No, the way it works, whatever we write for the Forth Worth Star-Telegram, the Morning News takes too, so we don’t get any assignments from the Dallas Morning News. Basically they just take whatever we write and they use that if they want to. They don’t have to use any of our stuff but it seems like they use almost all of it. We don’t get any assignments from them and they’re not allowed to assign us anything to do.
Me: What is a typical day like in your job?
Anthony: It depends. If it’s a Rangers home game, I get to the park about 3 o’clock and the locker room opens at 3:35 and we’re typically downstairs from about 3:35 until about 5 o’clock. And then we come upstairs and put a lot of stuff on the blog for both papers and then we have to do pregame notes for espn.com; we send in stuff to ESPN for them to use. Then we work from about 5 until 6 and then we eat and then at about 6:30 we sit down to get ready to watch the game. If I’m writing the lead, I wait until the game’s over to write my story. If I’m doing the notes and the spotlight, I write all that stuff during the game and normally have to send that in around 9:30. If we’re on the road, the Rangers hit later, so you arrive at the park at the same time but you’re at the locker room later. If I’m at a NASCAR race, it’s different because you’re at the track all day. You get to the track about 9 in the morning and you leave about 10 o’clock at night. So NASCAR’s a lot longer. That’s where I’m going Wednesday (July 1). I need to go to Orlando for the Daytona race this weekend.
Me: Which sport do you like covering better?
Anthony: I think the Rangers. I grew up in Plano and Richardson and I’ve always been a Rangers fan so I used to go to Rangers games as a kid. It’s a lot of fun for me now to get to cover the team I grew up watching. It’s cool to talk to Jim Sundberg, who used to be one of my favorite players when I was a kid. I get to talk to him almost every day now and it’s just different. So it’s a lot of fun to get to do something that you wanted to do your whole life.
Me: What are the three most fun things about your job?
Anthony: The number one thing is I get paid to watch baseball. You can’t beat that. The number two thing is probably interacting with players. This is my third year to do it, so you have an idea what they’re like and you get to know them a little better. And the third thing is the writing. Writing on deadline is a lot of fun. The pressure of doing it is a lot of fun.
Me: How long does it normally take you to write a story?
Anthony: If a game ends at 10 o’clock, we have to have the game story in by 11. A lot of the time, towards the end of the game, you’ll start writing it because you have a pretty good idea where the game is going, so you have a little bit of a head start. If the game ends at 10:45, you have 15 minutes to write it so you don’t always get quotes for the paper.
Me: Wow, that’s not much time.
Anthony: No but like I said, it’s one of the more fun things about it.
Me: What are the three toughest things about your job?
Anthony: Being away for spring training for six weeks, being away from your family, is tough. Also, it’s kind of like the movie Groundhog Day – you do the same thing every day. You’re there at 3 o’clock, you’re in the locker room at 3:30, you watch baseball, so if you’re really not into doing that, I could see how it could get boring. And then the toughest thing now is the way the newspaper business is with layoffs and that kind of thing. There’s just a little bit of uncertainty in journalism and the newspaper business right now.
Me: How has the newspaper business changed since you started your career as a journalist?
Anthony: There’s a lot less people working the newspaper business because of all of the layoffs. The online stuff has changed everything because you don’t write for the morning paper a lot of the time anymore. You write for blogs and you like to get stuff online as quick as you can. It’s about breaking stories because it’s not an am news cycle anymore – it’s a 24-hour news cycle. So that’s probably the biggest change – you’re constantly writing stuff because you don’t want to get beat on something and because online you have the opportunity to break stuff a little easier.
Me: Do you like writing online or for the paper better?
Anthony: I think I still like writing for the paper better because it’s still fun to get up in the morning and get the paper and see your name in the paper. Online can be a little more gratifying because if you break something, you’re really first to have it out there. But the difference is, in the old days with the newspapers, if you beat somebody you could have the whole day before them. Now if you beat somebody online, you might only beat them by five minutes because they can see your story and they can chase for that same story.
Me: What is your best memory of being a journalist?
Anthony: The best memory for me was when I first started working in Fort Worth, one of the first things I covered was the Dallas Desperados, the Arena Football League team when they had their first year here, and I got called by Roger Staubach, who was my favorite athlete growing up. He called me on the phone and he said, ‘Hey Anthony, this is Roger Staubach’, and to me that was the coolest moment because you’re actually talking to someone who you grew up idolizing.
Me: Wow, that’s one more call from Roger Staubach than I have.
Me: What is the most fun season you’ve covered and why?
Anthony: You know, this season has been a lot of fun just because the Rangers have been in first place so much. It’s a good clubhouse to deal with to begin with, but since they’re doing so well, they’ve had a lot more attention, which has made it a lot more fun. And everybody’s in a good mood when they’re winning, so it’s made it a lot of fun.
Me: What is the most fun game you’ve covered and why?
Anthony: The best game I ever covered was a high school basketball game when I was in Port Arthur. It was I think the 1995 Class 4A State Championship with Port Arthur Lincoln against Austin Anderson. They had Stephen Jackson, who plays for Golden State, on that team. There were like five guys who went on to play Division 1 college basketball. Also, it was an overtime game that Port Arthur Lincoln won. It was a great game.
Me: That’s some good talent there.
Me: Which players have been the most fun to interview and why?
Anthony: On the Rangers right now, the best guy to talk to is probably Eddie Guardado, just because he’s so funny. The best people for just honest answers are probably Kevin Millwood and Marlon Byrd because they’re just going to tell you how things really are. There’s not a bad interview in that clubhouse right now. But Eddie’s the most fun and Marlon and Kevin are going to be the most upfront people with you.
Me: What would be your advice to someone who wants to get into sports journalism?
Anthony: You have to be ready to be online. You have to know how to do different things with multi-media like shooting videos and putting audio online. You have to be ready to be very versatile. When I started I didn’t know how to do any of that stuff but now I shoot videos and we stick audio on there, stuff that I wouldn’t have even thought about doing a couple of years ago but that you have to do now. You just have to be prepared to be able to do a lot of different things.
Me: Do you like to do videos or just the sound bites more?
Anthony: Well the videos are fun. We had a lot of success with them in spring training when we shot a lot of batting practice and pitching videos. Readers seemed to like that a lot, so that made it fun. The audio clips are a lot of the same things we’ll use in the paper but the videos you’re only going to see online.
Me: What do the Rangers need to do to win the division this year?
Anthony: Before the season I would have said that they’d need to pitch better but right now their pitching is great. They’ve got to start being a little more consistent on offense. They’d probably tell you that too. They’re just not hitting the ball well as a team. Maybe when Josh Hamilton comes back that will be the difference, but as long as their pitching pitches like they have been and their defense stays steady, if they can find a way to hit, they can beat the Angels and Seattle pretty easily.
Me: What do you think the Rangers need to do at the trading deadline?
Anthony: Because of the way the payroll works out, I don’t think that they can do much. It may be calling up Neftali Feliz and a small move to get another arm in the bullpen. They’ve been really lucky with Darren O’Day and Jason Grilli, the guys they didn’t have to pay much to get at all, so that’s two good arms in the bullpen. If CJ’s good and Frankie’s good and Jason Jennings, that’s five solid arms in the bullpen, Maybe they need one more. Everybody needs starting pitching but I don’t know that they can afford to go out and get starting pitching. I wouldn’t trade away much to get it right now, that’s for sure.
Me: Speaking of CJ and Frankie, which one do you think is the better closer?
Anthony: I’ll tell you what, CJ’s looked really good this year and so has Frankie, so it’s a hard call. They’ve both looked so good. Right now, CJ’s pitching better, but Frankie’s still got to get some more innings under his belt. Frankie was the best closer in baseball I think the first month and a half of the season.
Me: With all of the praise for the Rangers farm system, it seems like they might be poised for a long-term run of success. What’s your opinion on that and what do they need to do to turn that potential into reality?
Anthony: I wouldn’t rush them. I wouldn’t rush Feliz, I wouldn’t rush Manny Pina, I wouldn’t rush Justin Smoak. Let those guys get their time in the minor leagues because you don’t want them to come up here and struggle. You want them to come up here and have the best chance at success that they possibly can. If you bring people up too early, that tends to mess people up. There’s no reason to rush it. Let things play out the way they’re supposed to play out and don’t push things.
Me: So if the Rangers traded Blalock, would you rather have them call up Smoak or someone else and what do you think they would do?
Anthony: Well, if they traded Blalock, I’m sure what they’d probably do is give Andruw Jones a lot of the DH at-bats and leave Chris Davis at first base. I don’t think they would call up Smoak. I don’t know what they would do, if they would bring up another outfielder or utility infielder, but I don’t see there’s a reason to call up Justin Smoak this year.
Me: Who are the next players in the Rangers’ minor league system that will make an impact with the Rangers at the major league level?
Anthony: The two obvious ones would be Smoak and Feliz. I’m sure Feliz will be up here sometime this year and probably pitching in the bullpen, so he could be that arm they need at the trade deadline. He could be like Joba Chamberlain was for the Yankees a few years ago. I think Smoak could help this year but I just don’t know that there’s really a need to push it.
Me: How will the Rangers make room for Justin Smoak when he’s ready?
Anthony: Well, Hank Blalock’s probably going to be gone after this year. If that’s the case, you have Smoak and Chris Davis. You could let Smoak DH. You could let Chris DH.
Me: Do you think Josh Hamilton should move to one of the corner outfield spots long term? If so, who’s the Rangers’ center fielder of the future?
Anthony: Right now, if he moves – which he doesn’t want to do, he wants to play center field – I guess Borbon would be the center fielder of the future. He’s hitting pretty well in the minors but I don’t think that’s anything that’s going to happen this year. The Rangers are going to have an outfield spot to fill after this year because Marlon Byrd will be a free agent, depending on how Nelson Cruz and David Murphy develop this year. Because if Nelson Cruz is your every day right fielder, you have a problem with Hamilton if he wants to play center next year. My guess though is that the next outfielder that comes up that makes an impact will be Borbon, and Hamilton needs to move, just because he’s getting older and it will be less taxing on his body to move to a corner spot. (Note: this interview took place before Borbon was called up to the majors.)
Me: If he did move to one of the corner spots, do you think he would play left or would they move Nelson Cruz to left?
Anthony: I don’t know. I don’t know what kind of arm Nelson Cruz has for left field. He has a strong arm but it’s not the most accurate so far. That’s a question I don’t think I can answer. I don’t know what they would do. It really depends on what Josh wants to do. If Josh wants to play center field, they’re going to have a hard time convincing him to move to one of the corner spots.
Me: What was your favorite team growing up and why?
Anthony: My two favorite baseball teams growing up – I had two – were the Chicago Cubs and the Rangers. The Rangers because I grew up here. The Cubs because I was born in Chicago and it was my dad’s favorite team growing up.
Me: That’s not that good because over the last 100 years you’ve had zero World Series championships.
Anthony: That’s right but I did get to watch all three of the Cubs/Rangers games here at the ballpark two years ago, so that was kind of like my World Series.
Me: So you got to see Sammy Sosa’s 600th.
Anthony: I got to see Sammy’s home run. We were in the stands for that game – my wife, my son, and I.
Me: Yeah, we were there the night before he hit it.
Anthony: We were down the third base line when it happened.
Me: Did you play baseball growing up? If so, for how long and at what position?
Anthony: I played for like two years when I was 7 and 8. I played every position but I was not any good at it.
Me: Thanks again for doing this interview.
Anthony: No problem.
I would like to thank Anthony again for giving me so much of his time and for giving such great answers.
Come back next week for an interview with mlb.com reporter and Rangers beat writer TR Sullivan.