Spring Training Outreach- Quick Update

Sooo…Jack sent the following email to all the MLB teams who have spring training in Florida.

Dear ,

Hello. My name is Jack Nuckols. I live in NJ. I am 11 years old and really into sports and sports writing. Two years ago I went around to different minor league stadiums and interviewed players. Then I wrote an article on it. Last March it was published in the local newspaper. Then that spring I went to the Mets stadium and interviewed a reliever named Scott Rice. I also got the chance to see a press conference and have backstage passes. I am planning on getting another team to help me finish this article. So this spring training I was wondering if I could go to get another interview of a relief pitcher and other players.

Thank you,

Jack

The Blue Jays have already responded and put us in touch with their media folks. BOOM! If the point of being a dad is to exploit your kids to get exposure to cool stuff — this could be remarkable. Jack’s grandfather is also planning to join the exploitation. Stay tuned!

If you’re new to NuckolBall, here’s a link to the article Jack got published last year. If you really want to read about the whole experience, click “Minor League Project” in the Categories over on the right side of this page. We had some amazing experiences with that article.

 

 

The Scott Rice Effect

The quest for an MLB article continues. Jack sent out letters to 9 MLB teams requesting interviews. We heard from the Mets and Jack interviewed reliever, Scott Rice, who was super nice.

Jack has now written a second letter – he has decided to focus his article on relievers.

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Here is the text:

Dear ,

My name is Jack. I am writing an article about relief pitchers. I recently interviewed Scott Rice of the Mets. Now I need to interview another relief pitcher. Can I set up a time to interview one of your pitchers?

Last year when I was 9 I wrote an article on the minor leagues. Eventually, the article was published in the local newspaper, the Haddonfield Sun.

Contact my dad, Mike Nuckols, his information is above.

Thank you,

Jack Nuckols

He has written to:

  • Yankees: Tony Morante, Director, Stadium Tours
  • Phillies: Rob Brooks, Manager, Broadcasting
  • Orioles: Monica Barlow, Director, Public Relations
  • Indians: Tom Hamilton, Announcer
  • Red Sox: Colin Burch, Director of Broadcasting
  • Nationals: Jessica Baruch, Coordinator, Marketing and Broadcasting
  • White Sox: Bob Grim, Senior Director of Business Development and Broadcasting
  • Royals: Mike Cummings, Assistant Director, Media Relations

Really hoping he hears back from these guys.

Meet the Mets (Part 3 of 3)

There was some discussion as to what our next move should be. Do we go eat? Do we we go visit one of the 3 “clubs” that our tickets gave us access to? We opted to go find our seats, and then grab a snack. We would eat dinner later.

Our seats were on the 3rd base side, far back in the section on the field. Here’s the view:

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And I was going to say that the seats were awesome, but the truth is…Citi Field is awesome. Which leads me to…

Official NuckolBall review of Citi Field

Citi Field is quite simply the perfect ballpark. The food is terrific and it’s fun to wander around seeing what they have. It’s creative, interesting, and local. The views are tremendous – you can see the whole field from your seat. It’s designed for people who want to watch baseball. It’s easy to get around. It feels grand and gigantic, but without making you feel small. It makes you feel like you’re part of something big. It even has a giant 15-foot apple that rises out of centerfield when the Mets hit a home run.

So as I sat there, I had to wonder…why did it not feel amazing? What was wrong with this park? What’s missing?

Then is struck me: the Mets suck. And they don’t just suck in a lovable loser sort of way; they’re just insipid and uninteresting – and have been since they started playing in Citi Field 5 years ago. There is no reason to be excited about this team.

So you’re left sitting in a world-class museum filled with lame artwork. You’re at a beautiful theater watching a play without any drama. This stadium holds no stories. Yet.

We headed out to get a snack. I got a beer, and the boys wanted popcorn. A tub of popcorn was $6.75 – but a bottomless tub was $10! Goldmine! I’d hit the jackpot. The popcorn stand was right at the top of our section, so the boys could go there and get refills on their own. I saw myself saving a fortune. Let them stuff themselves on the bottomless popcorn and skip dinner. Sheer brilliance! Or so I thought. Here’s a shot of us in our popcorn-induced glory:

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We got to our seats and scarfed down the first tub. It was mushy and greasy with yellow butter and salted like mad. Alex ran to get the second tub, and when he returned Jack announced:

“I’m not having any more. I want to save room for dinner.”

“What!?” I screamed. “You eat that popcorn, dammit!”

But he would not. And actually, I started slowing down too. I was feeling a little queasy. Only Alex was able to keep shoveling it in.

The game was a good one. Solid pitching. Plenty of routine plays that were executed perfectly. It really came down to the Dodgers hitting 3 solo home runs. It looked bad for the Mets.

In the 5th we went and grabbed burgers and the boys each got big sodas. Actually, I got the smallest ones I could find, but still they were humongous. Alex put his megacup in the drink holder so he could lean down and suck hard from the straw.

In between soda and popcorn stuffing, Alex took shot after shot. He was using the telephoto lens to get the pitcher and batter in action.

“I’m getting good at this,” he said. “Look…he’s on one leg.”

I tried to push off desert; the boys hadn’t even finished their soda. But the boys were having none of it. Two ice creams later we were back in the stands.

In the 6th inning, the Mets got a man on and then Eric Campbell smashed a home run to left center. Up went the apple and we all sprang to our feet cheering like crazy. Mets were only down by 1 run. It was a game.

In the 8th inning the Dodgers got 2 men on with 2 outs, and who came out of the bullpen but Scott Rice! We went nuts for him, and he managed to strike out Adrian Gonzalez to end the inning. It was terrific.

Dodgers scored in the 9th, and then in the bottom of the inning, David Wright came up with a man on and 2 outs. He could tie it up with a homer – but instead he struck out to end the game.

A Sappy Ending and A Sloppy Ending

The Sappy Ending

I did not know this, but at the end of every game at Citi Field, they play Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind”…

Jack was born in Lennox Hill hospital on the Upper East Side of New York City. While Shani was in labor, they came in to give her the epidural and they insisted I leave. They told me I had to go and get some food. Apparently, dads often faint during the epidural.

So I went to a deli on the corner. As soon as a walked in, “New York State of Mind” came on over the speakers. I ordered a turkey sandwich on an everything bagel. And I stood there in that deli thinking: “Everyone in here is just going about their business like everything is normal, and they have no idea that the biggest thing in the world is happening to me. I’m about to be a father.”

The song played in its entirety. As I paid for my food and left, the song ended. The timing was exact. And to this day, hearing that song takes me to that moment in that deli. That silent moment where I got a break to take in what was happening.

It’s a special song to me. So I really liked hearing it at the end of such an amazing baseball experience.

The Sloppy Ending

As usual, I executed a perfect exit. Out the VIP parking exit, onto the highway, over the Triborough, over the GW…and out. Smooth sailing on the Turnpike. Until I heard from the back seat…

“I don’t feel good.”

Actually, I heard:

“I DON’T FEEL GOOD!”

There was emergency in his voice. The thick layer of popcorn, plus the slurpy giant soda, plus the ice cream had come back around on Alex. Mercifully I was passing a rest stop at that moment. I shot in. We got some water and sat outside in the cool air. Alex thought he might try using the bathroom, but a few steps inside he cried out:

“I think I might throw up.”

I took him to a garbage can nearby. He leaned over and…

I would estimate a solid gallon of liquid came out of the boy. It was Pepsi-colored, but with grainy bits that I assumed was popcorn. It came out in a second, and it came out in complete silence.

“I feel better now,” he chirped.

So we got home even later than I thought. But it was another terrific NuckoBall adventure. Here’s a few more photos:

“I wanted to get Jack with this sign. I like this.”

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“That’s the one! I got it with the ball in the air.”

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“He’s flexible.”

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“Here comes the apple.”

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“He’s on one leg. He’s in gym class.”

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“You and Jack at the end of the game.”

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“Us in the parking lot.” [Dad note: Alex is still sucking down soda.]

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Meet the Mets (Part 2 of 3)

So…we had hit our triple. Two interviews and a press conference. Tremendous. Plus we’d scored free tickets.

A woman came down to the little reception room.

“Here are your tickets.”

“OH! Thank you. Is Jonathan coming down? We’d like to thank him.”

“No, he has things to take care of. He asked me to give these to you.”

“OK, thanks a bunch. So the gates open in about an hour, right?”

“Oh, you don’t have to wait. Just go down that hallway and they’ll scan you in.”

“Um…OK. Thanks!”

I grabbed the tickets, turned down the hallway, headed to the turnstile…Nothin’. There was no one there. So we walked through. We took a left, headed down the concrete corridor. Two security guys came around the bend.

“Excuse me,” I said, holding up our press credentials. “We’re trying to find the field.”

“Just head back that way and take the narrow hallway to the left.”

We walked that way. Quickly. Down the hallway, a turn, another turn. I could see the sky as I looked up. Another turn.

We were in the stands behind home plate. A few steps away was a gate with a security guard in front of it. We walked up and I before I even held up our passes, he opened the door.

And then…

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Utter insanity. We were on Citi Field. Not in Citi Field – on Citi Field. David Wright and David Murphy were 10 feet away taking batting practice. Curtis Granderson was stretching over to the left, not 20 feet away. Holy moly mackerel flaming shitballs. It was Mets, a security guard, and us.

Oh wait…there was one other person. Check this lady out:

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Baseball mutant, grade A. She knew the security guards and had a thick folder full of player photos.

“Did you bring a Sharpie?” she asked Jack.

“Yeah,” he said.

She was collecting autographs, and was a pro. She immediately glommed onto Jack to form a perfect symbiotic relationship. See, here’s the deal:

Creepy Autograph Lady knew when the yell and where to stand, but she wasn’t cute. Ballplayers don’t have to come over to sign when she calls to them. But when a cute kid calls them…that’s a lot tougher to blow off. Together she and Jack made a brilliant team.

Jack hit the Jackpot. He got David Wright (Mets marquis 3rd baseman). He got Curtis Granderson (former Yankee, just signed for 4 years/60 million). He got a solid 8 Mets players to sign his glove. They even gave him one of the balls. It was awesome.

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Then the Mets cleared out.

And then the Dodgers come out for batting practice.

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He got Clayton Kershaw (last year’s Cy Young Winner), Yasiel Puig (cover of Sport Illustrated), Adrian Gonzalez (leading NL in home runs), Hanley Ramirez, Justin Turner, you name it, he got ’em.

I got talking with an intern who told me he had never seen a team sign so many autographs or a kid get so many signatures. He suggested we keep the ball to pay for college. Look at this thing:

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For 90 minutes in total we watched batting practice from just steps away. Beyond the autographs was just the majesty of what we were seeing. I remember seeing Hanley Ramirez hit shot after shot. There was the whack of the bat and then silence as the ball went on and on and on. It would go so far you literally couldn’t hear it as it bounced around in the black part of center field. It made me think of watching ski-jumping. You just can’t believe how long they’re in the air and a little piece of your heart is in the air the whole time with them.

Imagine being at the driving range with Tiger Woods watching him drill balls. Or sitting with Van Halen while they tune up their guitars before a concert.

We walked out slowly and in a bit of a daze. Then Alex broke the silence.

“Dad, I’m starrrrrvving!”

Next (and final) post coming tomorrow. Here are a select few Alex photos:

“That’s David Wright and Jack and the lady.”

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“Jack and two big Mets. Jack’s throwing the ball in the air.”

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“Jack and the fast guy.”

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“This guy put his glove on his head to sign autographs.” [Dad note: that’s Clayton Kershaw]

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“Jack is practicing his pitching. I got lots of these.”

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“Dodgers starting to stretch.” [Dad note: guy with the beard is Brian Wilson. Him and Bobby Abreu were the only players to ignore the kids. Creepy Autograph Lady said they were both hard to get to sign.]

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Meet the Mets (Part 1 of 3)

I was on a conference call when I picked up the boys from school; they were bouncing with excitement. We stopped for gas and to grab some drinks to go with their lunch. Knowing I was on a conference call and in no position to withstand his barrage of begging, Alex asked if he could get Mountain Dew. Alex has never had a Mountain Dew before.

I can’t say I’ve ever seen anyone “frolic” before, but that is the only word that can accurately describe what Alex was doing as we headed back to the car.

We got on the road, and the boys were chattering back and forth in between long sips of Mountain Dew. It was hard to hear what they were saying because of the conference call, but I clearly heard Alex say:

“It tastes even better if you shake it up!” Then I heard the hisssssssFWOOSH as his bottle erupted in a 4-foot cloud of green fizz. Alex slammed his mouth over the top of the bottle and frantically sucked in the expanding soda, not wanting to waste a drop.

I got off the call, started to yell at Alex, but soon I was laughing instead. We all were. Damn fool.

90 minutes later we crossed into New York, slid over into Queens, looped around and around the bridge ramps until it rolled us right outside of the gorgeous stadium. We got into lot G (VIP parking), Alex took a desperate 4-minute pee on the curb, and then we headed towards Citi Field and our Mets adventure.

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Our host was a guy named Jonathan, and I’m still trying to understand why we made him so nervous. Maybe he thought I would have to change diapers in the press room or the kids would throw a tantrum and trash the camera equipment.

But fussy or not, he gave us our press passes and hustled us through a wide, clean concrete tunnel and into a lobby filled with press people. He asked us to wait while he got Scott Rice, the player Jack would interview, and in less than a minute had hustled Scott into the room.

Scott Rice was very tall. Jack dug out his questions, got his recorder turned on, and started firing away.

This was definitely Jack’s best interview. He had prepared heavily and had 15 well-thought-out questions. Jack asked them clearly and listened to the answers. But still, ball players are trained to say nothing. In the humble cadence they use in every interview, Scott basically said: “I’m just happy to be here and hope I can help out the team.”

But the magic of the interview was the effect on the room around him. At about the 3rd question, I realized that the room had become suddenly quiet. Look at the people in the background of the photos:

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This little boy interviewing a giant picture had cast a spell on the entire room. People kept slipping into the room to watch and smile. It went really well.

When that was over, Jonathan took us to the pressroom and quickly got the Mets play-by-play announcer, Josh Lewin, in for a quick interview. Jack nailed this one too. Then Jonathan told us that when Sandy Collins (Mets manager) came in for his press conference in 45 minutes, we could sit in the back row.

“By the way, were you planning to stay for the game?” he asked.

I told him we were staying, but that this wasn’t about free tickets at all. I had no problem paying for tickets. He said he’d see if there were any tickets left. But given it was the Mets on a Wednesday night with a 50% chance of rain…I felt pretty good about that. Then Jonathan said he’d be back for the press conference and left.

So…when you find yourself alone in the Mets press room, whatever do you do?

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What we also did with our down time was talk to the camera guy setting up. He was amazed that we had field passes.

“Those get you anywhere. Press Box for free food. On the field for batting practice. You need to check things out.”

Soon it was the press conference. Mets manager Sandy Collins came in with a crowd of reporters. And for the next 15 minutes we got to watch them fire questions at him and listen to him banter back and forth. Jack was captivated and Alex fired off a solid 150 photos at least. Very very cool.

When it was over, Jonathan was back.

“I got you tickets,” he said, “but the gates don’t open until 5:10, so…”

“You need us out?” I finished for him.

“Yeah, sort of.”

I took a final attempt.

“Hey, I noticed these press passes say field access.”

“Oh, those are only supposed to be for people over 18, so I don’t want…”

“That’s cool,” I finished for him again. “What we’ve done already has been amazing. And thank you for the tickets.”

He sent us out to the small reception room and said he’d be back down soon with the tickets. It was 4:15 – which meant we’d kill an hour in the parking lot before we got in. No problem, because this had been awesome. Jack had interviewed a pro player and an announcer, plus we’d sat in on the press conference. Absolutely amazing. Plus we were about to see a game for free.

Sure we were close to getting on the field, but whatever. This was incredible. We’d hit a triple…

I’ll post part 2 tomorrow. But here are a few selects from the zillion photos Alex took.

“Here’s Jack doing his interview with the pitcher.”

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“Here he is with Scott Rice, the pitcher.”

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“This is the other interview.”

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“Press room when we were waiting.”

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“A poster in the press room. I got them all.”

 

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“Here comes the press room guys.”

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“Press conference.”

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“Press conference.”

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“Press conference. I took a lot of ’em.”

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“Jack at the press conference.”

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“Our pass.” Dad note: too bad we didn’t get to take full advantage.

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Jack’s Interview Project – We have a Bite

As you know, Jack sent letters to 9 major league teams asking if he could come interview a player.

We heard from the White Sox immediately — they let us know that they offer “fan experience” that might interest us. For only $500 you get tickets to a game and get to meet a player. They suggested Jack could do an interview that way.

HA! That’s for kids! I called them right up and told them: “Jack is a journalist, you hags! I will not sully his integrity with this cheap facade for rich boys playing dress up!” (Or I may have just left a message saying thank you, but we’ll decline.)

HOWEVER…this week we heard from…

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The Mets! They said to pick any day we wanted from May 21-28. They’ll set Jack up with press credentials and arrange for an interview.

After a few emails, we have locked in Thursday, May 22. They also said Alex could join, no problem. these guys were super nice. We’re going to interview a relief pitcher or bench player.

I did not ask about comp tickets, but I’m assuming that will happen. (However, I’ve learned my lesson that while it sounds like an amazing bargain getting free tickets — I still end up spending a buttload on food. Especially with Alex along.)

SO…The Mets have officially moved up from being my 26th favorite team, to somewhere around #20. Quite a jump. Go Mets.

 

 

 

 

 

This Year: The Majors

Jack's letters to MLB

On the back of Jack’s successful minor league writing project last year, we are now going for the Majors. This very morning Jack sent letters to:

  • Yankees
  • Mets
  • Red Sox
  • Orioles
  • Phillies
  • Nationals
  • White Sox (we’re in Chicago in August)
  • Cleveland (August trip)
  • Kansas City (August trip)

Here is the letter:

Tony Morante, Director, Stadium Tours
Yankees Stadium

161st St and River Ave
Bronx, NY 10452

Dear Mr. Morante,

My name is Jack Nuckols. I am 10 years old. I am a huge baseball fan. I wanted to know if I could come to Yankees Stadium and interview players/coaches/announcers and see how things work behind the scenes at the park. I want to write an article for Sports Illustrated for Kids. Last year I did an article on the same type of thing except for the Minor Leagues. Two of the teams I interviewed were in your farm system. They are the Railriders and the Trenton Thunder. I interviewed John Sadak at the Rairiders. I interviewed Adam Giardino and Jeremy Bleich for the Thunder.

My article was published in my local newspaper, the Haddonfield Sun. (My article is included.) This time I am trying to get into a bigger magazine because I’m doing a bigger league.

Please email or call my dad (info above) if you would let me come do this.

Thank you,

Jack Nuckols

Once again, this is brilliant for a number of reasons. It’s a terrific project for Jack, it’s great blog fodder for me, but above all: FREE GAMES AND TOURS!

Am I using my kids for my own selfish gain? Duh! Isn’t that the point of having kids?