At the beginning of every baseball season, an intern is assigned to work alongside me on the beat in Toronto. Their duties include fetching me coffee, laughing at my jokes and heading over to my condo between the fifth and sixth innings to let my dog, Barkley, out for some fresh air and a visit with his favorite tree.
Fine. I made that last part up.
When these eager, inexperienced college reporters join me for the first day of work, obviously nervous and way too excited, I always offer up the same bit of advice I received when I was a lowly intern myself. The four little words that welcomed me to the job and quickly brought on a whole new journalistic perspective.
I came in that day with a big blue binder, filled with stats, and contract details and printouts of stories for background and names of potential sources and mugshots of players and important e-mails and spreadsheets and whatever else I deemed totally necessary to help me -- the intern with his name spelled wrong on his ID badge -- stand out.
Also inside my overstuffed messenger bag was my brandnew, state-of-the-art digital recorder. It was sleek. It had lots of buttons. And it had a very small, and completely pointless, digital camera built in to the end.
My new boss watched me take it out and set it on my notebook. He looked at the recorder and then he looked at me. A smirk crept across his face as he gathered up his tools of the trade and prepared to head down to the clubhouse.
"Before we head down," he said, "I've just got one piece of advice."
I wondered what wise, veteran advice was about to come from my mentor, the man charged with instructing me in the ways of reporting Major League Baseball.
"Yeah," he replied. "If you're going to use that recorder..."
He paused. I listened.
"...no pictures of wangs."
Welcome to the big leagues.