There once was a day-and-age when, if your services were no longer needed, you could keep it quiet.
And there once was a day-and-age when, if you were a baseball writer and had a scoop, you would have to do everything you could to keep it under wraps until that revelation appeared in the next day’s newspaper.
In today’s world, though, it’s nearly impossible to keep a secret.
“When I first started, newspapers were king … and we lived in a tomorrow morning world. If you got a story, you had to try to protect it all day and all night,” said Jayson Stark, who has been a fixture on the MLB scene since 1979.
“It’s crazy to think about that, compared to what goes on now – where you hear it and you just tweet it … fire it out there … it’s on your site … you blog it. It’s so amusing to think about the stuff that we had to do to try to guard our stories for hours and hours and hours back in the day.”
In late April, Stark – who was used to breaking baseball news – suddenly was about to become news. The word was going to get out that he was no longer working for ESPN, so he provided his own scoop on Twitter: “For 17 yrs I’ve had a dream job covering baseball for ESPN. Today is my last day. Thanks to all the great people at ESPN, MLB & all of you!”
Stark had joined ESPN as a senior baseball writer in 2000, and his Rumblings and Grumblings column was a must-read. Before his time there, he had worked for The Philadelphia Inquirer since 1979 – first, as a Phillies beat writer and later as a national baseball writer and columnist. He became a household name in the baseball community thanks to his syndicated weekly baseball roundup, where he loved to share the stories behind the stories and the humorous side of the sport.
His mantra: “I have always felt that the challenge is to tell the best stories, get the best information, get the best quotes, and find the best nuggets,” he said.
As a “free agent,” Stark is mulling his next career move. When a decision is made, his 535,000-plus Twitter followers (@jaysonst, for those who don’t) will be among the first to know.
Stark is accustomed to calling around in search of information or guidance. This time, the table was turned; he was the one answering the questions during his first extended interview since his departure from ESPN.
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Chuck Wasserstrom: Thank you for taking the time to talk with MLB Trade Rumors. I’m going to start out by asking … what has this past month been like for you? There had to be that weird sensation where it’s almost like you’re being eulogized and you’re clearly still around. Kind of walk me through these last few weeks.
Jayson Stark: “There was a period where it felt like every five minutes, someone in baseball or the media universe was calling me and telling me the most incredible stuff I’d ever heard about myself. That was just overwhelming. It was amazing. At one point, my wife told me, ‘You should make a list of everybody who has checked in.’ So I did. And in just the first few days there were way over a hundred people just from inside baseball. That didn’t even count all my fellow baseball writers, people in the media, people I just befriended and met along the way who have helped me with all kinds of cool stuff, and readers and viewers and listeners. If I counted all them, it would be in the thousands.
“I don’t know how everybody reacts when that happens to them, but I’m so grateful. I really spent weeks trying to return every message, every phone call, every email, every tweet that I could, every Facebook post, every text. It was incredible and gratifying and it was fuel to keep going.
“The second part I think is … all right, how do you handle an event like this? For me, I’m Mr. Positivity anyway, so I’m just looking for that next cool thing to do. I’m taking my time and trying to find that thing.
“The third part of it is … I’ve been busier than you would think I would be. Part of that is just because I thought it was important to wake up every single day with a purpose. My routine is not that different than it’s always been. Pretty much every day, I watch video of the day before in baseball, and I keep my daily books of stuff that I find cool and fun and strange and interesting. I keep my day-by-day books because I want to stay engaged in a sport that I love.
“ESPN’s been kind enough to let me continue to do all the local radio hits on ESPN affiliates around the country that I was doing every week. So I still do them and that’s been fun. I’ve put a lot of energy into that because I enjoy it. One thing that I think has always been clear is this was a labor of love for me. It was a dream job for me. I wanted to make clear by the way I went about life after ESPN that I still love it and I will continue to love it. Whatever I do next, I’ll love that. That’s been a big part of it.
“Then, of course, the last thing is … people like us – we don’t get to breathe in and breathe out during the baseball season. I really want to make sure that I do that – and spend time with my wife and my family and my friends. There’s going to be some opportunities to do things that I haven’t been able to do in the summer, and I’m going to make sure I do that. I’m going to go to Cooperstown for induction weekend. It’s been hard to do that in recent years because it’s right around the trading deadline.
“To me, this time has been strange, but my glass is always half full – and it’s been half full every day through all of it.”