Shortcut: The steps I took to apply for MLB press credentials.
My buddy Cameron and I went to Giants / Cubs 2016 NLDS game 3 at AT&T Park. “Yes”, The game before “that game,” where the Cubs scored 4 in the 9th to win 6-5 and clinch the NLDS. Cameron and I were at the 13-inning one that I had to leave halfway through the 11th in order to catch the last BART train back to East Bay. Sitting up in Section 308, not only did we have a great view of the game, but of the sun going down over the bay and along the Oakland Hills. They’re the best seats in the house if you ask me.
Unless you wanted to pay $600 bucks a ticket to sit behind home plate
By happenchance, we ended up sitting next to two co-founders of The Athletic, a new startup online sports magazine that’s first launching in Chicago before they launch in Toronto.
Their dream would be to have Toronto vs. Chicago in the 2016 World Series because it would help them up subscriptions and keep the doors open.
I asked my Cubs fan partner-in-crime, Geoff Ulam, about TheAthletic.com. He said he read it quite a bit and asked me if I was sitting next to Sahadev Sharma, a dedicated Cubs writer who’s written for BP Wrigleyville, and ESPN Chicago. The co-founders told me Sharma was in the press box.
Come to find out, Jon Greenberg is an editor / writer for The Athletic as well. I remember him from his ESPN Chicago days. I always wondered where he went.
That means they’ve got great talent working with them.
I told them how Ulam found their site over in Duneland and they were happy to hear how their little sapling of a site was reaching and growing and branching out. There was a genuine glow in their faces. It was pretty cool.
We got to talking throughout the game about strategy, positioning, stats, and kept a good dialogue about the history. We high-5ed on Cubs successes and about fell out of our seats when Bryant hit the game-tying home run in the 9th.
I started asking about their future business and revenue models.
Given that the co-founders I was talking to were living in San Francisco hills, I started wondering about why they picked Chicago and not San Fran. Most of their stuff is their story to tell when they’re ready, but for the overwhelming most part they just keep to a subscription-based model for their high-end writing. No ads. No hard sales. And stats-backed opinions, when they go with editorials.
It’s a risky business mode, but I admire the approach. Bring the truth, bring the people. It’s pure and unadulterated for now, like the days of Grandpa Bourne. I like where it’s going.
It was thinking about Sharma, the writer in the press box for the startup publication. It got me thinking, “how much did that cost?”
We spent hours talking about baseball and the time just flew by. Absolutely flew by. It had to, too, because Game 3 was four hours old by the end of the 9th, and that was four innings before it ended. But after looking over TheAthletic.com, and looking at what I’m doing with my website now…book research, essays, reviews…
I can do the website and social part. I probably code better than any other sports writer 30 and older – maybe 35 and older. I probably know more about digital marketing than most of them. I’m sure I’d be one of the few sportswriters with their own enterprise level CMS startup platform and Google Certs [Note to self: It’s time to reclaim your Google AdWords certs and Google Partners status]. On occasion, I can even write. O.Co Coliseum is 6 stops down on the BART. The Oakland Athletics are tied for my second favorite Major League Baseball team. I love small-market teams.
Katie and I each get an iPhone 7 Plus or a Google Pixel, for uber high-end press photos, then, shit, I could do the media, too.
I wouldn’t be the most connected writer or the most knowledgeable historian in the press box any time soon, but I also wouldn’t be writing to compete with “original reporting.” I would be writing to excavate the beauty in baseball, that slow, steady magic that gets lost upon this current batch of instant gratification-addicted youth.
So, today, I started researching how to get press credentials for MLB games.
I was curious to what press credentials cost and what the basic requirements were to get one. One of TheAthletic.com co-founders talked about how getting access to the NBA’s Golden State Warriors wasn’t cheap. I wasn’t sure if that was the cost of the credentials or the cost of paying a reporter in Bay Area vs. paying a Chicago reporter, or press credential costs, or NBA vs MLB press pass costs, or what have you. Thus, the research.
I emailed a couple of University of Missouri School of Journalism contacts to find out more.
Okay, so that was my wife and my buddy Brad, who’s a prof there. My wife started asking her photojournalism friends. We started checking out sportsshooter.com to learn what the photo journalists have to go through. I’m still waiting to hear back from them.
I also started looking up rules and requirements. Surprisingly, there isn’t much out there. There are stories out there about MLB teams like the Washington Nationals offering credentials to online-only media. We found a semi-dress code. Whether or not my sandals count as sandals or flip-flops has yet to be determined. We also found rules to follow for press credential holders for MLS’s Chicago Fire. As for MLB Credential Terms & Conditions, I’m still waiting to find out because those links will kept sending me to a simple application form. No text area or explanations. Just simple shit. Apparently you have to get approved to learn more.
I put in my business information. The organization name field was shorter than my organization name, which sucks, so I’m concerned. But, what was the worst they were gonna say, “no,” and I go again?
What I didn’t expect when looking for more.
I didn’t expect the sign up process to include the option to use your Facebook login. I mean, the main MLB.com site does, but that’s so I can login quicker and not have to always put my damn ISP info in.
I also was expecting to have to provide more information. Business validation and the like. I mean, I put in an address and phone, but not much more.
So, I guess I hurry up and wait.
And hope that Oakland doesn’t wonder why anyone would want press credentials 2 weeks after their team played their last game of the season.
But, oh, if I get credentials, how interesting the next step could be.
If anyone’s got tips on how to expedite the process, please let me know.
I’ll be happy to hear any other story as well.
Update: 2017-02-14: If not through the front door…
On January 5th, 2016, I finally got a reply from the MLB Press via email:
We have evaluated your application and determined that you do not meet the necessary criteria for membership in MLB Pressbox. If you believe that you have been denied access in error please contact us at pressboxhelp [@] website.mlb.com or call 1-866-800-1275
Wow. A fuckin’ form letter. It was probably autoreply. No chance to state a case or write a proposal or chat with anyone.
That was the bad news.
The good news is that I found a way through the side door: As I posted this to social media, I had a couple friends hit me up. One gave me a contact with press credentials. He was working game 3 of the 2016 NLCS. I was there in the upper deck along the first base line…
…but I didn’t have the heart to try to bother him while covering the most incredible baseball story in over a hundred years. So, we DMed on Twitter a few times. He asked if I still had time to meet, but by then it was the following day and I was heading north on I5, already north of Bakersfield. We still chat occasionally. I might follow up down the road, but for now, there’s a fifth-first book to work on and MLB isn’t a topic in it, yet.
And, when that time comes and I ask again from MLB press credentials, the last thing I’m going to try and do is ask MLB directly.