Taking the game into their own hands

To see more photos of Opening Day at Fenway Park, click here.

When your parents went to Fenway Park to watch a Boston Red Sox game for their first date, you know that baseball is most likely going to play a major role in your life. For Saugus resident Cyn Donnelly the love of the game was just one of the genetic traits she inherited from her mom and dad.

Now 43-years-old, Donnelly is not afraid to speak her mind on a number of issues, including her favorite team. Instead of yelling at the TV or computer screen during games like most fans, Donnelly decided to take to the web and foster discussion amongst fans by starting her own Red Sox blog, Toeing the Rubber.

“They are both lifelong Red Sox fans and raised both their daughters the same way,” Donnelly said of her parents. “I am a lot more passionate fan than anyone else in my family, though, and I have always been more vocal about my opinions. I guess I was just looking for a way to channel it.”

Donnelly found her outlet in the ever-growing world of sports blogging, starting with simple posts on Red Sox discussion boards on the league website before branching out on her own. The posters turned argumentative, however, and Donnelly was anxious to get back to what was important, the action on the field.

“The place went from being a great community to talk baseball into nothing but arguments with trolls all day so I decided to stop posting on the message board and just start blogging,” said Donnelly. “The MLB had just started a site for bloggers (MLBlogs.com) and you had to pay to blog there, but I figured I would give it a try.”

In July 2005, Donnelly debuted redsoxchick.com, a blog allowing her to combine her loves of baseball and writing into a hobby that would easily fit around her career in the real estate business. Little did she know that her new project would soon provide both acclaim and financial compensation.

Three years after starting her first site, Donnelly shut down Red Sox Chick and moved all of the content to her current blog. The name change was not the only momentous occasion of the year for Donnelly, who was also named one of WEEI.com’s two winners of “The Next Great Sports Blogger” contest. Thanks to fan voting, Donnelly, and fellow writer Dan Guttenplan, beat out more than 600 contestants to win $5,000 from TD Bank and the opportunity to blog on WEEI.com.

“It’s been a couple of years since she won the contest, but I still remember Cyn’s work standing out,” said Rob Bradford, WEEI.com site editor and one of the Red Sox beat writers. “This contest was a great way to highlight the voices of the fans out there and Cyn was definitely deserving of the title. She did a great job with her posts and the fans really seemed to enjoy her work.”

Although she no longer writes for the radio station’s website, Donnelly called her time at WEEI an “interesting experience” and one that has helped her further develop her unique approach to her own site. Her winning post chronicled the news of former Red Sox outfielder Johnny Damon signing with the rival Yankees by displaying the shock and disappointment typical of a member of Red Sox Nation. It was this show of true emotion and the relatability of her posts that have brought in readers like Beth Sablone.

“There are a number of places you can go to get the latest baseball news, but (Toeing the Rubber) really gives you that fan perspective,” said Sablone, a Boston native and mother of two growing Red Sox fans. “I like having that connection to other fans out there and Cyn just has a knack for articulating exactly how I feel.”

There truly is a never-ending list of Red Sox blogs, and MLB team sites in general, a number of which Donnelly admits to reading. While she enjoys the coverage on popular sites like Surviving Grady and Cursed to First, the goal of her site is to avoid the more mainstream topics and develop a more distinct voice in the overcrowded blogosphere. This is an approach that reader Elaine Apthorp appreciates.

“I love the Sox, but I don’t really want all the in depth analysis, which I usually don’t understand anyway,” said Apthorp, who likes to catch up with the Red Sox after finishing her day as a third grade teacher in Springfield, Mass. “I really like the way Cyn writes her entries and makes it easy to read for fans of all ages. She really serves as our blessedly sane corner of otherwise largely manic-depressive Red Sox Nation.”

For the ever-humble Donnelly, it is still a surprise when she receives positive messages from readers or a spike in the site’s traffic. One of the 15 members of the Boston section of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, which was founded in 2009 to connect baseball bloggers across the country and spark communication and collaboration between its members, Toeing the Rubber is still mostly a one-woman production. While Donnelly does the majority of the writing there are also occasional contributions from friends Tom Nardozzi and Kelly O’Connor, whose photos Donnelly says “jazz up” her posts.

The site offers Donnelly an escape from the world of unemployment, a topic that quiets the usually talkative fan. After being laid off from her job in real estate due to the struggling economy, Donnelly uses the blog and her work covering the Red Sox for Examiner.com to focus on the positives and to share the connection she forged with the team after seeing Wade Boggs hit his first home run on her first trip to Fenway.

“I started off blogging sporadically, thinking it was just for me and it did not matter if I updated the site a lot,” Donnelly said. “It was not until I got an email from someone who began reading it and chastised me for not updating it on a regular basis that I realized people other than me and folks I know were reading me. Even after all these years, it’s still basically like a journal for me to just write about the game. It’s just kind of an outlet for me to write about what I enjoy writing about and I’ve been fortunate that people seem to enjoy it.”

Fan blogging is not the only impact social media has had on sports and sports media. Check out the video below for more on how technology is changing the world of sports journalism.

Well that’s one way to celebrate

We thought we saw all of the fanfare at Marlins Park Opening Night against the St. Louis Cardinals, but there was one new piece of equipment the Marlins couldn’t show off until last night… their home run sculpture.

It took four games for the club to activate one of its most talked about features, but second baseman Omar Infante got things started with a solo shot to left field to lead off the second inning. Third baseman Hanley Ramirez also homered in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game before the Marlins downed the Astros 5-4 in extra innings.

Even after seeing it in action, I’m still not really sure what the Marlins’ home run feature is, but it looks like a cross between the South Beach club scene and Sea World. Check it out for yourself:

Tebowmania hits the MLB

After getting traded to the Jets, Tim Tebow had a sandwich created in his honor at the famous Carnegie Deli called the "Jet Bow."

If you don’t follow the NFL, you may not have heard of this guy named Tim Tebow, but the fans at Yankee Stadium certainly have their own opinions of him. The Jets new backup quarterback took in last night’s game against the Angels and was shown on the video board chatting up the Miami Heat’s Dwayne Wade to a mix of cheers and boos. Normally a celebrity siting or the appearance of a professional athlete from another league is nothing new at a sporting event (especially a game at Yankee Stadium), but Tebowmania is taking over so ESPN made sure to work it into the broadcast and refer back to him on a number of occasions. Kind of odd if you ask me, but I’m sure Mark Sanchez is loving his understudy getting all of the attention.

Despite losing Sunday’s game 11-5, the Angels made some noise of their own earlier in the week as Peter Bourjos hit an inside-the-park home run in a 6-5 loss to the Twins. The outfielder may have capitalized on some poor fielding by Minnesota, but he was no slowpoke either. Bourjos was clocked at 14.26, which couldn’t beat his personal best time of 14.02 around the bases but was still good for third all-time. Evar Swanson set the world record in 1929 with a time of 13.3 seconds.

Finally, this weekend’s highlight reel would be incomplete without a look at the season’s first triple play. The call was more than a little controversial, but the league ruled that the umpire was right in calling it fair instead of a dead ball even if his signals may have confused the runners. Check out the video below to see how the broadcasters from each team’s radio stations reacted to the inning-ending play.

 

Photo (cc) by Jeffrey Beall and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Showing my bias

As I’ve noted a number of times, including my class presentation, one of my favorite blogs to read is MetsBlog.com. Obviously the site has a specific target audience, but there is a recent post that should appeal to all.

Maybe I just have video editing and digital media on the brain, but I thought it was quite the coincidence the site recently added a video documenting “A Day in the Life of MetsBlog.” This is the idea I initially had for my final project for Reinventing the News except with a local Red Sox blogger and more focus on the actual site maintenance and content creation. Things unfortunately fell through so I had to go a different way with my final piece, but check out the MetsBlog video. It’s really well done (better then my novice iMovie skills could put together) and provides an interesting look into the everyday role of a blogger.

Pro atletes, they’re just like us

This news broke two and a half hours before the New York Mets put their undefeated record on the line against the Washington Nationals Tuesday night. Mets fans everywhere could be heard grumbling “Here we go again” as it was confirmed David Wright broke his finger and the team dropped its next two games.

For me though, this brought back more memories than just the past injury-plagued losing seasons. While Wright may have been carrying the team’s lineup with his bat, a similar situation played out about five years ago to a slightly less important member of another spring squad: Me and my high school softball team.

Wright hit .583 with one home run in the four games before he got hurt.

Not one to compare myself to any athlete, let alone a professional who makes millions for his skills since I have next to none when it comes to the playing field, the similarities between my incident and the one facing Wright are downright odd. I may not have managed the hot corner as deftly as the five-time All-Star, but we both suffered injuries to our right pinkies that earned jokes and mockery from those around us. As annoying as my friends’ comments might have been, at least I didn’t have to deal with the New York fan base questioning my durability and strength less than a year after my boss did.

Wright hurt his finger sliding back into first base (while I took a ball off my hand), but the initial prognosis was the same in both cases, a simple jam. This raised the first red flag. Despite stories to the contrary, I expected a MLB training staff to be able to properly diagnose an injury unlike my high school’s trainer. Everyone said my finger was  jammed, but I could just tell something was wrong and a doctor confirmed the fracture, ruling me out for the rest of the season.

Minutes after relating my story on Twitter, reports surfaced that Wright got the same information and will now get to don a lovely splint on his right hand. Without seeing the X-rays I can’t confirm its the exact same injury, but from what I’ve read, we both broke the same bone… in the same location of the same finger… in the same way. My splint was a nuisance that always seemed to get in the way, but Wright is going to attempt to play with a specially fitted model as soon as this weekend. Here’s hoping the past is done repeating itself and this is one injury where the Mets actually treat it the right way.

Photo (cc) by kidsire on Flickr and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Blogger’s Choice

When it comes to writing a blog on baseball, there are a number of sources I can turn to for information and ideas for new blog posts. There’s no avoiding, at least for me, the market giants like ESPN and Sports Illustrated, but there are a number of other outlets that I search as well.

One blog I like to look at is the Big League Stew. Run by Yahoo! Sports, the site focuses more on the fun and odd ball stories that I want to cover more of on my blog. While it does cover the more traditional news stories like the ongoing Ozzie Guillen saga, I really enjoy reading pieces like the Marlins’ opening day celebrations and Justin Verlander’s pregame diet that add a little humor to the game. They also run a daily column called “The Juice,” which gives a quick run through the big stories of the day in addition to a photo and quote of the day and interesting “facts for the water cooler.”

Another blog I check frequently is MetsBlog.com, but I turn here more as a fan than a blogger or reporter. The site obviously has an added significance for me as a Mets fan, but it also has an interesting background story. Creator Matthew Cerrone started the blog in college as a Mets fan living outside of New York and managed to turn it into a job at SNY, the team’s cable affiliate. The site, which averages 3.5 million page views per month and 35,000 unique readers daily, is now under the SNY umbrella but it is still run by Cerrone and a group of fellow fans.

MetsBlog.com gives the reader the inside scoop on the team while getting the information from a fan perspective to which they can relate. One of their features that I really like is the “Know Your Enemy” section the site runs before a new series. One of the writers sits down with a fan blogger from the team’s upcoming opponent and the two sides hash out the match up, talking about what to expect, who to watch and their predictions. It is a really interesting way to get both sides of the picture without having to read through all the stats on both teams.

Getting into the swing of things

The weather here in Boston in gorgeous, but I haven’t really gotten a chance to enjoy it. That’s because, like baseball fans across the country, I’m glued to my computer searching for updates on the first real day of the season.

For those of you lucky ducks who can watch on TV, or better yet have skipped school or work to watch the game live, I’m jealous. As a Mets fan, today’s the one day where I can still remain positive about my team’s chances before the rest of the NL East heats up. That being said, the Mets are actually up 1-0 on the Braves heading into the ninth and Johan Santana pitched a solid five innings so I’m pretty happy.

It also helps that the Marlins lost last night in the grand opening of their new stadium. I’ve got to admit though, that thing is pretty snazzy. I still don’t understand certain things like making a chair a different color because it was the last seat installed in the ball park or what exactly their home run feature is or does, but Miami knows how to throw a party doesn’t it.