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.”
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