February 1, 2007

Five Questions With Jonathan Mayo

BTW is starting a new series called “Five Questions” where periodically I will conduct an e-mail interview with different people around baseball. Our inaugural “Five Questions” will start with Jonathan Mayo.

Jonathan Mayo is a senior writer who covers the Minor Leagues for MLB/MiLB.com. He originally joined MLB.com in 1999 covering the World Series, All-Star Game, Spring Training and Season Opening Series in Japan and Puerto Rico.

Jonathan is currently co-hosting "Around the Minors" with Lisa Winston on MLB Radio as well as a co-author of the ATM blog. Jonathan is a 1993 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. He spent four years working at the New York Post prior to joining MLB.com.

This past October he did a 2006 Minor League Recap of the Pirates top prospects. He has recently covered PirateFest for MLB.com as a temporary replacement for Ed Eagle. Jonathan will be doing a preview of the Pirates farm system in March, tentatively scheduled to run on March 3.

BTW Question 1:
How did you get into sports journalism and would you consider this your dream job?

JM: It's pretty much all I've ever wanted to do, once I realized I wasn't good enough to play any sport past high school. I was the sports editor at my college daily newspaper and that's probably when I really got serious about pursing this as a profession. I must have sent out 100 resumes and clips to newspapers my senior year of college…and came up with nothing. Somehow, that didn't discourage me. I finally got my first job in New York at a startup newspaper, which promptly folded four months later. From there, it was to a job at '94 Cup Daily, covering the World Cup here that summer. But that was only temporary. I gave PR a whirl and found out it wasn't for me. Then something opened up at the New York Post, which eventually led to my job here at MLB.com. Would I consider this a dream job? It's pretty darn close. Let's put it this way. I can't imagine doing anything else.

BTW Question 2: What advice would you give to aspiring journalists?

JM: First, learn how to type! I'm only half-joking. It helps in the business, just in terms of being able to write stories quickly. I've seen too many sports writers struggle with the hunt-and-peck method. There was a side benefit, as well. While I was trying to find work in the business, I was able to pay my rent and eat by doing temp work in offices. Being able to type and do computer stuff sure came in handy. For that, I thank my mom for making me learn how to do it the right way.

In all seriousness, if you really want to be in this field, you have to be persistent. You're likely going to get a lot of "Nos" and even some silence (not getting any response) when you try to find a job. Just stick with it. Keep trying to make contacts. Any connection you can use to get your foot in the door is a good one. Because once you get in, if you have some talent, you can stay in. Finally, just keep writing or broadcasting, depending on your interests. Even if it's starting your own site or blog, take it seriously. Mainstream media may not completely accept bloggers at this point, but if you approach it professionally, post serious and thoughtful things, do interviews (even audio stuff, if you can) and show you understand what it takes to capture a story, write a column, etc., it will help you and it'll be something you can show to possible employers. For broadcasters, go out to a game and practice calling it, even if it's into a tape recorder. Do talk shows in your basement, or buy time on a local station and start your own show, if you can. Internships are also a great way to get started. In many places, interns get to do some great things (MLB.com's internship program for instance).

BTW Question 3: Who is your dream interview, past or present?

JM: That's a tough one to answer. I've been fortunate enough to have been able to interview some pretty amazing people. In the big leagues today, I don't know if there's a better interview than Torii Hunter of the Twins. Funny, honest, not a cliché to be found. Last summer, when in Aberdeen for the NY-Penn League All-Star Game, I got to do a one-on-one with Cal Ripken Jr. Boy, is he impressive. This isn't a guy just lending his name to a business. He's running Ripken Baseball and is one of the sharpest people, athlete or not, I've ever come across.

But, if I have to pick one interview that was my "dream interview," I actually have to go back to my college days. Arthur Ashe came to campus and I was able to do a one-hour one-on-one interview with him. This was not long before he passed away, so in retrospect it was even more amazing. He might be the single most inspirational and incredible human beings I've ever met.

Now, if I could pick a "dream interview" of someone I've never talked to, I might have to go outside of sports. I'd love to sit down and talk with Bill Clinton for a while. That would be a good time.

BTW Question 4: How would you rate the two minor leaguers involved in the Pittsburgh-Atlanta trade, Jamie Romak and Brent Lillibridge?

JM: I'll start with Lillibridge. He's a legitimate middle infield prospect, with a chance to be a pretty decent every-day player at short or second down the line. Worst-case, he's a darn good utility guy, but I think he has the chance to be a little bit more than that. The power numbers won't continue like that, I don't think, as they were more a product of that nice little park in Hickory. The Braves situation at second is kind of up in the air, and while they have a bunch of prospects (Andrus, Escobar) who could possibly play up the middle, Lillibridge should figure into the mix in about a year.

I'll be honest, I don't know a ton about Romak. Fourth-rounder out of Canada (Pirates have had success with Canadian outfielders, eh?) from the 2003 draft. He's come along a bit slowly, with 2006 being his first crack at full-season ball. He's a big guy with a long swing, evidenced by his 102 K's in 108 games in 2006. He'll take a walk occasionally (59 for a .369 OBP) and profiles best as a left fielder or a DH if he was in the American League. The one tool he has is power, and that's fairly legit. He had 16 homers and 26 doubles in 348 at-bats. More than half of his 86 hits were for extra bases. He's a long way off, but if he can shorten his swing, the power could play at higher levels.

BTW Question 5: Who are a few minor league players, in the Pirates farm system, we haven't heard about but should watch for?

JM: This is a tough question to answer because outside of the big names - McCutchen, Walker, Lincoln - the system is a bit on the thin side. But here are a couple of names to watch out for. I'll start out with a couple of middle infielders. Shelby Ford was the Pirates' third-round pick in last year's draft. He's a switch-hitting second baseman with good bat speed from both sides of the plate. He's worked really hard this offseason and could start the year in Lynchburg. At shortstop, keep an eye on Angel Gonzalez, another switch-hitter. He is the epitome of the extremely gifted, and extremely raw, shortstop. But he profiles as a defensive whiz who can run and even drive the ball some. He'll be in Hickory. I'll throw a pitcher out there for you in lefty Josh Shortslef. Some of you probably know him, but he's been held back because of injuries. He's on the 40-man because of his stuff and upside. He'll move up to Altoona, which will be a nice test for him. He's worked very hard on his conditioning and training this offseason. If he can stay healthy, he can take off.

And finally...

BTW Off Topic Question: Colts or Bears?
JM: Finally, I'll go with the Colts, but in a close game. Final will be 23-20, with Vinatieri kicking the game-winner with time running out.
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