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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Interview: Anthony Castrovince, beat writer; Part I: The Excrutiating Minutia

Posted By on Thu, Apr 2, 2009 at 11:59 AM

4b38/1238687441-castro.png beat writer Anthony Castrovince was kind enough to have a very long conversation with me about a whole bunch of different topics. Here's the first half of the interview, where we talk about Bruce Springsteen, Seinfeld, the media, blogging, music, and massage chairs. Either tomorrow or Monday you'll get the part of our conversation having to do with Actual Baseball Stuff.

VG: How badly do the players disappoint in terms of at-bat music. Anyone who's stopped by CastroTurf knows of your love of the Boss. Not a single player uses a Springsteen tune. A)Have you bugged anyone to? B) What song would be your at-bat music? I'd go with "Sherry Darling."

AC: Casey Blake always claimed to be a huge Springsteen fan, so I was disappointed he would play something like Metallica and not “Badlands.” In general, though, talented ballplayers have so much handed to them over the course of their lives. They only have to make three major life decisions — who their agent will be, who they’ll marry, and what their at-bat music will be. It’s not my place to get in the way of any of these.

Personally, I’d probably go with “Born to Run,” which I recognize seems a little trite and overplayed, especially compared to a rare nugget like “Sherry Darling.” But the simple fact of the matter is that nothing in the world pumps me up like the first five seconds of that song.

My brother, Bill, has this idea that he’d want his at-bat music to be the National Anthem, because everybody would have to stand up every time he came to bat. I think that’s genius.

VG: That is stunningly brilliant.

Charlie Villanueva tweeted during halftime, as did Shaq. A friend and I are trying to guess who'll be the first wide receiver to tweet a touchdown from the bench, if you have any guesses on that question, but for the purpose of this conversation, which major leaguer do you think will be the first to tweet a home run?

AC: I’m probably the wrong guy to ask. The whole concept of Twitter is lost on me. It seems you can expand the philosophical “If a tree falls in the forest…” question to read, “If a life event happens and is not mentioned in a Facebook status or a Twitter feed, did it actually occur?” And I find this incredibly depressing.

VG: Huh. And to think, I was about to post "Interviewing Anthony Castrovince" to Scene's Twitter feed.

Media room food. I've been to the Prog's press box about a half dozen times, and not to belittle the quality of the food there, but, let's just say it's fine.

Worst/best in your travels.

AC: Well, if Spring Training qualifies, then I might have to add the Goodyear Ballpark media lunch — which recently included the all-American staple of brats and green beans (no other options, just brats and green beans) — to the list of “worst.”

As far as the regular season is concerned, I could write a 1,500-word dissertation on the gloriousness of the Fenway Park spread. In addition to the nightly entrée, they have specialty pizzas, a full salad bar, soup, deli meats, ice cream, pies, cakes and the list goes on and on. It’s like a Vegas buffet… and this is why sportswriters get fat.

The worst was the food at Great American Ball Park when I covered the Reds in ‘05. It was so bad that I just started going to the concessions for burgers and fries every night, rather than subject myself to their offerings. This is also why sportswriters get fat.

VG: Are you a stats guy? And if so, how do you reconcile that with the audience you're writing for on and the blog?

AC: I’m most definitely not a stats guy. I got into sportswriting because I wanted to write compelling stories, not because I wanted to relay a player’s OPS.

Obviously, there’s a statistical element to baseball writing that cannot be ignored, and I’d like to think I’ve incorporated it into my work appropriately. What’s interesting about writing for a site like is my readers cover the broad spectrum between “seamheads” and those who simply want to keep up with the news and notes pertaining to their favorite club. My work needs to reflect this. I need to satisfy those who view the game from a mathematical perspective as well as those who think VORP is a character from Star Trek. It’s a delicate balance, in that regard.

VG: Nevertheless, you seem to get a lot of respect on some of the Tribe blogs. Do you attribute that to the overall quality of your work? The fact that you blog and seem to "get it"? The fact that everyone loves Seinfeld?

AC: Definitely Seinfeld.

If there is indeed respect for the job I'm doing, I'm hopeful that it's due to the efforts I've made to not just update people on the Indians but to do so with timely, smart, accurate reporting and to do so with a little personality mixed in for good measure. The blog has become a necessary outlet to provide up-to-the-minute reports, but it's also given me my own little corner of the Internet universe to let that personality shine through. A few regulars have taken a liking to it, and that's gratifying.

Again, though, the Seinfeld references help. As do the Springsteen lyrics.

VG: How is writing for different than you might write if there was a paper product behind the work? Does anything change? Is there more you can do?

AC: Well, a few years ago, I would have said that the Internet gives me the advantage of having more space to work with and, therefore, more of an outlet to get creative with the content. But every newspaper worth its ink has its writers blogging and writing online-only features now, so that's not really true anymore. I will say that working without a strict print deadline affords me the time to craft more thorough game reports. Also, writing for the Internet is a 24/7 venture, and the news in baseball never stops, so that obviously presents some challenges. You're kind of always on the clock.

VG: Dovetailing on that question: It's almost mandatory to ask, since everyone's an expert, no one's an expert, but everyone could be an expert... where do you see the relationship between blogs and newspapers going, where do you see the future of sports coverage in newspapers, etc.

It seems that there's so much stuff, a lot specifically having to do with advanced stats, that blogs do exquisitely well and that isn't found and probably will never be found in the regular beat coverage in your local paper.

AC: Now that’s a loaded question. I guess the easy way out is to say that if I knew the answer to that question, I’d be off saving newspapers from their unfortunate demise.

But obviously, the way people get their information has changed in the Internet age, and the printed version of newspapers has become more and more obsolete. In many ways, the Web sites and blogs have become the “newspapers,” for lack of a better term. And it is — rightly or wrongly — the duty of the reader to sort out the good from the bad and the reliable from the unreliable. Hopefully somebody smarter than me will find a way to ensure those sites are kept legitimate and some talented journalists can get paid for their efforts.

As far as the future of baseball coverage is concerned, you definitely see more managers and media members showing an understanding and appreciation for the statistically savvy side of the game. But there are still so many things about baseball that can’t be explained by numbers, and that’s the beauty of the sport. Because of this, I think there will always be a home for the “mainstream” coverage, so to speak, with the requisite statistical data poured in for good measure.

VG: Do you read all the Tribe blogs?

AC: I don’t get a chance to read all the Tribe blogs out there, because, being around this club as much as I am, there is such a thing as a saturation point. I do check out The DiaTribe and Let’s Go Tribe, though not as frequently as I’d like or, perhaps, should. Those guys do really nice work.

VG: You've been in a lot of locker rooms and heard a lot of things, many of which I'm sure can not be repeated for any number of reasons. Any particular story you can relay? Got a favorite that many people wouldn't know?

AC: It’s not nearly as bawdy as some people seem to think — at least, not in the Indians’ clubhouse.

I had a lot of fun covering the Reds several years back. That was more like a frat house. My favorite story was when the team wasn’t playing well (of course) and their GM, Dan O’Brien, had the clubhouse guys remove the massage chairs owned by Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. Dunn was distraught. And when he came up that night, his at-bat music was a George Strait song that begins, “Well excuse me, but I think you’ve got my chair.” It was one of those inside jokes you could only appreciate if you were in there pregame.

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