Friday, February 26, 2010

Farewell Chico, welcome Adam

VIERA, Fla. -- Life on the baseball beat is a unique experience, one that really isn't replicated in other sports. Think about it, you cover six weeks of spring training, 162 regular-season games and sometimes another month of the postseason. (No, not in the Nationals' case, but I did use to cover the playoffs and World Series every October for The Washington Times.)

In one respect, you spend all those long days and nights on the road, in press boxes and in hotels, on your own. You're away from family members. You book your own flights, your own accommodations. And yet, you're really never on your own, because you're part of another family: the family of fellow beat writers. It's an interesting relationship, because we do compete with each other for news, but we also become close friends and spend countless hours together.

So when one member of the group leaves and another arrives, it makes for a bittersweet moment, and today we're experiencing one of those.

Chico Harlan, who has covered the Nats for The Washington Post since May 2008, is on his last day on the beat. He departs Viera tomorrow, heads back to D.C. for a little while and then in a few months heads off on a truly grand adventure. He'll be the Post's new East Asia correspondent, based out of Tokyo.

I had never met Chico prior to his arrival in D.C., but I immediately knew we'd forge a strong relationship once I learned of his background. Turns out we were both born in Mt. Lebanon, Pa., a suburb of Pittsburgh. Now, we never actually crossed paths there. My family moved west to Arizona several years before Chico was even born. But as anyone with ties to Western Pennsylvania can attest, the bond between fellow natives runs deep, no matter how far removed from the area you become.

More than the geographic ties, though, Chico and I were able to develop a strong friendship because of our shared experiences on the beat. When Daniel Cabrera blew us off following one of his countless wretched performances early last season, we shared the same disgust. When the Nats and Braves refused to let 2009 come to end until they played one more 15-inning marathon on the final day of the season, we shared the same panic that comes from wondering if we were still going to make our flight home. When Joel Hanrahan blew a save or Ryan Zimmerman slugged a walk-off homer, we shared that momentary feeling only a sportswriter understands: The game stories we had all ready to go suddenly needed to be re-written from the top and still filed to our editors within five minutes.

I've met plenty of sportswriters during my time. I've met few who have the genuine appreciation for great writing -- and more importantly, the ability to consistently churn out that kind of fantastic prose -- as Chico. I know he may not fit the mold of the classic sportswriter (and he'd be the first to admit it) but he respected the job and did the best he could to become good at it. Remember his name, because some day when he's a bestselling author or award-winning magazine writer, you'll remember you knew him back when he was a mere baseball scribe. And it will happen, trust me.

Chico's departure opens the door for a new face in the Nats beat writer corps, Adam Kilgore, and I can't think of anyone I'd rather welcome to the club. I've known Adam since he began as an intern at the Post in 2006 and have maintained a friendship with him in the 3 1/2 years since, both while he was in Washington and then later in Boston.

Like Chico, and like Barry Svrluga (one of the best sportswriters in the country and also a good friend) before him, Adam will put his own stamp on the Nats beat. He's already hit the ground running, posting video segments, blog updates and a steady stream of tweets in his first 24 hours in Viera. The boy came to play, and we'll all be better off for it. He'll do fantastic work, just as long as he avoids any hot-dog eating contests. (Sorry, Adam, I had to. But I promise that's the only time I'll mention it in print.)

So, citizens of NatsTown, please welcome Adam with open arms, and please wish Chico well in his new endeavors. On this day, they both deserve our praise.

18 comments:

Kevin said...

he respected the job and did the best he could to become good at it

Mark, it's not nice to stretch the truth.

yankish2 said...

I never appreciated his writing because I knew he didn't like the sport.

Anonymous said...

He was an outstanding writer. I don't blame him for wanting to do something else. It was just a shame that he spoke opnenly of his desire to do so, though.

natsfan1a said...

Very classy post, Mark.

I've already posted to this effect over there, but farewell to Chico and welcome to Adam.

Traveler8 said...

I did appreciate Chico's writing, but the idea that being a "mere baseball scribe" is not okay is where I have a problem. Boswell is a "mere baseball scribe" and are we ever grateful for it! In this day when there are so few journalism jobs it always rankled me that the Post gave the Nats beat writer position to someone who simply deigned to do the work while waiting for something more worthy to come along. Yes, I do wish Chico well and hope to read more from him in the future, but am more excited that the Post now seems to have a writer who really wants to be there.

Anonymous said...

Chico's writing was plenty good enough to show off his arrogance and disdain for his beat, and Adam's writing so far seems to be a bunch of Tweets strung together. This blog is about the only place we can get good writing AND plenty of inside knowledge in the same place. I'm going to send a few bucks every month to help keep it coming.

Anonymous said...

Mark, I always assumed that you would be prefect for thar Washington Post beat writter openning. I assume in your privite moments, you thought the same thing, which makes this post even more impressive.

cadeck13 said...

I agree with natsfan1a :) very classy Mark, but then again we've all come to expect nothing less than you being the consumate pro! Welcome to Adam (and we all expect to hear more about hot dog eating contests!) and farewell Chico - it's been fun to say the least! Go Nats!!

Anonymous said...

Talking about who is now in town. Nats320 is here. He dowsnt have credentials this year--so far. You could hearing him having a animated discussion with the guy from the Nationals PR department as Nats320 is on the other side of the ropes with all of us----The Commoners! See, the other problem is there is now ropes across the cloverleaf separating all the different fields whech I can not remember seeing in years passed so now we can not walk up and get autographs and walk with the players from field to field as we are roped off.

Come join us for a pity party down here as we are heading to Panera soon! I did get Lannans autograph early and hoping for Strasburg. Got the big red sweatshirt on. Cold again today.

Oh, and Good Luck to Chico and welcome Adam. Classy move by Mark.

Tedv15 2 said...

Mark,
You are a class act and we should all appreciate and enjoy your brilliant writing skills before you are inevitably taken away by another media source.

greg said...

said it there, i'll say it here. GL chico and welcome adam.

Anonymous said...

The classic Chico moment for me was when he decided that no one cared about the details about a weekday day game on the road vs. the Twins, so he ignored the game (that most of us couldn't see because of work obligations) to write a human interest story about Dmitri and Delmon Young that most people couldn't have cared less about. He also started his beat off by professing his love of the Pittsburgh Penguins (which isn't going to make yourself popular to the Caps fans among us, myself included). To Chico's credit, he moved on from something he didn't like rather than spend the rest of his time distaining his audience and his assignments. Good luck to him.

TBC said...

There's probably one big reason they now have ropes up at spring training this year when they didn't before. Stephen Strasburg.

cadeck13 said...

Ropes??? Wow, what a bummer...must feel like being at the Mets training camp. Yeah, it must be because of SS. I'm heading down there 3/15 and was looking forward to getting John Lannan, Bergie & Jordan Z to autograph their pics they took with me last year. The pitchers have always been the easiest catch coming off the fields for photos and autographs....Annonymous, please keep us informed :)

NatsGirl said...

Stay classy, Mark Zuckerman

upperdeck4 said...

Aaron Harlan is a gifted writer, and when he put the talent to writing about the game he was very good. Sometimes though, he didn't seem particularly interested in the game at hand. Wish him well in his new position.

sbret said...

Nice post, Mark. And to many of the other posters, I don't think there's any need to get huffy about Chico. I think covering a baseball beat would have to be an incredible grind, even if you have a passionate love for the game, and how much more so if you're not a deep-rooted baseball lover first.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately for Chico, the Post is eliminating foreign bureaus around the world. I'd imagine his job security took a hit. I'll shed no tears.

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