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An Interview With Renegades Beat Reporter

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Sean T. McMann has been at the Poughkeepsie Journal since 2000, and is the beat reporter for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays Class A Short Season Hudson Valley Renegades. Several of the current Devil Ray players started their professional baseball career in the Hudson Valley area with the Renagades. On a side note, I actually was born and raised in Poughkeepise so doing this interview brought back memories. I used to be a paper boy for the Journal as a teenager. I want to thank Sean for taking the time to do this interview.

DRAYS BAY : Are you strictly the beat reporter for the Renagades, or do you report on other Sports?

My job description is local sports reporter, mainly focusing on the local high schools and colleges we cover. In the summer, however, I am the Journal's Renegades beat reporter: I cover all the team's home games and as many of the road games (New Jersey, Brooklyn, Staten Island, Aberdeen) as possible. When the Renegades are on the road, I'm often covering either the Yankees or Mets -- whomever is home that day/week. I've covered the Yankees in the playoffs since I began here in 2000, including the 2003 World Series and the '04 ALCS. Additionally, I cover the NY Giants' training camp in Albany, the Giants and Jets at home whenever possible, and I've covered the NJ Nets on occasion, for example, when Michael Jordan made his first trip to New Jersey as a member of the Washington Wizards. I also occasionally write columns, and have even written stories for other departments (News, Life, Business) when they have asked for my help.

 

DRAYS BAY : Did you work at other papers before coming to the Journal? What was your path to landing here?

I graduated in 1996 with a bachelor's degree in journalism from the State University of New York College at New Paltz. From there, I work two years at a weekly newspaper in Wappingers Falls, N.Y., where I first began covering the Renegades. From there, I became a sports reporter for the Rutland Herald, the second-largest daily newspaper in Vermont. While at the Herald, I sometimes covered the Vermont Expos, often against the Renegades. From the Herald, I moved on to the Journal, where I began in Sept. 2000. My first season as the Journal's
Renegades beat reporter was in 2001.




DRAYS BAY : I saw that the GM Brian Cashman of the Yankees was recently in town for the Hudson Valley Renegades' first annual hot stove dinner and benefit auction, any good tidbits from when he came to speak?

Brian was amazing! He was extremely cordial - it was, after all, a fund-raising benefit for the Renegades' Pitch for Kids charitable foundation -- but also very forthcoming those of us in the media. He signed autographs and posed for pictures with fans, and made it a point to make a personal moment with them. (Cashman grew up in the next county over from Dutchess County, where we are and where the Renegades play.) I'd met Brian before at Yankee Stadium, but down there, he's swamped by everyone in the NY press corps. Here, he was very friendly and, as I said before, very honest with us, as we asked him about Jason Giambi's status, for example. The Renegades were fortunate to have Brian there, and the staff appreciated his appearance. (Marv Goldklang, part of the ownership group that owns the Renegades, is also a minority owner of the NY Yankees. It also helps that we're just 60 miles north of NYC.)

Here is a reprint of part of the article that ran in the Poughkeepsie Journal dated Feb 5 about the Hot Stove event. It was at this event that Cashman pretty much hints that Tino Martinez will be the everyday first baseman in 2005, with Jason Giambi will be the everyday DH.

Sean T. McMann

Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal

FISHKILL, N.Y. -- It wasn't all handshakes and autographs Friday night.

Brian Cashman, the general manager of the New York Yankees, said he expects Tino Martinez to be the Bronx Bombers' everyday first baseman this season, while Jason Giambi, returning from myriad illnesses that sidelined him in 2004, will be the team's regular designated hitter.

Speaking at a fund-raiser for Pitch for Kids, a charitable foundation established by the short-season, Class A Hudson Valley Renegades, Cashman said Giambi, who told a federal grand jury in 2003 that he used steroids, should be ready for the beginning of the season.

   ``I'm rooting for him,'' said Cashman, who's been in contact with the ailing slugger recently. ``Physically, he looked great. It remains to be seen about the mental part of this thing. That's a heavy burden to go through.''

With the acquisitions of pitchers like Carl Pavano, Jaret Wright and
Randy Johnson -- ``The biggest fish was Randy Johnson,'' he said -- Cashman said he's

confident in the team the Yankees will field this season.

``I have no doubt we're strong,'' he said

DRAYS BAY: There are several Gades Alumni on the Rays roster.Do you have a particular story or memory about any of these players?

Honestly, almost to a man, every Renegade who has it made it to the major leagues has been enjoyable to work with. Whenever they now come to NYC to play against either the Yankees or Mets, I travel to the city, talk with them and write a follow-up story; and they all look back fondly on their time as Renegades. Two former Gades (Bartolome Fortunato and Brandon Wheeler) became Mets last year, and they also loved talking about their time at Dutchess Stadium. Fortunately, they often remember either myself or the name "Poughkeepsie Journal," and as soon as they do and I mention "Hudson Valley Renegades," their faces light up. Seth McClung, for example, saw my Poughkeepsie Journal polo shirt as I walked into the Rays' clubhouse before a game at Yankee Stadium two years ago (before his surgery) and put down his pre-game meal of shrimp and steak, pushed another player out of the way at the table they were eating at and said, "Sit down. Let's talk Renegades..." and went on for 20 minutes about how he loved playing in Fishkill, the host-family situation, the stadium. Then, there's poor Toby Hall. I feel bad for him because every time the Rays come to play the Yankees, I always hit him up for his memories about being a Renegade. Great guy that he is, he always smiles and obliges. He could go 5-for-5 vs. Mike Mussina, and he knows after the game, he's going to get at least one question about his summer in short-season, Class A ball ... from me! If nothing else, I think the former 'Gades like getting even a little attention on the road. Sure, everyone's going to talk to Rocco Baldelli or B.J. Upton or Dewon Brazelton after a road game; but how many times does a reporter walk up to Travis Harper in the visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium and ask him a few questions? I think they like being remembered, and I know our readers love hearing about their former Renegades-turned-major leaguers. Fortunately, like I said, the players always have good memories of playing at Dutchess Stadium, and are more than willing to talk about their experiences as Renegades.

DRAYS BAY: The Class A Short Season Hudson Valley Renegades seems like a league where alot
of recently signed college players get to play, is that the case?

For the most part, the Renegades are made up of newly drafted college players. The top picks (the Delmon Youngs, the B.J. Uptons, etc.) usually don't come to Hudson Valley. There have been exceptions, like Matt White and Josh Hamilton. But for the most part, they are lower-round draft picks -- mostly the college kids taken after the 10th round -- and a few holdovers from the previous year's team who need more work. The kids drafted out of high school usually go to the rookie-level Princeton W.Va. Devil Rays. We usually get a couple of them as late-season callups, as their Appalachian League wraps up a couple of weeks prior to the end of the New York-Penn League.


DRAYS BAY:What was it like seeing some ex MLB players come thru town as coaches of the Brooklyn cyclones?

Having grown up here in suburban New York, rooting for the Yankees and Mets as a kid, it's pretty neat to meet guys I watched at Shea and Yankee stadiums now as managers in the New York-Penn League. Just in recent years, guys like Tommy John, Howard Johnson, Tim Teufel and Bob Ojeda have coached in the league. (This year, Mookie Wilson will be the Brooklyn Cyclones' new manager.) For me, it's more interesting to speak with these guys as people, not just players I used to watch on TV.

DRAYS BAY: Can you tell me a little about the Renegades Manager Dave Howard.

Dave has been the manager here since the '01 season. This will be his fifth season with the Renegades. He didn't play in the majors. He coached at Georgia Southern before taking a coaching position within the Yankees' organization. He coached the Princeton Devil Rays before coming to the Renegades in 2001. Before and after the Renegades' season, he works with the big-league team, working at spring training with the roster players and invitees, working with prospects in extended spring training, throwing batting practice at The Trop before game, and working instructional league following the New York-Penn League. Dave has been a perfect fit for this league, since he deals very well with the younger players. He teaches them everything about being a professional player: not just the on-field aspect of the game, but dealing with the media and front-office requests (autograph signings, player appearances, etc.). Most of these players have never played baseball every day until they come here, so there's a lot to learn (getting to the ballpark on time, working out before games, etc.) and Dave makes sure they learn how to be professionals in every aspect.


DRAYS BAY : Former MLB pitching coach Dick Bossman will be the Gades pitching coach? How did that come about?

Actually, Dick was the Renegades' pitching coach in 2001. He and Dave worked closely that summer and I really think Dick got the most of the pitchers that summer. Given all Bosman's experience (including a no-hitter as a member of the Indians in 1974), the players couldn't help but respect him. Since Dick's departure, the Renegades have had other pitching coaches, but I think the Devil Rays really respected Dick and decided to bring him back to this level this year to again get the most out of the pitchers they assign to Hudson Valley. On a personal note, Dick was an amazing resource for me, as a reporter. I could sit down with him before a game and he would tell story after story after story, each one more amazing than the next. He really was a fountain of baseball knowledge. It was almost like sitting down with a talking baseball encyclopedia.

DRAYS BAY : Are there any players that really impressed you who came through Hudson Valley?

Sure, there are players like Toby Hall, Joey Gomes, Chad Orvella, Jared
Sandberg ... guys who either on their way to the majors or who have made it to The Show. On the field, guys like this have been enjoyable to watch as players. But even guys like catcher Brent Cordell or, this past season, John Jaso: They're guys who started with the Renegades as relatively unheralded or reserves, worked their tail off, and have had surprisingly successful seasons in Fishkill. Jaso, for example, switched between DH, 1B and C last year and became the only Renegade named to the New York-Penn League all-star team this past summer. So while it's fun to watch high draft picks spend begin their pro careers here (this year, for instance, we had the Rays' fourth- and sixth-round picks), it's also interesting to see which unsung draft picks are going to make the most of their time here and improve their status with the Rays' brass.

DRAYS BAY : The Rays just signed a four year agreement  with Renegades. Any chance down the road the they will become a full season minor league franchise?

No, for several reasons, the Renegades will not become a full-season team any time soon. First, there are territorial limitations. There are several full-season teams in the tri-state area, and due to rules that are far too complicated to get into, minor-league officials wouldn't allow it. The other big reason would be the stadium, itself. Dutchess Stadium is a great venue for the area (it seats 4,494 fans), but for a full-season team to come in here, the stadium would have to be expanded to at least double its capacity. While the Renegades currently sell out more than 90 percent of their home games, filling 9,000 seats for 70-plus games would be quite a daunting task. Having spoke to team management and ownership frequently about fan support, they understand they are very fortunate to enjoy the loyal fan base they've had the past 11 years. For a short-season, Class A team to still sell out 90 percent of its home games after more than a decade is still an amazing feat.

DRAYS BAY : What do you think about Baseball blogs as a traditional media journalist?

Honestly, I'm not too familiar with the blogs out there. I check the Renegades' site and message board almost daily, the Devil Rays' site regularly and other baseball sites minorleaguebaseball.com, nypennleague.com, mlb.com, etc.) on a regular basis. We've often incorporate online elements to our sports coverage, including Web polls for fans and interactive "baseball cards" of the Renegades players, which included each player's photo, stats and biographical information. We also archive every Renegades story we I write every season online, along with our annual preview section. As far as the blog phenomenon, I find it interesting, reading different people's viewpoints on teams and players. My only concern is the credibility issue: Who are the people writing the blogs? Are they actual reporters? Are they just opinionated fans masquerading as journalists? Is there a hidden agenda behind what they write? As a whole, though, I like the free-flowing exchange of ideas. By reading enough of them, the readers can make up their own minds about the writer's credibility, etc.