The Scoop: Q&A with MLB Network’s Jon Morosi
By Jacob Gill
We’ve all been watching a game when the announcers toss it to a reporter on the field for a live interview with a manager or player. If you’re like us, you’ve probably thought a) that’s an awesome job and b) how’d they get it. Well, we asked. Jon Morosi is an MLB Network Insider and a columnist for MLB.com. Morosi also contributes to NHL Network and MLB on Fox throughout the year. And he has answers.
Q: You have worked for multiple big market daily newspapers, Fox Sports, MLB Network and NHL Network. Take us back to the beginning and, perhaps, less glamorous start to your sports journalism career.
A: My first interaction was covering a primary election as part of a summer program at our local paper in Bay City, Michigan when I was in middle school. I distinctly remember interviewing the candidates and writing about that race. It’s amazing the things you remember very vividly when they have a formative impact on your life. This interest led me to become co-editor of our high school paper and then cover the hockey team for three years for the Harvard Crimson during college, while also clerking for the Boston Globe answering phones for their high school sports desk. So, I got a lot of great exposure at a young age, but it was that middle school experience with the Bay City Times that was really the spark. Since then, I’ve never lost that sense of wonder at how media organizations bring their productions together. In many ways, it serves as the foundation for how I do my job today.
Q: Newspapers had more marketplace penetration back when you were getting started. How has the recent emphasis on video, digital media and social media impacted your approach to the various roles you take on now?
A: The evolution in the business has emphasized the importance of being versatile. I never really set out to talk in front of a camera or be an on-line writer, as the latter, in particular, didn’t really exist at the time. So, it has been a matter of evolving with the climate of the business, which, I think, is the biggest point of emphasis. If you’ve got something you’re interested in, learn that, pursue that, soak in as much of the current culture and history as you can, while also being a quick study and being comfortable exploring new trends in the field. This can be equated to a player being receptive to a coach employing a new teaching technique, even if it is not something the player is initially comfortable with.
Q: Piggybacking your comment on versatility: one of the big topics in youth sports is early specialization and its impact on kids physical and mental development. Have you been more inclined to gain a breadth of experience or to focus your energies on one specific aspect of the field?
I certainly haven’t been afraid to cross-train, so to speak. I write feature stories, host a studio show on camera, talk into a microphone on the radio, and do dugout reporting. Each of these experiences have had positive impacts on the others, as I have been able to pick up on different nuances and pathways of communication. While the answer to the specialization topic is specific to each individual, I do not believe I would be as good at any of my roles, if I had just stuck to one of them.
Q: With all the different irons you have in the fire, you presumably don’t have a ‘typical day,’ so how do you go about prioritizing tasks?
A: I have a general routine, but the tasks within that timeline will vary based on what I’m researching or with whom I’m getting in contact. For appearances on MLB Central, which starts at 10:00am ET weekdays during the season, I start prepping topics late afternoon the previous day, calling and texting sources, chasing trade rumors, injury developments and other news. After dinner and family time, I’m watching games and adding to my list of possible topics until about midnight, when I’ll send the list to the early morning crew, who will update it for me to review prior to taking my kids to school and then going on the air in the morning. During the off-season, you never really know where the news is going to come from. It’s a constant state of fluidity to the point that I might be driving to the grocery store and have to veer off at the nearest coffee shop to write a story on my phone because a big free-agent signing went down. Ultimately, my routine is really a cycle of perpetual preparation and absorbing of information.
Q: With all of that fluidity, are you able to maintain some semblance of balance in your life?
A: Being a parent to my three children is my most important job. When I’m home, I try to place an emphasis on taking them to and from school and activities, which allows us to carve out time to talk about our days and what’s going on in the world around us. We aim to have no electronics at the dinner table, and I am trying to get better at following that rule. At this point in my life, I live a pretty simple existence: it’s baseball and family, the latter of which certainly helps keep me centered when the former risks taking control of my life. My kids are old enough to get what I do and have an understanding that I may occasionally not be around. However, I’m lucky enough that I can do many of my professional responsibilities from home, which allows me to be present in my family’s life even with a job that doesn’t allow me to completely unplug very often.
Q: Your degree isn’t in journalism, but environmental science and public policy. What ultimately made you decide to pursue a career outside of the field that you studied for four years?
A: I just found myself really enjoying this work. My interest in my field of study was trumped by my passion for sports journalism. Initially, it was a nice way of helping me make sense of a new place, going from a tiny town in Michigan to Harvard. Sports was a common language and it made me feel at ease. To this day, I am fascinated by the public policy aspects of government work and read about them as much as I can. But, as a sports information department work-study student, I realized that, my goodness, I could I could get paid to go to sporting events! This is unbelievable! I decided to give it a go for as long as I found it rewarding, never wanting to plan too far into the future, but simply wanting to enjoy the job I had and immerse myself in it.
Q: We often hear coaches talk about how their most successful teams trust and believe in one another. How do you go about fostering a sense of trust among the players and executives who may be the subject of your work or upon whom you rely for information?
A: Everything I do involves the telling of a story. To speak with someone and have them feel comfortable sharing their story, I must have a connection with them on some level. I want to make sure I do a lot of preparation, so that my subject knows I am as invested in telling their story as they are. This often involves finding something personal to begin the conversation with, be it some knowledge of their hometown, an anecdote about a mutual acquaintance, or learning to have a basic conversation in their native language. This is especially true due to the incredible diversity in our sport. In the same vein, players at all levels will feel most comfortable to ‘leave it all on the field’ when they feel a personal bond to their teammates and know that their teammates have similarly prepared to accomplish the team’s goals.
Q: Any final thoughts for our readers?
A: Let your interests guide you. If there’s a time burnout becomes a potential issue, then it’s time to ease off the accelerator a bit. Talent is present in people who pursue all fields. Ultimately, the separators come from passion, enthusiasm and the ability to immerse oneself in something because you love it so much (never to a detrimental degree), all while retaining one’s sense of wonder and awe about what you’re doing. For those who are able to achieve this state, it will be evident to your teammates. Being a great teammate is valued across the spectrum, whether in the dugout or the board room.
Think about the unsung players turned World Series heroes of recent vintage — David Ross of the 2016 Cubs and Steve Pearce of the 2018 Red Sox come immediately to mind. Selfless individuals who took a professional approach to their job, embraced their role despite not being the most talented or highest paid, and kept the team together by caring about their teammates and helping them play relaxed and at ease. Youth baseball is an ideal training ground to develop not only on-field skills, but these intangible qualities that have benefits far beyond the white lines, while still impacting what happens between them.