Q&A: Arlington native living dream as Twins beat writerKelsie Smith isn’t concerned with traditional gender roles and rarely notices when she’s the only woman in the press box at a major league stadium.
By: Korrie Wenzel, The Daily Republic
Kelsie Smith isn’t concerned with traditional gender roles and rarely notices when she’s the only woman in the press box at a major league stadium.
The native of Arlington — a town on South Dakota’s eastern edge, 90 miles northeast of Mitchell — grew up watching Minnesota Twins baseball with her father. And on the family farm, Dad cooked meals most nights and Mom built furniture and worked with power tools, so covering sports and breaking stereotypes is nothing for the 27-year-old.
“I always tell people I grew up without any notion of gender roles,” Smith said. “I don’t know when I became a sportswriter that I even thought of it. … I think that has helped me.”
Smith is in her fifth season covering the Twins for the Pioneer Press of St. Paul, Minn. After internships at newspapers in Duluth, Minn., Los Angeles and Boston, Smith has quickly risen in a field that traditionally has been dominated by men.
Ask her about it, though, and Smith says she rarely thinks about it anymore. These days, she only seems interested in staying on top of her beat, filing her stories and blogs — which can be read in the Pioneer Press print edition or at twincities.com/twins — and burying the emotions of covering her family’s favorite team.
“The fandom leaves very quickly. At least it did for me,” she said. “It’s definitely a different feeling when you know these people and interact with them on a daily basis. … My dad is obviously a huge Twins fan and watches all of the games. He gets worked up sometimes and I have to try to talk him down a little bit. But it’s your job.”
Smith played volleyball and basketball at Arlington High School and dabbled in slow-pitch softball in the summer. The youngest of three girls, she spent many hours in front of the television with her father and grandfather before heading to the University of South Dakota. She studied at USD and covered the odd mix of cops and volleyball for the student newspaper, the Volante, for a year and half before leaving for the University of Kansas, from which she graduated.
During her college summers, an internship at the Duluth News-Tribune was followed by a summer at the Los Angeles Times, and then two internships for the Boston Globe. At each stop, she was immersed in sports, which she said prepared her for getting hired at age 23 to cover a major-league beat.
“I always loved sports. More than anything, I love feature writing, and a lot of people will tell you that sports is a great way to become a feature writer without all of the years it takes being on the city desk before you’re moved into features,” she said.
Smith took time during the Twins’ off day Monday to visit with The Daily Republic about her life as a baseball writer, her advice to girls who aspire to enter the profession and a schedule that includes some 90 nights in hotel rooms each year.
Q: Did you always want to be a baseball writer?
A: I applied for my first internship in sports at the News-Tribune. … My second year, I applied generally to the L.A. Times and they called and asked if I was interested in sports and of course I was. I did a lot of sports there. The (Boston) Globe internship program, they really make their interns very involved. You are on the schedule with all of the reporters and I did a lot of baseball. That’s when I really started to enjoy covering baseball.
Q: Red Sox baseball?
A: Yes, and a lot of other stuff, too, like golf, the Patriots, soccer and tennis and a number of other events. My first year there, I did a good amount of sidebar writing at Red Sox games, and then the second summer, I probably did even more baseball because they knew I was familiar with it.
Q: What advice do you have for girls who want to be sports reporters?
A: My advice to anyone who wants to be in journalism is that internships were by far the most important thing for me. I know for sure that without that experience, I wouldn’t be able to get the job I got right out of college. … I think you have to be, I don’t know if it’s necessarily fearless, but you can’t worry about the fact that you might be the only girl in the room. You have to make sure you are comfortable with the idea that, very often, I’m the only woman in the press box. You have to be confident in who you are. People, at some point, will look at you like maybe you might not know as much about baseball or football or whatever you are covering because you didn’t play that sport. … Do your research and make sure you know your stuff and ask your questions with conviction. Make sure you let them know that you know what you’re doing there.
Q: Have you ever felt intimidated in this very male environment?
A: It’s not intimidating for me. … The Twins, for me, have been a great organization. Another woman had covered the team for a year by the time I got here, so they were a little adjusted. The Twins were probably one of the only teams in baseball to have two full-time traveling writers who were women. It’s been a good organization for me to cover.
Q: Are there locker room situations that are uncomfortable?
A: In Major League Baseball, the locker room opens 10 minute after the game ends. … I’m in the locker room just like every other reporter. I have the same access that male reporters have.
It’s not the most comfortable situation, but you have to do your best with it, I guess.
Q: There is nudity?
A: Yes. It is a locker room.
Q: What is a typical game day for you?
A: For a night game with a 7 o’clock start, I wake up whenever I wake up. I don’t really set an alarm. I get up and read what everyone wrote that day. I go to the park at about 2:30. The clubhouse opens around 3:30.
I get the things I need for my notebook or any kind of feature reporting. The team goes out for batting practice and I often go and stand on the field during batting practice. You can get the players there as they do their thing. The manager, at home, talks during batting practice. On the road, he talks in the office before batting practice. I go back upstairs and start writing my notebook and I maybe blog. … My notes are due before the game and if I have any sort of other news, I will write an early story on that.
Ten minutes after the game, the clubhouse opens. Then it’s back upstairs to write. I usually get home around midnight or 12:30.
Q: Who is the most talkative Twin?
A: The person we talk to most as reporters is probably Michael Cuddyer. He’s always at his locker and very willing to speak with us. Basically, all of them are very good about being there and talking to us. Denard Span is also pretty good with us. I would say those two are the most talkative and the ones we talk to most.
Q: What is the most memorable Twins moment or interview you’ve done?
A: I would say the most memorable story I’ve written since I started covering the Twins was in 2007, my first year. We did quite a bit of work on the 20th anniversary of the 1987 World Series and I wrote a story about Jeff Reardon, who had gone through a very traumatic time in his life. His son had passed away in a drug overdose and he and his wife had a tough time dealing with that. And it was well publicized that he had robbed a jewelry store. He was acquitted of that … because of the medications he was on. I went to his home in Florida and it was just a really moving story. I was happy to tell his story.
As far as game moments go, by far, Game 163 against the Tigers (at the end of the 2009 season) was the most memorable game I have ever seen or covered.
Q: Your parents must talk you up a lot. Is that true?
A: I don’t know. I know they tell me they are very proud of me, and I am very happy I can do this job close to them. The chances of me getting a job, covering the Twins, weren’t great.
I can share this with my parents and family who still live in Arlington. It’s certainly a blessing and I feel lucky that they can see what I see every night. It’s a neat feeling.
Q: How many nights do you stay in hotels each year?
A: Last year, I think I stayed at least 80 nights, or 90 something. That doesn’t count spring training. Last year, I left for spring training on Feb. 15 and I got home April 1 and left again two days later for seven days.
Q: Is this a dream job?
A: Definitely. When I decided to be a sportswriter, you think about the things you want to cover. Knowing that the Twin Cities is as close as I’ll ever get to my home if I want to work at a major metro paper, and covering the Twins, a team you grew up watching, is something you hope for. To have this be my first job out of college, I certainly feel blessed.