Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Zooming Into Spring Training

 BY SCOTT MORGANROTH 

Last year, COVID-19 taught us new ways to communicate and it’s turned our society completely upside down.

The area that I’ve felt the most impact is here covering sports.

This is the first Spring Training that I am not going to interview players, coaches and managers in person at a stadium. I’m not quite sure when I’ll feel comfortable going to Roger Dean Stadium. I haven’t been vaccinated yet.

Thankfully, having a season under my belt covering the Miami Marlins has made this a bit easier because I’m no longer learning about the team and the teams Communication Department knows me. I’ve done the Zoom Calls with the players, manager, etc... so I’m a bit more comfortable with the process.

That Marlins Communications Department is awesome to work with! When I’ve had issues figuring things out, they’re very patient and navigate me through the frustrating challenges. I can’t thank them enough! 

I have to admit that since I’ve been working with the Marlins, if there is a regret that I have, it’s not knowing the Spanish Language. I often wonder how much good material that I missed out on.

My former colleague, the late David Levin was a huge help in me adapting to this platform. 

He said don’t always worry about getting a question in. Feed off the other people and then you can find a question based on what you’re hearing. His advice has worked tremendously. I find myself to be a much better sponge these days. 

I’m much more relaxed!

Marlins GM Kim NG explained to us that she addressed the team about Covid-19 by telling the players to be careful and follow the necessary protocols. 

Last year, the Marlins were hit with the first major outbreak but found creative ways to stay in shape and eventually qualified for the playoffs.

NG has used Zoom to get to know all of her players and her “State of The Union” address with the team. She said it didn’t take long during these meetings to see the real energy, enthusiasm and eagerness to get after it after participating in the 2020 postseason as the team was raring to go. She indicated this is a hungry squad and was excited about meeting her players in person.

Mattingly has gotten this Zoom thing down pat and said he used it to have communication with his general manager.

“Kim and I were on the phone all winter,” Mattingly said. “I have an advantage of working with her in Los Angeles. We talk everyday and discuss how we’ll build the club. I’m always talking to her over Zoom about player meetings.”

Mattingly talked about what things were like before the team reported for Spring Training.

“I met with everyone before the first day of pitchers and catchers reporting. Through Zoom, we used small groups to build off last year. It was a great stepping stone moving forward. It gives Owner (Mr. Bruce Sherman), Derek Jeter and Kim an opportunity to speak to the club. 

“I thought it was important for me through Zoom to have the boss, Mr. Sherman that we have a great organizational start at the top, thus it was important for me to have those guys speak.”

The players have adapted to this very well.

Brian Anderson said, “it helps out and it’s a big deal for us to stay connected during the off-season.”

Miguel Rojas added, “it’s really helpful, amazing, real important and we enjoy being accessible to you guys. We can contact guys anytime with their cell phones, computers, and other devices. It’s an important tool to communicate with everyone at all times.”

There is no question that Spring Training in 2021 for not only the members of the media, but also for the communication staffs, do an outstanding job keeping us connected and into the loop.

But if there is one thing that still stands out in my mind about Mattingly is what he said to us on Sunday, February 21, 2021. 

“I can’t wait to see all of your smiling faces in person again.”

In the meantime, Zoom is a way of life and we all wonder if the day comes when we’ll have face-face interviews on the field, in the locker room and have full press boxes.

I know that there will be certain aspects of Zoom that will never go away.

It’s very possible that the trend of remote announcers could stick in order to save on travel expenses and announcers will prepare through Zoom. It gives them more time to be with their families and is safer not going in and out of airports. It averts them from staying in hotels.

During his playing days, Mattingly told us that the only time he communicated with the New York Yankees was when he had to deal with his contract.

How times have changed as Zoom has everyone communicating in every way possible. We got a taste of it last year and now we’re seeing a bigger picture far bigger than we ever imagined.

Regardless of what the trends are going forward, as long as I remain in the business, I’m confident that I’ll enjoy it because just learning about technology and the evolution will keep me focused on what lies ahead. This is one interesting puzzle and maybe, maybe that’s what it will take for me to write a book.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at southfloridatribune@gmail.com. You can follow him on Twitter @TribuneSouth.

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