With the first week of baseball in the books we thought we'd sit down with none other than the beat writer for the Minnesota Twins, La Velle E. Neal III. You can find his work in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. His online blog is also linked to the right. All three of us here at TKOT are fans of La Velle, so it's a privilege to have him take some time with us. Enjoy!
Paul Allen from KFAN once said that the 1998 Vikings season turned him into a Minnesota Viking fan. Have you had a similar experience that turned you into a Twins fan?
I'm not a Twins fan! It's impossible for a sports writer to be objective if you are pulling for the team you are covering. I will state for the record that I have learned a lot from the people in the Twins organization I've dealt with over the years. The Twins are generally accessible and are frequently forthcoming with information, which is different from other clubs in town, based on what I've heard. Some out of town writers prefer to talk to the Twins than their own teams!
What's your typical workday like and what do you like most about covering the Twins?
I get up in the morning and spend a couple hours on the internet reading all the Twins coverage as well as baseball coverage in some other cities. I tend to keep up with AL Central teams but I also enjoy reading coverage of a few other teams, too.
By midday I've already make a couple calls, looking for news. I usually have an idea of what my Twins notebook is going to contain by then. I like to arrive at the park by 2:30 p.m. before night games. The clubhouse opens at 3:30 p.m. so I like to get set up and check in with the office to see if there are any special instructions for that day.
I end up writing two stories. One for the early edition and one for the final edition. If there's news during the game, I'll either put in the game story or climb back into my notebook for a late add. I leave the park between 11:30 p.m. and midnight.
It's great when your office is a ballpark but the job itself has become less fun in recent years because of the rush to get things online as soon as possible. Plus I blog and I podcast. Somehow, the work week has been extended without a change in pay!
Normal fans (homers) like us tend to look at our local squad with rose-colored glasses. What is the national perception of the Twins?
People in baseball praise the Twins' organization for being competitive in recent years despite not being big players in the free agent market. They speak highly of Terry Ryan, Bill Smith, Mike Radcliff and others, and feel that their farm system has been productive.
Do you plan on writing about the Twins for an extended period of time or do you have a different future career path in mind?
Don't know. I used to think that all I ever wanted to do was be a baseball beat writer but I've begun to think about branching off into other areas. Radio? TV? Not sure. The newspaper industry being in transition (loss of revenue to on-line, etc.) doesn't help either.
What is something that would surprise us about your job that we don't know?
Probably the hours. I often hear the, `you get paid to watch a game,' argument, but there's so much that's involved in a workday. Your dealing with people who, sometimes, don't feel like talking or who are just bad interviews. Evenings and weekends during the summer are booked. My friends don't understand why I can't meet them right after games.
Do you have any funny or interesting clubhouse stories (from this spring or in the past) that you can share?
Off the top of my head, I remember how Livan Hernandez was trying to bet Casey Daigle that he could get hits off his wife (Jenny Finch). I'm guessing that Daigle has won a few of these bets in the past. What made this one different is that Hernandez plays fast-pitch softball during the offseason, and he wanted to stand in against Finch with a softball bat. "I've gotta think about this,'' Daigle said. I don't think they ever arranged a showdown, and Daigle is now at Rochester. Finch did show up at a few spring training games. I saw her in the back row in Sarasota shielding their son, Ace, from the sun.
On the random side, what TV shows do you enjoy and what is the best movie you've seen recently?
I think Entourage is the best show on cable. Movies? I'm not going to tell you the last time I've been in a movie theater. Too embarrassing....
Three part food question: A) what is your favorite restaurant in the Twin Cities? B) what is your favorite Dome food? And C) what is your favorite ballpark food item at any other stadium?
B. Dome Dog
C. Sushi at Safeco Fiel
To our readers: Any guesses on why it was too embarrassing for him to answer the movie question? My guess is that he saw the movie "27 Dresses." It was a chick flick this summer with Katherine Heigl, the hot chick from "Grey's Anatomy" and "Knocked up." Either he has a soft spot for these type of movies or was dragged to it by a woman. The chick flick type has to be the only type of movie you couldn't mention. Everything else you could say. Give me your guesses...