So I know this is the part that a lot of people have been waiting to read. It's long but, this was the highlight of the entire trip by a mile. I thoroughly enjoyed every second and tried to make sure I got every last detail of the day. Talking to these players was almost surreal because just a few months ago, I was a fan, not a writer. So without further ado, please enjoy my field trip diary WPS draft style.
FRIDAY JANUARY 15, 2010
What is it with me and waking up this early? I was trying to actually sleep in today.
Well after trying unsuccessfully to go back to sleep, I opted to write up some more of this Field Trip Diary so to speak. At least I was passing time doing something productive, instead of just laying there.
We’re ready and are about to leave for the draft. I can’t believe it’s here and more importantly, that I get to be there for such an awesome event.
That was quite possibly the most amazing (and insane) three hours of my life. The draft isn’t over, but the first three rounds are. Time to back track a little bit.
We got to the round table discussion before it actually started, got our credentials and met back up with Kat and Charlotte. I didn’t pay much attention to the round table discussion as I was getting situated and was just taking in the atmosphere overall.
I was a little bit star struck at first seeing all the returning players that were in attendance for the draft. Amy Rodriguez (Philadelphia) and Heather O’Reilly were standing behind me at one point. Cat Whitehill (Washington) was standing in front of me. Yael Averbuch was standing just a few feet away. Leslie Osborne (Boston) was floating around the room as well.
And of course the draft picks walked by us as well.
It definitely took a little while to get used to turning and being face to face with one of these players who I had followed in the league last year. Eventually, it felt almost normal to turn and say “Oh look, there’s A-Rod and HAO.” Ok…maybe not normal, but I still (eventually) got used to it.
I saw Heather O’Reilly and after a little bit went and thanked her for the Jersey Connection interview she did with me. I also went up and introduced myself to some of the Sky Blue FC staff in GM Gerry Marrone, CEO Thomas Hofstetter and John Archibald who has been coordinating everything for me in terms of setting up interview times with whomever I needed.
Rob Penner went up and spoke to the growing crowd, followed by the commissioner and then Mary Harvey began to discuss how the draft would work and what the rules and procedures were. The members of the media were briefed in what was going to happen on our part and the draft kicked off. The Atlanta Beat, with the first overall pick, were on the clock.
The standing room only crowd didn’t have to wait long before Harvey came back up to the podium. It was now official that with that No. 1 selection, the Beat had chosen North Carolina midfielder Tobin Heath. It was the worst kept secret in the league as most expected Heath to go first.
After her interview on stage, she was brought back to the curtained off media area where pandemonium broke loose. I spoke with Christa Mann, the Public Relations manager for Atlanta about an interview with Tobin but with the crowd surrounding her, wasn’t able to get in before the second selection was made.
The rest of the round was a complete blur. The rest of the first round went as follows: Lauren Cheney (Boston Breakers), Kelley O’Hara (FC Gold Pride), Whitney Engen (Chicago Red Stars), Nikki Washington (LA Sol), Brittany Taylor (Sky Blue FC), Niki Marshall (Washington Freedom), Casey Nogueira (LA Sol), Kiersten Dallstream (LA Sol), Ali Riley (FC Gold Pride), and Alyssa Naher (Boston Breakers).
I realized as Tobin was being interviewed that my questions for my top five draftees article were still in the hotel room, so I was forced to improvise once again and just get what I could right now. I talked to Lauren Cheney almost as soon as she finished doing pictures, which was nerve wracking to start with, but definitely got easier.
Kelley O’Hara was next and she was really sweet and down to earth as well. I introduced myself to Crystal Fukomoto, who is the FC Gold Public Relations manager, again just wanting to put a face to the name. Whitney Engen was one of the few players I had created a feature idea for and thus was able to work that into my interview with her. Nikki Washington wasn’t at the draft, which meant that my top five piece could still be salvaged as I needed her comments as well and would just email the PR managers about doing that piece.
Brittany Taylor was Sky Blue’s pick and I talked to her before anyone else got to, which was neat. She seemed to be overwhelmed by all the media stuff she had to do, but I thought she handled it really well. She was really sweet and I’m looking forward to coming up with an idea for a feature on her since I am the Sky Blue writer.
I actually caught a breather on the next pick as I wasn’t doing anything with Washington as far as the draft was concerned, so I didn’t talk to Nikki Marshall. After her though, was the LA Sol’s next pick, Casey Nogueira.
She did her interview on stage and it hit me that she was going to the LA Sol and was going to be able to play with Marta. I had come up with a tentative feature idea for her based off of that going into the draft and was actually able to use it. So I created Casey’s entire interview on the fly, discussing going to LA, playing with Marta and also with UNC teammate Nikki Washington.
The next two picks weren’t in attendance and Alyssa Naher went to Boston, another one of the very few teams I really wasn’t working with so I didn’t end up talking to her.
At the end of the first round, all the first round picks went on stage and got some pictures taken and then came into the media area for more pictures and interviews. Christa told me to go on and get my comments from Tobin so I got to talk to her for a little bit.
She remembered me from the previous night with the recorder troubles and asked if I had figured out how to use it yet (I guess I had a little bit at that point). She was really easy to talk to and gave some great responses.
I went and just hung out in the media area for the second round but there were very few of those girls actually in attendance. I was a little disappointed with that, but knew that it meant I’d have time to be creative with my questions and think up some really good ideas to work with.
One of the biggest surprises for a lot of people, including myself, had to be hearing UNC forward Jessica McDonald as a draft pick (going to Chicago with teammate Whitney Engen). I didn’t see it coming at all, but it definitely will make for a good story.
I went back after hearing the Atlanta Beat’s third round selection, Blakely Mattern announced and seeing that she was actually at the draft. While I waited for her to do her pictures, I watched some of the top picks doing a promo “Defend Your Turf”, which was hilarious to watch. I can’t wait to see it, whether it be on TV or online.
I didn’t have any questions prepared for Mattern but worked off of the ones I used for Tobin, changing the wording on the fly. Boston Breakers midfielder Leslie Osborne was also back doing some promo stuff for Fox Soccer Channel and I decided to talk to her when she was finished.
Again, I didn’t prepare any questions for her, but was able to go through it and just ask her whatever came to mind in relation to the draft.
Katie Schoepfer from Penn State was the next Sky Blue FC pick so I decided to talk to her as well. I had learned by this point, that if I rephrased the original questions that I would be able to talk to just about anyone. It made everything a lot easier to know that I did have those questions and they’d still work for anyone.
Heather O’Reilly popped back in and I got some quick draft remarks from her as well, focusing especially on the fact that four of her former teammates had been chosen in the first round. I ran outside the draft room to catch a breather and talk to my mom for a minute before realizing that another Atlanta selection had been made and was in attendance. I dashed back inside and got a quick interview with her as well as with Chicago’s newest selection Sophie Reiser.
Sophie was really sweet and very well spoken when I talked to her. I enjoyed talking to her and by that point, it had gotten so easy to just create questions on the fly that I really wasn’t thinking about it when I did.
Right before the interview with Sophie Reiser, I met Dan Lauletta who writes a ton of articles for www.womensprosoccer.com . That was pretty cool, since I read a ton of his articles and really enjoy them. We talked a little bit about going into journalism and writing. It was kind of cool to hear that he had read some of my stuff as well. A bit surreal at the same time.
After the Reiser interview, Laine and I decided to take a break and go walk around the exhibit hall for a little bit. I went back over to the Sky Blue booth and got a picture with the WPS Championship trophy, which was fairly awesome. We walked around some of the vendors, just looking around before looping back to the WPS booth.
Tobin was there for a meet and greet. I had talked to her twice for interviews at this point and didn’t want to bother her some more with that but really did want a picture with her for the story. We chatted with her for a little bit and got a suggestion for food from her. With that, it was back to the draft, which by that point was just ending the sixth round.
We watched the final round before getting some information about the uniform unveiling party that was slated for later that night. After checking in with all the PR reps that I needed to speak with, we walked back to the hotel to drop off our stuff before embarking on the search for The Terminal, which was the suggestion Tobin had given us.
We didn’t end up eating there, but we definitely appreciated the suggestion (thanks Tobin!) and walked around for a bit before settling on the Irish Pub from Thursday night. Then it was off to the hotel to change and get everything together to catch the shuttle for the Uniform Unveiling Party.
So the shuttle didn’t show up, so we wound up taking a cab, which was confusing, annoying and our driver got us lost in the process. Luckily, the unveil made up for the horrible ride there very quickly. PUMA and WPS definitely did an awesome job putting the event together.
We hung around for a bit before the fashion show started with a performance by the Street Beats dancers before LA Sol ‘keeper Karina Le Blanc took the stage as the Emcee for the event.
The unveiling started with the veteran players taking the stage in the home uniforms. Cat Whitehill (Washington), Leslie Osborne (Boston), Yael Averbuch (Sky Blue), Kendall Fletcher (St. Louis), Ella Masar (Chicago), Amy Rodriguez (Philadelphia), Leigh Ann Robinson (Atlanta), Manya Makowski (LA), and Tiffeny Milbrett (FC Gold Pride) modeled the uniforms, some dancing on stage, just walking out, or in the case of Fletcher, doing a flip.
Then came time for the rookies to come out wearing the away jerseys. You could tell these girls had a blast coming up with their walk-outs as they were more than a little bit entertain. Bleacher Report’s Kat Galsim actually got video of the entire thing, so whenever that goes up, I’ll add a link to view it. (to view Kat's video diary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-SP8TTdRuZQ )
The models included Tobin Heath (Atlanta), Lauren Cheney (Boston), Kelley O’Hara (FC Gold Pride), Whitney Engen (Chicago), Casey Nogueira (LA), Niki Marshall (Washington), Caroline Seger (Philadelphia), Angie Kerr (formerly Woznuk, St. Louis), and Brittany Taylor (Sky Blue).
After the show, I wound up upstairs interviewing a lot of the girls about the uniforms and the event as a whole. Cat Whitehill and Leslie Osborne gave some incredibly detailed responses about the differences between this year and last year’s uniforms, which allowed me to get some great information for the article I’m going to be putting up about the uniform unveiling party in the upcoming days.
After I got the players’ comments, I was free to enjoy the rest of the event. Laine, Kat, Charlotte and I walked around and Kat got some more video (including an amazing video of a dance-off between Whitney and Casey that I happened to have missed).
Kat and Charlotte dropped us back off near the hotel, a much appreciated ride back as we weren’t entirely willing to take a cab back after the nightmare of the first ride.
Well after spending the last three hours unwinding, talking to friends on Facebook about the entire amazing experience, sleep was definitely necessary. The entire conversation between Laine, Lauren Salter (St. Louis Athletica beat writer) and another friend Steph was definitely amusing and we all enjoyed it a lot.
PHOTO CREDIT: Laine Schmid (Bleacher Report)