Spreading The Game Of Baseball
By Melissa Verge
Canadian Baseball Network
Bob Elliott is my mentor.
I guess he’s kind of like the wise old owl, and I’m the wide eyed baby owl.
Except we’re not owls, we’re people.
He is 46 years older than me, with blue eyes and a furry grey mustache. I’ve only met him in person a handful of times, most of our correspondence is done through email.
I write for his web site “The Canadian Baseball Network.”
Elliott has been covering baseball since 1978, and was honored in Cooperstown at the Baseball Hall of Fame ceremonies.
I have been writing about baseball for … about three years.
This may be part of the reason why I feel like we could both watch the same play on the field, and see completely different things. He could see talent, potential, a future major leaguer - a story, where as I would just see a play.
I wonder what goes on behind the mustache and the blue eyes when Bob watches baseball and interviews players.
John Lott put it perfectly when he said of Elliott in a National Post article “Along the way, he was welcoming and helpful to countless writers wading into the baseball beat for the first time.”
It’s true, I am example of one of those writers.
Bob is kind enough to help me do a lot of things I wouldn’t otherwise get to experience.
Living in downtown Toronto I’ve learned that everyone isn’t a nice person.
There are those people who will walk down the street, hairy chest exposed to the world, and wave the middle finger at you just because they can.
You can shake that off.
The people you really have to watch out for are the ones who appear nice, but are just pretending to be.
It’s like adopting a nice cat, bringing it home, and finding out it has a monstrous personality beneath that cute furry face.
But Bob is genuinely a nice person. There is no monster hidden away behind his mustache.
He’s helped me get into events that I wouldn’t normally have access to. I can send out as many “I love baseball please let me in” desperate emails as I want, but I would probably be greeted with suspicion and little else.
But Bob trusts me, and the Blue Jays trust Bob.
I guess he trusts that somewhere in between being a crazy baseball fan and a writer, I will find a balance and maintain my composure during interview situations.
It doesn’t matter if I sit in my bed the day before, chomping and burping my way through multiple chocolate bars.
He trusts that come interview time, I will act like a civilized human being.
Recently the Blue Jays had a “credentialed media only” appearance as part of the Winter Tour.
It was an opportunity to interview select Blue Jays players.
“Does second year journalism student count as having credentials?” I wondered.
I’m pretty sure it didn’t. I think if I had shown up and said “Hi, I’m Melissa. I’m with Ryerson University. I’m doing this for the school paper,” I would have been escorted politely outside and told to go home.
But Bob helped me get in, and whenever anyone asked I would say “I’m with Bob.”
When I signed in on the sheet before going upstairs to interview the players, it had a spot for “organization.” I panicked. I had no organization. I was just Melissa, second year journalism student.
“I’m with Bob” I whispered to the nice lady at the desk like I was divulging an important secret. “I’m actually not with an organization.” I looked around to make sure nobody had witnessed our exchange.
“I’m with Bob” seemed to be my answer for everything. It was the baseball version of “Open Sesame.” It worked every time.
“What should I put in the organization blank?” I asked. “Just put the Toronto Sun,” she said casually like it was no big deal.
I proudly wrote down the Sun. Underneath the guy from Sportsnet, there was my name! How exciting. I was part of the Toronto Sun for the day. Me!
I had never written an article for the Sun, but today as far as anyone was concerned, I was with them. Bob, me, and the Toronto Sun.
Who would have thought?
This event gave me more confidence in myself. I guess it gave me the confidence that Bob already had in me.
It was weird, I had interviewed people before, but never looked up to them like I looked up to the players I interviewed that day.
I skipped eating five cloves of garlic in one meal the night before (I love garlic) so I wouldn’t smell like death, and possibly cause an “injury by smell” to one of the players.
This was the first interview I’ve done that I didn’t blush. I didn’t choke on my own spit, or even worse, spit on the players.
I’m fortunate enough to have Bob as my mentor.
He’s not like one of those people where the more time you spend with them, the more you despise them.
It’s like the more I learn about Bob Elliott, the more articles I read about him, the more I realize what a likeable person he is.
We at the Canadian Baseball Network are fortunate to have Melissa all the way from Titusville NB around to write about Marcus Stroman, likely opening-day starter, or Aaron Sanchez and of course home grown OF Dalton Pompey (Mississauga, Ont.).