Joyce Terhaar

From the Executive Editor: Doubling up on baseball coverage

Published: Sunday, May. 5, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1E
Last Modified: Monday, May. 6, 2013 - 11:58 am

It's likely by the time the newspaper hits your driveway each morning that baseball fans are well aware of details from the previous day's game.

"We figure most fans either have watched the game, read about it online (or) followed it on their tablet or phone as it happens," said Tom Couzens, The Bee's sports editor.

Or perhaps all of the above, along with watching game highlights, too.

So what's a printed newspaper to do?

That was the challenge facing Couzens this year as Matt Kawahara began covering baseball for us. Given many of you are reading at sacbee.com as well, it meant developing a dual strategy for coverage online and in print.

I've heard sports journalists and fans over the years describe Sacramento as a baseball market at heart, partly because of strong youth programs that produce professional level talent, partly because of warm summer nights perfect for the relaxed pace of baseball. Without our own major league baseball team, fans remain devoted to the San Francisco Giants or the Oakland A's. Anyone who wants to watch a game live without traveling to the Bay Area can head out to the River Cats, Sacramento's minor league team affiliated with the A's.

Kawahara, who graduated from McClatchy High School and UC Berkeley, is working to cover all three teams, with an emphasis on major league, generally whichever team is home.

News updates like injuries, transactions or game stories can be found at his blog, Bay Area Baseball, at blogs.sacbee.com/bay-area-baseball.

This week Kawahara covered the A's, blogging about changes resulting from Monday's longest game in Oakland history – six hours and 32 minutes (and 19 innings). He blogged when A's third baseman Josh Donaldson was named AL Player of the Week and the reaction from A's manager Bob Melvin to the news that NBA center Jason Collins came out as gay. And of course he reported online about the games as well, finishing coverage of the longest game at about 2 a.m., well past the print press deadline.

"The thing I've liked so far, if the game goes late, if you write for print you need to file as soon as the game is over, there's not time to go to the clubhouse and talk to guys and do a real focused game story," Kawahara said. "Now I feel like I can use the blog to do more focused gamers. I try to get into more depth about the game and put it online."

Kawahara had just written a blog post about A's players put on the disabled list when we talked Wednesday. "It will be in the paper tomorrow as a short notebook, but it's the perfect thing for the blog because people expect that information to get out there immediately," he said.

The coverage strategy for print is far different. We include short wire stories off games, traditional notebooks and similar coverage. But Kawahara's mission is to find a story no one else is reporting that can run on the sports cover. (Most print content also can be found in our digital publications.)

Couzens said the goal is "to go against the grain of the pack mentality of beat coverage. If every story is based on what happened on that night's game, all the writers tend to write the same thing."

"We try to go beyond the game, to write about people and trends."

Kawahara's recent story about Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval, in which he explored Sandoval's penchant for "see the ball, hit it" play, exemplifies that coverage approach.

Kawahara pays close attention to analytics websites like FanGraphs, using the data to develop his story line. He reported that "Sandoval entered play (April 23) as the ninth-toughest hitter to strike out in baseball in the early going, having gone down on strikes in 8.8 percent of his plate appearances and a total of seven times in the Giants' first 19 games." The observation from manager Bruce Bochy: "He's got better discipline laying off some pitches now." The result for those of us reading him: a memorable story.

While Kawahara is new to baseball beat reporting, he was a key member of our team covering the Giants during their run to the World Series championship. He likes baseball. Even more, he likes finding stories that transcend the sport, that speak to life's lessons and travails.

For more, check out Matt Kawahara's Bay Area Baseball blog

Reach Executive Editor Joyce Terhaar at (916) 321-1004. Follow her on Twitter @jterhaar.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Joyce Terhaar



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