By Jordan Klein and Nick Mantas
We were standing behind the Vine Line magazine booth at the 2018 Cubs Convention when a man walked by sporting broad shoulders and a subtle swagger.
Nick asked the man if he’d heard of Vine Line, “the official magazine of the Chicago Cubs.” The man chuckled. His family already had a subscription, he said. Then he walked away.
As they started walking, Nick realized they were accompanied by security guards. He turned and said, “That was somebody, wasn’t it?” Jordan replied, “Yeah buddy, that was Ryne Sandberg, the best second baseman in Cubs history. Don’t worry I won’t tell anybody!”
We both laughed it off — Jordan’s laughter out of disbelief, Nick’s out of embarrassment.
(Clearly only one of us grew up in the Chicago area!)
For two days, we worked with Vine Line at the convention. We wrote articles about the various panels that featured current players and coaches, we interviewed Cubs alumni, and we also helped sell subscriptions to the magazine.
Vine Line Editor-in-Chief Gary Cohen (a Medill alum) did a great job preparing us for the event and what we should expect from the experience. He paired us up with Cubs alumni for interviews about what they are doing now and what some of their memories are of their time with the Cubs. We spent hours looking through the archives of the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times to learn more about our interviewees.
One former player ended up cancelling at the last minute, which meant we got a taste of what happens when plans go awry. Gary and Senior Editor Phil Barnes scrambled the schedule and ended up securing an interview for us with fan-favorite Mike Fontenot.
The interview went great, thanks in part to the skills we learned in stress-management during our first quarter at Medill, which prepared us for a moment like this. It was great to practice dropping everything and reorganizing our notes and thoughts — a skill that will continue to be useful in our first job out of school.
We talked with a number of former players during the convention: Derrek Lee, Juan Pierre, Paul Reuschel, Doug Dascenzo and Shawn Boskie.
Blogging about the panels was a lot less stressful. We were told to take down bullet point notes, record the audio of the panel, then keep our ears open for newsworthy information that came up in discussion. Panels ranged from current players discussing the upcoming season to alumni and management personnel discussing the business aspects of the franchise We wrote about everything from new pitchers acquired by the Cubs in the offseason to the state of the Cubs’ minor league system.
Looking back, there were things we would have done differently. But that’s what this opportunity was all about: we got to learn on the fly and get real-time feedback.
All in all, it was a wonderful experience. Plus, we felt comfortable through it all. We felt confident sitting across from players and talking with them about their careers, despite the fact that three months ago, one of us had never written a journalistic article in his life, and the other had never interviewed a professional athlete.
But hey, that’s what happens thanks to the Medill Sports specialization. The change of pace and need to adjust on the fly was a taste of real-life journalism that every sports journalist should have a swing at.