Scott Miller is a National baseball columnist for cbssports.com. Pretty unique, when we were conducting this interview we found out we are both from a town of Monroe (Scott being from Michigan and myself from Connecticut).
Question: While attending Hillsdale College in Michigan, what did you study and did you think it would lead to where you are right now?
Miller: I was an English major with a minor in communications. Even back then, I wanted to write about baseball. I thought an English major would be more broad than sticking with journalism.
Question: From Michigan, you began covering sports for the Los Angeles Times after graduating. How did you go about the process of not only finding a sports media job of that caliber, but also making the transition out West?
Miller: Before my senior year of college, my parents moved from Michigan to San Diego. So upon graduation, I looked hard for newspaper jobs in the Midwest, since that was an area of the country I knew, and in Southern California, because my parents were there. First job that opened, I took. It was in Southern California at a small paper that published twice a week called the Coast-Dispatch in Encinitas, California. I worked at about 2 more small papers before landing at the Los Angeles Times, San Diego edition, as a part-timer. That was my big break. When I proved myself as a part-timer, they hired me as a full-time sports reporter.
Question: The Minnesota Twins won the World Series in 1987 and 1991. From 1994-1999 you took the position as Pioneer Press beat man and they had some rough seasons in that time period. Coming off two World Series in a four year span, what was the hardest part about covering/watching a team that basically just collapsed?
Miller: The hardest part about covering that collapse came about three or four years into the gig when it became apparent to the Twins that they had major problems and needed to re-stock their farm system. When that all started, they were using pitchers that shouldn’t have been allowed within six ZIP codes of a major-league ballpark! Man, those were some ugly games. That was watching. The hard part about covering it was that there were a period of three or four years where the Twins just relied on young guys, and it was the same story every year: Write about the young guys in the spring that the fans would be watching that summer, start the season, get to June and write about the guys the team would be trading in July, then write in Aug and Sept about the young guys the fans would be watching next season. After a couple of seasons of that, it got really boring and I worried about growing stale.
Question: When writing columns and receiving criticism, is any of it at all constructive or just fans being fans? Do you respond to any critics?
Miller: Some things, believe it or not, are constructive. I had a nasty email from a guy in Kansas City once berating me for sounding uneducated and using too many “you knows” during a KC radio interview he happened to be listening to. He probably was right — I was driving at the time and my cell phone was acting up and I was completely distracted. I wrote him back and told him I appreciated his comments and that I would try and clean that up! I do respond to critics who write, but not if they are over-the-top with obscene language (which I get far more often than I care to). People can be really incredibly nasty when they’re at the computer and are not signing their real name. But I will say this: When someone is nasty and I write them back, they usually are stunned I would actually write back, and you’d be surprised at how many apologies I get from people who say they could have made their point without being so mean, and they were having a bad day, etc.
Question: Serving on the National Board of Directors for the Baseball Writers Association of America what is your role and what do these meetings consist of?
Miller: We meet nationally a few times a year — at the All-Star Game, World Series and winter meetings. Much of it has to do with working conditions — press box rules, access to clubhouses post-game, making sure teams are following whatever guidelines are agreed upon between owners and players in the Basic Agreement.
Question: Most memorable baseball game you’ve witnessed live?
Miller: Oh, several: Covering David Wells’ perfect game in Yankee Stadium vs. Twins in 1998, covering the incredible ALCS’s between the Yankees and Red Sox in 2003 and 2004, covering the Red Sox finally winning a World Series in ’04, covering the White Sox finally winning one in ’05, covering the Derek Jeter flip play in the Yankees at Oakland playoff game in the early 2000s, covering the Tigers in the 2006 and 2012 World Series (being a Michigan native), covering Tampa Bay’s Triple Play on the second-to-last game of the incredible last few days of the 2012 season, covering the final game ever in Tiger Stadium in 1999, covering baseball returning to Washington, D.C., on opening day the year the Expos moved from Montreal to D.C., covering the 2001 World Series after 9/11, seeing 3 Presidents throw out first pitches (two from George W Bush, Obama at the 2009 All-Star Game), Paul Molitor & Eddie Murray’s 3,000th hit, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to see so much history.
Question: In the offseason, aside from covering free agency moves, what are some of your favorite things to do in “free time”?
Miller: Man, I’d love more free time. Never seems to be enough! When I can get away from baseball, I love music, movies, spending time with my wife and daughter, grilling and reading. And many other things. I’m a music junkie – love it when Bruce Springsteen and the E St. Band are on tour, have seen them nearly 30 times. Love seeing newer bands — saw Alabama Shakes 2 years ago and Gaslight Anthem just last month. Love movies, but ones with good stories. Not the summer blockbusters in which thousands of things blow up via special effects. Oh, and I like to blow off steam and anxiety by running, or by taking off on my bicycle and riding for an hour or two.
Question: As a writer, is social media a big part of gaining fans and spreading stories? If so, when did your personal social media spree begin?
Miller: A huge part of spreading stories. Self-promotion, something with which I’m not entirely comfortable, has become a big part of the job. Editors ask us to be on Twitter and to tweet links to every story we write. So, I got on Twitter two or three winters ago. Think it was three.
Question: For students looking to break into the sports journalism industry, what advice can you give from your own experiences?
Miller: Well, the world has changed a lot since I broke in. It used to be, get a job with a smaller paper, cover high schools, write as much as you can and get to know as many people as you can. Now, it’s hard to say. My biggest advice, though, would be to write as much as you can, gather as many clips as you can and build your portfolio. Be persistent but don’t be a nag. That’s a fine line. You need to get to know editors at Web sites and newspapers and show them you’re eager and productive and can do the job, but you can’t be in their face to much they avoid you. It’s tricky. Mostly, I believe talent and enthusiasm is an unbeatable combination.