Some spring training of her own
Daughter of ex-WJLA sports director starts reporting at age 11 — and lands a dream story
After more than 23 years at WJLA (Channel 7), most recently in the role of director of sports, Alex Parker is trying to figure out what’s next. Parker, whose position was eliminated in January among cutbacks at the Sinclair Broadcast Group-owned station, has stayed busy and kept his skills sharp by field-producing for a new Orioles fan blog: “Diamond Diaries — By: A Daughter (and her dad).”
“I’m big with alliteration,” said Parker, who takes credit for the name of the site, launched last month by his younger daughter, 11-year-old Nicole.
“I really like writing and baseball,” said Nicole, a die-hard Orioles fan from Howard County who collects baseball cards, watches MLB Network and enjoys playing softball.
One of Nicole’s first posts was about Orioles FanFest, where she waited in line for an autograph of her favorite player, Manny Machado, at the Baltimore Convention Center on Jan. 28. She had no idea at the time that she would soon come face-to-face with the Orioles’ third baseman again in an entirely different setting.
Free of any work responsibilities, Parker began looking into making a trip with Nicole to Sarasota for Orioles spring training, as fans. He emailed the Orioles to inquire about typical fan things, such as when players sign autographs, and happened to mention Nicole’s blog. Kristen Hudak, the Orioles’ director of public relations, asked Parker to send her a link to the site.
“I send it to her, and she asks, ‘If you come down, would your daughter be interested in interviewing a player?’” said Parker, who hadn’t booked a flight yet. “Of course at that point, I called my wife and said, ‘Hon, we don’t have a choice. We’re going.’ I wouldn’t want to pass that up.”
And so Monday, with a notebook and iPad in tow, Nicole and her dad arrived in Sarasota. They were both given media credentials and left their hotel room early Tuesday to head for the media room at Ed Smith Stadium. Nicole chatted with ESPN anchor Randy Scott, who was in town to shoot a feature with Orioles center fielder Adam Jones. She interviewed Hudak and MLB.com Orioles reporter Brittany Ghiroli about their jobs, as well as Orioles pitchers Tyler Wilson and Oliver Drake.
“I kind of like what Kristen does because you get to travel with the Orioles,” Nicole said. “It’s kind of cool that she knows all of the players. She was telling us about how nice they were.”
When Mark Trumbo shattered his bat during batting practice later that morning, he walked over to the youngest reporter in camp and gave her both pieces. “Don’t hurt yourself,” he said.
“At every turn there was just another awesome thing,” Alex Parker said.
Nicole liked what she saw from the Orioles in their intrasquad scrimmage, but she worries how the team will fare without Matt Wieters. “A catcher’s really important,” she said. “It’s like the quarterback in baseball.”
Nicole was “a little bit” nervous Tuesday because she had never conducted an interview before. She had practiced at home with her dad, but that could hardly prepare her for her final assignment of the day, an interview with Machado that later appeared on MLB.com.
“I asked him, like I asked every player, how spring training was going, and they all liked it,” she said. “I asked them what their least favorite part of spring training was, and they all said the early mornings.”
Parker, who started at WJLA during Redskins training camp in 1993, knows all about early mornings and late nights, working weekends and holidays and all the other times that sports happen. He said he considers Nicole a little version of him and of his mom, Judy, who used to watch the Redskins and her favorite player, Eddie LeBaron, at Griffith Stadium and who has come to love the Nationals. Parker added that he would be delighted if Nicole pursued a career in sports journalism.
“I’ve always said, and I’ll say it again when I get my next gig, that it beats working for a living, and for 231/2 years, rarely did what I did at ABC-7 feel like work,” Parker said. “It was like, ‘Are you kidding me? They’re paying me to do this?’ If she loves it, then sure . . . . She’s frankly inspired me. I should do something like this for me at some point because I like to tell stories. That’s part of what I did for a long time.”
Nicole, who thanked the Orioles’ PR staff with cupcakes Wednesday before heading back north, certainly loved her first experience as a credentialed reporter. “I am so thankful that I had this opportunity and experience!” she wrote on her blog, which already includes a couple of posts about her time in Sarasota. “A huge thanks to Kristen Hudak and the Orioles for making this all possible!” Excerpted from washingtonpost.com/ dcsportsbog
Nicole Parker interviews third baseman Manny Machado in Florida for her budding Orioles blog as father Alex records.