Some spring train­ing of her own

Daugh­ter of ex-WJLA sports di­rec­tor starts re­port­ing at age 11 — and lands a dream story

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY SCOTT ALLEN scott.allen@wash­post.com

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

COURTESY OF ALEX PARKER

Ni­cole Parker in­ter­views third base­man Manny Machado in Florida for her bud­ding Ori­oles blog as fa­ther Alex records.

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