Earlier this week I had the unique opportunity to speak with Marc Carig, the New York Yankees beat reporter for The Athletic, about his life in sports journalism.
Marc Carig is one of baseball’s best beat reporters and he recently left Newsday to join The Athletic, a rising sports website that is covering sports nation-wide with well-written articles. Over the course of Carig’s career as a beat reporter in New York he has covered both the Mets and the Yankees since 2009.
From 2009-2012 he worked for the Star-Ledger, a New Jersey-based newspaper, covering the Yankees. From there he moved on to Newsday, a Long Island newspaper, where he covered the Mets from 2013-2017. During that time he also became the President of The Baseball Writers Association’s New York Chapter.
Like everyone else, he did not start at the top to begin his career and we discussed a few things that led him to be, in my opinion, one of the best beat reporters in all of baseball.
You didn’t graduate college until you were 26, but you had worked at multiple newspapers in some capacity along the way, is there a reason why you got off to a late start in the industry?
Carig: I started in junior college and the summer before I had to transfer I was doing an internship. During the internship, I changed my mind and I was stuck because I knew I didn’t want to go to school there, but it was too late to go somewhere else. The place that I was interning at ended up offering me a job to stay, so I took the job, stayed there for a couple of years and then went back to school. So that is why my path is a little weird because I had a break in between.
Was there a person or event in your life that led to you being interested in journalism, and sports journalism in particular?
Carig: I had a high school teacher, my english teacher in 9th grade happened to be the advisor for the school paper. In my freshman year of high school, he used to make us write a lot, I think he did it on purpose to get us in the habit of writing. He asked me to stay after class one day and asked me if I was interested in becoming a journalist for the school paper, which was something that I had never thought about before. I read a lot on my own and I think he might’ve seen that because I think if you read a lot you tend to write well. So, I joined the school paper and I always liked to play sports so it seemed natural to do both.
Have you kept in touch with him over the years?
Carig: He’s an old-school guy, no cell phone, no internet, but we have a mutual friend and I’ll hear from him through that guy; and when I go back to the Bay area, where I grew up, I’ll see him from time to time.
This is how old-school he is, the school that he works at gets editions of The Washington Post, a newspaper I used to work for, and he told me that he would see my stuff in there. If I had to say one person that got me interested in journalism it would be him.
In the article that announced your departure from Newsday and you officially joining The Athletic you thanked a few people for their help along the way. Is there one person in particular that helped you develop your craft?
Carig: There’s a lot of people that really pushed me and gave me a chance, but if I had to pick one person it would be Joe Sullivan. Joe Sullivan is the sports editor for The Boston Globe, he gave me my first break with a summer internship. Back in the day, the best way to break into the industry was the internships, the bigger the paper the more competitive the internship. The Globes internship program, I think, is the best program in the country for newspapers.
The Boston Globe has a history of producing great sportswriters, so if you are an intern at The Boston Globe the chances are that you are a really good writer. It is a really hard program to get into, but I got the internship and Joe was my editor. I probably learned more that summer than I have at any one period of time in my career. I learned about working at a place that had standards and with people who cared.
People in Boston care about their sports coverage and it is a great newspaper with a great sports section. Adam Kilgore, a great writer and one of my best friends, was my roommate that summer. Adam is someone I respect as a journalist and writing and competing with him made me better because of how good he was.
Again, if I had to pick one person that helped me learn it would be Joe, he was constantly pushing me and he encouraged me every time I had an idea to go with it.
Getting into your job on the beat, what is a normal day like for you during the baseball season?
Carig: Most games are at 7 p.m. so when I get up in the morning I will look to see what has been written to see if anything catches my eye, or if there is anything I hadn’t heard about yet. I’ll also check my phone to see if I got a text or email from anyone because when you have reported for awhile people reach out to you to give you information that might be useful.
I usually leave for the park around 2 p.m. so the morning is usually what I use for my time to work on other stories and reach out to people to see what else is going on around baseball.
When you gain contacts throughout your years you want to maintain them, so I frequently check in with them and sometimes they reach out to me. There have been times when I have received texts from those people because they had seen players at the hospital, which leads me to find out that the player was there for an MRI and I wouldn’t have been able to break those stories had I not heard from somebody.
Sometimes these are off-the-record conversations or quotes that I will use on the record for stories that I am developing.
The Mets clubhouse opens around 3 p.m. and the players are usually in the clubhouse for about an hour, so it is an opportunity to check in with people, players, coaches, GM’s or whomever you come across in that hour of availability. Around 4 p.m. is when the manager does his pregame press brief, which is usually about 15 minutes. I usually pop in there to see what he has to say because if baseball teams have important news to announce they usually do it through the manager.
After that, guys are getting ready for batting practice which I like to be outside for because you never know who will be there, even guys on the other team you know and sometimes you just hang out on the field for an hour.
At 5:30 p.m. I head up to the press box. There are scouts sent from other teams that are sent to watch games so from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. I like to go to the lunch room for writers, media, broadcasters, and scouts to speak with scouts that I know to see what is going on in their world. They usually have questions about the team that I cover and it is good to talk with people that are watching the games too that can provide insight you wouldn’t otherwise know. Sometimes I’ll see the other team’s executives and beat writers so I’ll check in with them to see what is going on from a reporting standpoint.
The game starts at 7 p.m. For a newspaper you’re writing about two stories for the paper and one of them has to be filed by around them, so once I finish eating I’m usually writing. At times you need to have a story finished by the end of the game so you are writing a lot during the game so by the end of the game you have written two stories but you have filed them twice so it feels like four.
At that point, you go downstairs to talk to the manager and players again. Depending on when the game ends I have 10-50 minutes to write up a full news story and other nights I will have almost no time so I will be sending in quotes on my phone as the players say them. That is the end of the day, so I usually leave the park around quarter to 12 and when I get home I will put on West Coast baseball games and I’ll work on other stories before I go to sleep.
In your move to The Athletic did you choose to go back to the “dark side” to cover the Yankees or was it not an option?
Carig: When we first started talking, all of our conversations had been centered around me covering the Mets, which was fine by me. Late in the process, they floated the idea of me covering the Yankees because I had done it in the past and they wanted to emphasize their Yankees coverage.
It was kind of a curveball, but if that’s the direction they wanted to go towards I was open to it because at that point I just wanted to work for them. I liked what they were doing and their philosophy on things and it mattered less to me what team I was covering and it mattered more that I was doing it for them. The more we talked, it seemed that they liked the idea of me going to the Yankees.
I think I did have a choice and if I wanted to stay with the Mets I’d still be there, but I left it open for them to decide what was the best use of my time for them. On my end, it wasn’t my plan to switch, it just worked out that way.
If The Athletic continues to grow do you think it can make sports sections in newspapers obsolete sooner rather than later?
Carig: I think in some ways yes. Some people will see that one is “killing” the other, but I don’t see it that way because local papers have a slightly different mission than we do (The Athletic). I just don’t know if they overlap to that point. Now with that said, a lot of the talent The Athletic is hiring is coming from newspapers that will obviously hurt them in the short term, but I think newspapers have such a bigger mission in the sports section.
They cover local news so I don’t know if the comparisons connect because there is always going to be people that want to do this for newspapers. I don’t think this will “kill” newspapers; I think it hurts in the short term because they have to find new talent to replace the talent they lost.
Local papers will always have a large audience so I don’t think anything The Athletic does will “kill” a newspaper because they have such a larger reach. I worked at Newsday before The Athletic and I think it is a great newspaper because if you are on Long Island the chances are they cover your town and cover it well which nobody else is doing.
I think newspapers are going to be fine because of their coverage of local news and Newsday is another good example of high school coverage, which is tremendous because they put a lot of time into it, a lot of resources into it, and have bodies in the field. To me, that is just as important as the professional coverage because at its core those are your readers, people on Long Island who care about what happens in Hempstead.
As long as newspapers continue to own their local stuff I think they’re fine because The Athletic is traveling in a different lane from them.
That was the end of my interview with Marc, who as I said recently joined The Athletic a new juggernaut in professional sports coverage trying to cover sports by not being the primary source of every bit of news. Instead, they want to dive deep into their stories with well-written work.
I am rooting for Carig and The Athletic as they are trying to be pioneers of sorts in this type of professional sports coverage. This upcoming baseball season will be a big test to see how successful they are and with a great writer like Carig on board, their chances are certainly higher.
Even if he is covering the Yankees, I mean, come on Marc.