Bay Area baseball fans are lucky in a lot of ways -- as last year's postseason reminded the other coast and everyone in between, Bay Area baseball is the best in the country: The Giants have the best ballpark in the game and a fun, dynamic team that has won two World Series in three years and -- I'll go out on a limb here -- will win at least one more in the next three years.
The A's, meanwhile, thrilled their fans with a great second half last year -- that final regular-season game of last year, completing the sweep of Ron Washington's Texas Rangers to nab first place, was as thrilling and enjoyable a game as you'll ever see during the regular season. (I took my eightysomething Dad and he said he'd never enjoyed a game more.) They're going to be fun to watch this year, too.
One downside of fandom has been the decline of newspapers and the resulting drop in morale in the all-important beat writers who cover the team day in and day out; plus, there are fewer of them than there used to be.
That's why it's good news that the Bay Area News Group has hired longtime baseball writer John Hickey to cover the A's again this year -- after many years away in Seattle. John knows the game, knows the people, knows how to tell a story -- and has a very Bay Area point of view. To welcome this colorful newspaper veteran back to the Bay Area, here's a short Q and A.
Q: John, did you ever think you'd be back on the A's beat?
A: Never. Figured there was a better chance I'd ace the Powerball. There are an increasingly small number of jobs in journalism in general, and in covering baseball in particular. And there are a host of very good candidates for every job. I am happy the way things came down.
Q: When did you first start covering the A's?
A: I started out covering A's and Giants home games (weekends only) in 1976 for The Daily Review in Hayward while I was still a neophyte. Graduated over the next decade to doing an ever-increasing number of games in the season and I was basically full-time on the A's by 1987.
Q: Where did you grow up and what was your team growing up?
A: Born in San Francisco, grew up in San Mateo. The Giants, not surprisingly, were my team, a loyalty that hasn't lasted given the job I've wound up doing
Q: Do you still have the pony-tail and if so, any thoughts on Tim Lincecum's new hair style?
A: The ponytail lives. I know Lincecum had a bad season, but one bad season shouldn't impact one's grooming, now should it? He looks like he got lost on the way to Starbucks.
Q: How has the job of beat writer changed over the years? Are there upsides to the changes or is it mostly downhill?
A: The job has changed enormously. Time was when the beat writers would get to the park at 5 p.m. for a 7 p.m. game. As things changed, they wound up arriving earlier and earlier as coverage expanded, mostly in terms of notebooks. Now the players are trying (and to some degree succeeding) in tamping down the amount of time to the point that at home games the beat writers get maybe 45 minutes instead of maybe two hours, and that ratchets up the pressure to get the same amount of information in a smaller bit of time. It's a job that has become more 24-7 with blogging and twitter and the like, but it's still baseball. And that's not nothing.