In the month of March, the prelude to April’s opening day, we’ve been getting to know our Kansas City Royals beat writers, the journalists who work to bring you Royals news every single day. First, we talked to Alec Lewis at The Athletic. Then, we talked to Lynn Worthy at the Kansas City Star.
Today, we have the pleasure of talking with Anne Rogers, Royals beat writer at MLB.com. Rogers is in her first year of Royals coverage, taking over the beat from the veteran Jeffrey Flanagan after Flanny’s retirement. Let’s get started.
For those who don’t know what a beat writer is, how would you describe it? And what does it mean to you?
Beat writers are journalists who cover a specific issue, organization or institution over time. Sports beat writers are usually assigned a team in a league, and their job is covering that team year-round, both in-season and in the offseason. There is a ton that comes with that responsibility, and I like to think of it as it’s my job to be an expert on the team I cover because I have to convey that information to fans of that team/organization in a clear and concise manner. That not only means the actual game and roster, but also the organization, including the business side, philanthropy side, etc. There’s a lot that goes into it because you’re not just writing about the game that day or night.
How is it different covering baseball during a pandemic, and how does that affect the final pieces of work, if at all?
It’s a lot different. Everything is over Zoom these days, which takes away some of the personal interactions we usually get in a clubhouse or walking around the facility. Setting up Zooms with the manager and players take coordination from more parties, whereas when reporters are in the clubhouse, we can just walk up to a player and ask if and when he has time to talk. I think you see a lot of the same kind of content from the everyday beat writers because of Zoom-style interviews, albeit in our own writing and formats. There’s just a lot less access in general, and you have to work harder to get to the same level as you were when allowed in clubhouses and on the field. A huge part of a beat writer’s job is cultivating relationships with people throughout the organization, and that’s just harder to do through a computer screen. Being able to have one-on-one interviews, looking into someone’s eyes when they talk, noticing their body language when they’re talking to you – all of that helps the story I’m trying to tell. And observing things is a big part of our job, too. It might not be an interview, but seeing a player work on a drill or a certain pitch or something like that, that goes into the reporting, too. Luckily this spring training we’ve been allowed on the backfields to watch practice, but there are still restrictions to that for health and safety precautions.
I try not to let it affect the final piece of work because that does no one any good, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t affect it at times. Especially as a new person on the beat, it’s a lot harder for me to introduce myself to people in the organization over email/phone/zoom/through the communications staff/etc. No excuses, but I’m extremely excited to get back to what we are all used to as far as access goes.
How did you get started in your career as a writer, and how did you get into baseball beat writing?
I started writing at my high school newspaper simply because I enjoyed reading (and wasn’t very good at math, so I couldn’t do any extracurriculars with that…). Throughout those four years I was introduced to the journalism industry and all the potential careers I could have in it, especially sports writing. I grew up playing and watching sports, and I was quickly learning that I loved writing. A chance to combine the two? I was hooked. My journalism advisor told me to check out the University of Missouri’s journalism program, and when I visited there, I loved it. So I became one of the many students who flocked to Mizzou for journalism.
Through Mizzou, I joined an organization called the Association for Women in Sports Media. They have an annual scholarship/internship that pairs students with sports media and public relations outlets like Sports Illustrated, USA Today, MLB.com, ESPN, Turner Sports and more. My junior year, I was lucky enough to land one of those coveted spots, and they sent me to be part of MLB.com’s internship program. I spent the summer of 2018 covering the Rockies and realized how much I enjoyed writing about baseball. I’ve always been a fan of the sport, but being in the clubhouse every day and learning the ins and outs of the game that you only get when you’re up close to it was eye-opening for me. I knew I wanted to try to be a beat writer when I graduated college.
The former Cardinals writer for MLB.com, Jen Langosch, has been a mentor for me since my freshman year of college, and when she left beat writing for a management job at MLB.com, my connection to her and my internship helped me land the Cardinals job in 2019. And so it began!
What is one of your favorite baseball events you’ve covered, and what is one baseball event in recent memory that you wish you covered?
The one that sticks out to me is the 2019 NLDS and NLCS, mainly because it was my first taste of covering baseball in October and was an absolute thrill every single day. The games obviously had such a heightened tension to them, and I felt that in my work and wanting to live up to that pressure. In Game 4 of the NLDS, the Braves could have clinched with a win, but the Cardinals came back and forced Game 5 with Yadier Molina’s walk-off sacrifice fly. So at 11 p.m. or something like that, I scheduled a flight to Atlanta for the next day at 6 a.m. And then after Game 5, when the Cardinals won, we didn’t know where we were going next because the Nationals-Dodgers Game 5 was being played on the West Coast. If the Dodgers would have won, we would have been going to LA the next morning. But with the Nationals’ win, St. Louis had home-field advantage (and a much better travel schedule in the NLCS). So, I was sitting in champagne-soaked clothes (thanks to the clubhouse celebration) in the Braves press box, scheduling a flight back to St. Louis literally five hours before it took off. It was wild. When I got home from that series after the Cardinals was eliminated, I think I slept for a solid 12 hours.
As far as an event in recent memory that I wish I would have covered, pretty much any perfect game, no-hitter or Game 7 would be awesome to be a part of. That’s what I love about this job the most, just having no idea what you’re going to see at work that day. You could be covering history. I think covering Lucas Giolito’s or Alec Mills’ no-hitters in 2020 would have been interesting because of the dynamic of that kind of accomplishment in front of no fans. And then just thinking about last year, too, Game 4 of the World Series would have been cool to see in person — and unique as a reporter to try to capture that insane moment of Brett Phillips walking it off, not just with the way he did it and everything that happened in that moment, but also what his role is on that team and everything. As a reporter, you try to live up to those moments in your writing, and that would have been a really fun challenge last year.
You come to the Royals from across the state as the beat writer for the St. Louis Cardinals. What are some similarities and differences you’ve noticed between covering the two clubs?
The job itself is the same as a beat writer, but there are just different ways of doing things between the organizations. Philosophies are different, personnel is different, the setup is different. I think the similarities are around the emphasis on building a championship culture along with having strong player development; both teams have solid farm systems and put a lot of value on homegrown players coming up through the organization and staying with the organization for as long as possible. St. Louis has a longer franchise history than Kansas City — what’s been interesting to me is interacting with Royals fans who know the entire history of the club because they’ve lived it, they’ve been alive for all of it. In St. Louis, there’s so much written about the history, but the living perspectives of late 1800s and early 1900s are gone. Both the media market and team markets are different between the two cities as well.
Who is your baseball writing idol? Extra points for the answer if it’s someone at Royals Review.
I have so many! The first I probably have to shout out is Melissa Ludtke, the former Sports Illustrated writer who was barred from the New York Yankees clubhouse in 1977. She and Time Inc. sued Major League Baseball and won – thus paving the way for women to enter clubhouses and simply do their job the same as men do. So, she rocks, and we owe a lot to her and the others after her who kept pushing and creating the environment I face today.
Tom Verducci, Ken Rosenthal, Susan Slusser, Joe Posnanski, Rick Hummel, Peter Gammons and Jayson Stark are all must-reads for me, either with their beat writing, reporting or essays. I always learn something from reading them as well as almost all of the other beats around baseball. We all might be covering different teams, but I find tons of inspiration from reading other coverage. And of course I love reading the work you all do at Royals Review; it has helped immensely as I get to know the beat.