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2014: Year in Review

2014 Year in Review

As I wrote on Facebook on New Year’s Eve, I’m not sure I’ve worked harder than I have in 2014, but the rewards have been sweet.

The year started out with my work life at a standstill. I was getting about 20 hours a week at MLB.com working as a producer/board operator for a 24/7 streaming radio show. With little experience in producing a live radio show, I had to learn on-the-go and eventually discovered the art of booking guests. Through the NFL playoffs, Super Bowl, and Winter Olympics in Sochi, we managed to bring on writers, columnists, broadcasters, and athletes for full coverage throughout each day.

While I found scheduling and listening to talk radio interviews enjoyable, I felt held back by the limited opportunities for producer creativity in a news/talk radio show. I knew the baseball season was just a few months away, but I began wondering what’s outside the sports media production world and started looking at full-time graduate school options. I knew I wanted to look in New York State’s affordable and well-respected State University of New York/City University of New York system for a program in marketing, communications, or business. After a few days of searching online, I found the City College of New York’s Branding & Integrated Communications program and registered for an open house in February. After attending it, I was convinced it would be the right program for me thanks to its portfolio-based workflow, night classes, and group projects. With nothing to lose, I applied.

Meanwhile, work was starting to pick up again. In late February, one of my former coworkers from my Giants days reached out to me asking if I was interested in a part-time digital production assistant position with the NHL. I of course said yes as I was in dire need of cash, and was brought in for an interview where I was offered the position. I was limited to 29 hours a week but I knew it would be a great opportunity to gain extra experience on the digital publishing side. Of course, with baseball around the corner, I would need to balance both jobs. The plan for the baseball season was to work from about 10am-4pm each day at NHL, go home for a quick nap, then head to MLB for the night – getting in anytime from 6pm to 9pm and eventually going home anytime from 2am-5am.

In March, I made my yearly trip to Kansas City for the Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championships, where I assisted with social media coverage. While there, I also had the opportunity to produce a shoot for MLB and Budweiser with Kansas City Royals broadcaster Rex Hudler. With assistance from a local production company, we had Hudler sit down in front of a green screen in his home’s memorabilia room and share his favorite memories of baseball’s Opening Day from his playing days. He could not have been more awesome to work with. Not only did he nail each line in just two or three takes, he shared some amazing stories and gave us a detailed tour of all the memorabilia he had collected from his years in Major League Baseball.

When I returned to New York in mid-March, the NHL’s stretch run was in full swing so I began training for what my position would entail. I learned how to swap out videos and thumbnails on the home page as well as acquire and share videos from the league’s teams to include with stories on the home page. With NHL Network’s studios in the building, I was responsible for attending each day’s production meeting and sending notes to the digital team for deliverables and features they might find useful.

Baseball’s Opening Day was frenetic. I started the day at NHL and left for the afternoon to begin training as a coordinating producer at MLB while helping with the other Opening Day craziness. While learning the ropes of a “CP”, I was helping troubleshoot the inevitable technical problems that always pop up on the first day of a big event. For the most part, the day went past without a hitch and baseball season was fully underway.

I spent the next three months working about 75 hours a week splitting time between NHL and MLB. It was physically and mentally exhausting but I treated it like a marathon, just trying to get to the finish line and do as good a job as possible for both in the meantime. In this stretch at MLB, I produced three no-hitters (Josh Beckett, Clayton Kershaw, and Tim Lincecum), drank about 1,200 Starbucks Venti Iced Coffees, and gained experience in just about every facet of the multimedia producer role at MLB.

Meanwhile, in mid-May, I received my decision letter from the BIC program at City College. I excitedly opened the electronic version while on lunch break at the NHL, and to my delight found I was accepted to the program. I immediately sent back the acceptance deposit and began the enrollment process.

I wrapped up my position at the NHL at the end of June and began to concentrate fully on MLB as well as mentally prepare for school to get underway in late August. Starting August 28th, my 3 night classes began. Until the end of the season, I would go in to work after class to help with the nightly work load during baseball’s stretch run. I actually found the schedule to be fairly advantageous as I would end up getting home from work around 5am, sleep to 11am-noon, then work on assignments or readings for school until about 4pm when I would get ready to go uptown for class. After class, I’d bolt to the subway and get in to work around 9:30pm, just in time to edit a West Coast game.

Oh, one more gig I forgot to mention – in July, my former supervisor at the New York Football Giants emailed to ask if I would be interested in helping out on gamedays at Metlife Stadium as the Red Zone Highlight editor. Of course, I said yes, and was now booked for each NYG home game where I would clip a handful of highlights from other games to show on the stadium’s videoboards. It took me a game or two to reacquaint myself with the demands of a real-time production environment but eventually I felt very comfortable with the workflow and happily will be back for next season. I was pleased with what we aired on the boards as I kept them relevant to what a Giants fan would want, making sure to show other games in the NFC East, as well as writing scripts for the PA announcer for live reads.

Come October, school and work were going full-steam and I was feeling confident about where my career and education were headed, but still faced some uncertainty about what might happen after baseball season. While working a dayside shift one day, my supervisor at MLB pulled me into an empty office and sat me down to talk. Thinking it was just an annual performance review for part-timers before the end of the playoffs, I wasn’t expecting anything surprising. But, to my great shock, he offered me a promotion to a full-time Multimedia Producer position, to which I accepted several hours later. Suddenly, my entire world view changed in essentially a heartbeat. My uncertainties about paying rent, health insurance, and whether I was worthwhile at all as a producer were washed away. Of course, I knew I still had plenty of things to improve on and that I would have significant challenges ahead balancing full-time school work and a full-time job, but I knew this is the prime time of my life to take it on.

With newfound stability, I was able to enjoy the work that came with the thrilling World Series between the Royals and Giants while not losing track of my school work. After the conclusion of the Fall Classic, my shift times became much easier and I began working dayside, going straight to class afterwards. This meant very long, mentally exhausting days, but I loved having a routine.

My 3 classes each culminated in massive end-of-semester group presentations. For my Research class, our group chose to study Hillshire Farms Lunch Meat and investigate potential opportunities for the brand as well as audience sentiments about the product. In my Idea Development class, our assignment was to develop a creative campaign with executions for the New York Water Taxi. And in my Strategy class, we created our own “agency” and chose to formulate a comprehensive integrated marketing campaign for Boxed Water is Better, a portable water company specializing in renewable sourcing for its packaging. I’m incredibly proud of the final results for each project and I’ll detail more about them, including what I learned from each in my next post, but for now, I can happily say I finished with straight A’s this semester.

So with class finishing for the semester in mid-December, I was left to enjoy wrapping up at work for the Holidays and enjoying some well-deserved time off for Christmas and New Years. 2014 may have been tough at the start for me, but I’m incredibly optimistic about what the future holds.

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