Devan Fink’s no rookie when it comes to writing about sports. At only eleven years old he started ‘Cover Those Bases,’ a blog about Major League Baseball. And now, nearly three years later, Devan was just declared the winner of our Sports Journalism Competition for his excellent piece on the recent Little League scandal. Read on for Devan’s thoughts about the ordeal, his editing process, and who inspires him to write.
Do you think taking away Jackie Robinson West’s title was appropriate?
Cheating is always wrong, so taking away Jackie Robinson West's title was the appropriate thing to do by Little League Baseball. However, in the article, I mentioned that some good could come from this cheating, especially since it was not the kids' fault that their title was revoked. The fact that they were noticed in front of many people could perhaps help them get a scholarship down the road or even the chance to play professional baseball.
Would you have handled things differently?
I would not have handled things differently. The rules Little League makes are what stands and when they are broken, the teams deserve to be punished. It stinks that it had to happen to Jackie Robinson West, a team that was defying all odds and won the U.S. title, but when you cheat, you have to be held accountable.
Tell us more about your sports blog and what inspired you to write it.
I started my baseball website, www.coverthosebases.com, in 2012, when I was 11. My grandfather, who had been a huge Phillies fan since around 1950, "taught" me how to love baseball the right way. He passed away in 2012, and I still wanted to find a way to talk with him. My mom bought me a composition book to write notes to him, but I decided to take that one step further and start writing about baseball as a way to continue to talk with him. I have written nearly every single day since that point. This past November, I was the first to learn that Billy Butler had signed with the Oakland Athletics. I broke the news on Twitter, and it was picked up by national reporters like Ken Rosenthal. From that, I made appearances on MLB Network, was interviewed on NPR by Scott Simon, and in The New Yorker to talk about my website and the Butler story.
What was your process like for writing this piece?
When I initially wrote the piece on Jackie Robinson West, I wanted to make sure I had all the facts correct. I had heard about the scandal before writing the piece, so I was already generally aware of what went on. However, I did have to do some research to get the exact facts about the story and the quotes from President Obama and Andrew McCutchen. After my first draft, I was about 150 words over the word count, so it took a little bit of time to figure out which words to remove without changing the overall theme of the story. By the end, I think I was right at 500 words!
If you were a sports reporter and could go back in time to cover any sporting event in history, which one would it be and why?
If I was a sports reporter and could go back and cover any event in sports history, I would have wanted to cover Roy Halladay's perfect game on May 29, 2010. I watched the game on TV, and to this day, it remains my favorite baseball game that I have ever witnessed from start to finish. I am a big Halladay fan, and I was wearing his jersey that day. I remember that before the game, my family was going shopping, and a person in one of the stores commented on how he liked Halladay and the Phillies. So, I'd want to cover that game because it already has a special place in my memory.
Are you working on any other prompts or news stories currently?
When writing for my website, I usually write pieces spontaneously like a real reporter, so I am not currently working on any big articles. However, I also write as the sports columnist for my middle school's newspaper, and I am writing a story about another sports scandal, this time about "Deflategate" and how the punishment of Tom Brady and the Patriots was too harsh. The pieces I write for the newspaper are longer, more involved stories, so I spend more time going back and editing them, something I probably do two to three times before I publish.
Is there a sports journalist that you look up to?
A sports journalist I look up to is FOX Sports' and MLB Network's Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal is arguably the best baseball reporter in the nation, but he also has some great opinions that he writes in his stories. Rosenthal is both a great writer and reporter, something that is not easy to do. Also, Rosenthal is an extremely nice person. Following the Butler story, I had the pleasure of meeting Rosenthal at the Nationals-Braves game this past May. He was doing a live broadcast that day, and we agreed to meet before the game through Twitter. He spent a long time with me and is such a nice person and professional reporter. That is what makes me look up to him.