Thursday, April 19, 2012

Cold calling can be awkward

The story I wrote this week on the 1987 Indians and Sports Illustrated picking the team to win the American League that year was one of the most enjoyable stories I've worked on in years.

I was 17 at the time of that iconic SI cover, which will never fade from my memory, so doing the research for the story hardly seemed like work.

A goal while writing the story was trying to capture what 1987 was like for an Indians fans after the SI prediction rocked the baseball world. I also knew the story wouldn't be complete without perspective from at least one-half of the duo from the Indians on that April 6, 1987 SI cover.

That meant tracking down either Cory Snyder or Joe Carter. Fortunately for me, the Indians helped me get in contact with Snyder, now the batting coach for the Jackson (Tenn.) Generals of the Double-A Southern League.

Therein lies the problem sometimes as a journalist. I don't know Snyder, and he doesn't know me. As I called his cell phone, I was hoping my call would go to his voice mail, thus allowing me to explain who I was and why I was calling.

It didn't happen that way. After three rings, Snyder answer. Then, the awkwardness began:

Snyder: "Hello?"

Me: "Is this Cory Snyder?"

Snyder: "Yes it is."

Me: "Hi Cory, my name is Mark Podolski. I'm the sports editor from The News-Herald up here in the Cleveland area, and I'm working on a story and was hoping to ask you a few questions."

Long pause ...

Snyder:  "Uh, OK?"

Me: "My story is about the '87 Indians and you and Joe Carter being on the cover of Sports Illustrated and the magazine picking the team to the pennant."

Snyder: "Uh, yeah, sure I can talk."

From there, the tone of conversation became less awkward. A few minutes later, it became much more comfortable on both sides.

At the end of my call, I apologized to Snyder for blindsiding him, but he insisted it wasn't a problem at all.  

Snyder, now 49 with dreams of one day making it to the majors as a hitting coach, couldn't have handled a potentially awkward situation any better.

The lesson to be learned? Hope your cold call goes to voice mail, but be prepared if it doesn't.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo



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