Q&A: Jerry Crasnick, Senior Advisor: Player, Agent, and Media Relations
On his youth in New England
I grew up in Portland, Me., in a neighborhood called Munjoy Hill. There were a lot of Italian, Irish and Jewish families with five or six kids, and chances are one of your older brothers or sisters went to school with one of your classmate’s older brothers or sisters. We played touch football on Vesper Street, weaving between the parked cars, had lots of pickup baseball and basketball games at the Marada Adams schoolyard, and shoveled tons of snow as kids. On July 4, people throughout the area would flock to the Hill to watch the fireworks display from a barge in Casco Bay. My parents bought me a used car – a blue ’67 Plymouth Valiant -- in high school, so my friends and I would go to Higgins Beach on the weekends and stop off at the A&W Root Beer in South Portland on the way home. It was an idyllic existence, in hindsight, and I’m proud of my Maine heritage. When I was at ESPN, they came up with a witty intro playing off my Maine roots for Buster Olney’s podcast, and people seemed to get a big kick out of it. Portland has come a long way since I left to cover the Cincinnati Reds in the late 1980s. It was recently named Bon Appetit’s 2018 Restaurant City of the Year!
On his education
I went to college at Boston University in the late 1970s when Jim Craig, Mike Eruzione, Dave Silk and Jack O’Callahan were leading the Terriers to a national title before achieving world-wide glory with the “Miracle on Ice’’ Olympic team. I wrote for the school paper, the Daily Free Press, and got my degree in communications. But the most memorable aspect of going to school in Boston was the opportunity to watch sports history play out at Fenway Park and Boston Garden. I was in the bleachers for Carl Yastrzemski’s 3,000th hit (off none other than Maine native Jim Beattie) and the Bucky Dent home run game, and I saw John Havlicek’s final game as a Celtic against the Buffalo Braves in 1978. The crowd gave Hondo a seven-minute standing ovation, and he responded with 29 points. The box score doesn’t confirm this, but I think he took 35 shots.
On his sports allegiances
I grew up rooting for the Red Sox. My favorite player was George “Boomer’’ Scott, who used a glove that he called “Black Beauty’’ and wore a necklace that he claimed was made from “second basemen’s teeth.’’ For some reason, my older brothers were ardent fans of the Cleveland sports teams, so I gradually became conflicted about my baseball fandom. I gravitated to the Cleveland Browns at an early age because of their orange helmets and the artistry of Leroy Kelly and Paul Warfield. Brian Sipe and Bernie Kosar provided some thrills in the 1970s and ‘80s, but there have been a lot of fallow stretches over the past two decades. I’m optimistic that Baker Mayfield is about to change that.
On his baseball-writing highlights
My first year on the Reds beat, in 1988, Pete Rose received a 30-game suspension for shoving umpire Dave Pallone. As batteries and coins rained down from the stands, I remember thinking, “Nothing could ever top this for sheer zaniness.’’ Little did I know: The next year, Pete received a lifetime suspension for misconduct related to gambling. Over the ensuing years, I was in the press box for Kirk Gibson’s homer off Dennis Eckersley, the Jack Morris-John Smoltz Game 7 duel in the Metrodome, Joe Carter’s World Series-clinching big fly off Mitch Williams, Cal Ripken Jr.’s 2,131st consecutive game, Mark McGwire’s 62nd homer and a slew of other memorable moments. The press box camaraderie was a big part of it. I can’t recall how many times I left the press box at 3 or 4 a.m. after a postseason game and grabbed a cab back to the hotel with Scott Miller, Bob Nightengale and Jayson Stark.
On his hobbies
I’m an average athlete, at best, but I’ve always been active. My athletic highlight was running a sub 4-hour Casco Bay Marathon in my late 20s. It would have been sub-3:50 if I didn’t almost croak in the final three miles. I still run 25-30 miles a week, and I recently took the bold step of signing up for a Tough Mudder competition in May. I aspire to complete a mini-triathlon one day, but the swimming portion will be a challenge. Beyond that, I’m a movie buff and a nut for word games -- from Scrabble to the Jumble to “Wordscapes’’ and “Wordstackers’’ on my iPhone -- and I love traveling. Some of my fondest memories revolve around family trips with my wife, Debbie, and our two daughters. For the past 7-8 years, I’ve spent 15-30 minutes each day trying to teach myself Spanish. I’d love to spend three months in Costa Rica or Guatemala in an immersion program, but that’s tough to pull off because of the demands of working in baseball.
On his new role with the MLBPA
I'm one of those rare people who can honestly say that my job has never felt like "work.'' I've spent the past three decades covering Major League Baseball on both a local and national level, and I've always felt invigorated by the opportunity to go to the park, engage with players and tell their stories. Now it's time for a change -- and a fresh perspective. In my new role with the MLBPA, I’ll be interacting with people across the landscape during an exciting and in many ways challenging period for the game. I expect to spend a lot of time at the ballpark talking with players, soliciting their input and thinking of ways that the Players Association can better advocate in their behalf. I'm also looking forward to reaching out to agents and media members for their candid opinions. I expect that the job will evolve in some ways that I've yet to anticipate. But that's a big part of what attracted me to it in the first place.
On helping the MLBPA fulfill its mission
I covered Tony Clark as a player, and I've seen his passion and commitment to doing the best possible job of representing the players. Communications and fan outreach are a big part of that, and I'm looking forward to working with Chris Dahl to navigate the challenges of the Twitter/Instagram/instant information age. I gained an appreciation for the MLBPA's mission watching Don Fehr and Michael Weiner in action, and I can't forget how captivating it was to interview a 90-year-old Marvin Miller in his New York apartment years ago. The Players Association has played a major role in the evolution of the game, and it's exciting to be in the middle of the action as baseball history plays out. I think and hope the skills that I developed as a writer, reporter and interviewer will make for a natural transition.