On the final day of March, 2015, I got an email that changed my life. I was a grad student then, living in London and only periodically achieving a level of wealth which allowed me to rub two pennies together. About three weeks earlier, I’d sent a guy I’d barely heard of—Sahadev Sharma—an email out of the blue, asking for a job as a writer on a new site I’d heard he was launching. I wanted, I told Sahadev, to write about the Chicago Cubs. The site was BP Wrigleyville.
I’m still not sure why I sent that email. In retrospect, it was totally ludicrous. I’d never written about baseball before, and I had no way of proving that I could do the job. Sure, I had some writing experience—an undergrad admissions blog here; a grad school newspaper column there—but there was nothing on my resumé that suggested I could write about baseball at even a passable level, much less do it well. I guess I just really wanted to do the job, and it must have shown. In any event, this is the email that Sahadev sent to me a little bit after noon, London time, on March 31st:
I think if you ask me four decades from now, I’ll still remember the exact shade of white my plasterboard walls looked in that instant in the thin London light. It was just that kind of moment.
So I ran with the opportunity. I sent Sahadev an email a few hours later accepting the job (perhaps a little too enthusiastically) and suggesting a dozen or so pitches for different stories I wanted to write. He slowed me down a little, and asked me to write just one: about the Cubs’ catching situation, which was then a little bit crowded. I wrote the story up, he cut down two-thirds of it, and on April 6th I was a published and chastened writer.
Things sort of spiraled from there. A few weeks after the site went live, and after I’d written up most of the stories on my original pitch email, Sahadev asked me, in his own understated way, if I wanted to join the team as a staff writer. If so, he said, I’d have to write a piece a week. I accepted instantly, and stayed up until 3 am most nights to watch the games live in London so that I could recap them for you here in the morning.
When I came back from London in July to write my dissertation, Sahadev asked me if I wanted to start coming to games with him every now and then, with press credentials and in the press box. I did just that, and wrote some pieces from the clubhouse that I’m still proud of today.
When the Cubs later made the playoffs, and he asked me if I wanted to cover postseason games with him as the team became the best story in baseball, I did, and learned at his side how to be a professional—or at least a quasi-professional—in this industry that I’m still learning to grow in.
As I grew as a writer, so too grew his expectations of me, and his support of my work and my dreams for what I wanted to do in this business. I couldn’t have asked for a better boss. And I’ve done everything he’s ever asked me to do joyfully, until now. That’s because, a few weeks ago, he asked me to take over BP Wrigleyville, and that’s decidedly bittersweet.
Being a part of this team, led by Sahadev, has been an unmitigated joy. Everywhere you look, there’s talent growing. That’s because the man at the top has an eye for finding it where it’s not obvious, developing it when it’s found, and encouraging it to grow in its own way and on its own schedule. And so while the opportunity Sahadev has just accepted makes absolute sense for him (you’ll learn more about it in the coming days) it’s tough for me to come to terms with, because everything I am in this business—which is still, let’s not kid ourselves, not a lot—I owe to him.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m looking forward to carrying Wrigleyville ahead into 2016. We have an incredibly talented staff of writers here already, we’ll be bringing more on board soon (spoiler!), and we have an enviable foundation upon which to build. We will remain, I promise, the best place on the internet to find authoritative, compelling, and literate writing and analysis about the Chicago Cubs. But we will miss Sahadev. And so will I.
Lead photograph taken by me, a few hours after the Cubs were eliminated in the NLCS, and just before I left Wrigley for the last time in 2015. The end of a wonderful season, and the start of a new beginning …