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The Vivosaur Saga

Last Saturday I received an email from Nintendo with the subject line Wally, bring a vivosaur home this holiday. It was a promotional email about a new DS game that had just come out called Fossil Fighters: Champions. Based on the name of the game and the cover art I checked out the website and immediately thought to myself this game is perfect for Zachary.

For those of you who don’t know Zach, our youngest, is only 4 years old but knows more about dinosaurs than I could imagine possible. Often times when we’re reading about dinosaurs I will struggle to pronounce the occasional name and often botch it completely. Thankfully my little buddy is always on the spot to cutely and politely tell me how it’s supposed to be said. Most of the time he’s right and it’s gotten to the point that I can just point to the picture and he says the name for me.

I don’t know how many kids his age can pull Compsognathus, Diplodocus, Parasaurolophus and countless others out of thin air but I imagine there aren’t many. It seems weird, but I feel an odd sense of pride when my little guy corrects me as I’m reading. Continue Reading »

When I last checked in – just about two weeks ago – I wrote about how John and I were going to get our Padres site up and running by acting as an interim staff on that site. Well I’m elated to announce that our first attempt at pinch hitting was a rousing success.

Led mainly by the efforts of John, who published 14 articles between the 3rd and 14th, the Chicken Friars was revitalized. I chipped in two articles during that time and intended to publish one this past Monday but as luck would have it we found a new site editor. Justin Hunter made his FanSided debut on November 15th and the early returns are fantastic. I hope he’s happy and in it for the long haul cause he’s proving to be prolific with his content on top of being an excellent writer.

I wish I could say that we landed him because John and I started generating content for Chicken Friars but in reality we lucked into finding him. Blaine scouting him out to for our general MLB site, Call to the Pen, and through setting him up we learned he was a die-hard Padres fan. At least our efforts built up some momentum for Justin and gave him a nice jump start.

Sometimes things just work out.

~~~~~

Given the success John and I had on Chicken Friars, and given that our Padres coverage is now in Justin’s very capable hands – with Dom still around to support him – we decided to keep our “pinch hitting” plans going. We are now writing on our Texas Rangers site, Nolan Writin’ and in the first 5 days John has already published 9 articles.

I’ve chipped my first as well. I have to admit that it wasn’t the most exciting article, and writing it was slow and tedious, but it was a topic that I felt needed to be covered on the site. Being that I get a little wordy and simple projects always seem to at least double in size on me I had to break the column up into 2 parts. I’m hoping to get the 2nd part published in the next few days or so but if you want to read about 11 of the 22 Rangers players that filed for Minor League Free Agency then the first part should scratch that very bizarre itch of yours.

Anyway from August 1st to November 14th, just 21 articles were published on the site. Since then we’ve added 10 and I’m not going to lie, I wouldn’t be heartbroken if John and I got to stick around on this site for a while. Of course if we find the right person to take the site on, we will gladly take our services to the next lagging site on our list.

~~~~~

Beyond contributing 1-2 articles to Nolan Writin’ I also continue to publish content over on Seedlings to Stars.

On Sunday I published an article that I’m particularly proud of. It was a topic I wanted to cover for over a month but it kept getting pushed to the back burner. When this happens I usually scrap the idea and move on but in this case I’m glad I kept it on my list. The final product turned out better than I had hoped and it was an absolute joy to research and write.

Does the 35th Pick in the Draft Almost Always Flop?

On Monday Nathaniel and I collaborated on a piece covering Houston Astros prospect Paul Clemens which was also a lot of fun to put together and I seem to be settling into a nice writing groove. Even my weekly routine Sprouts and Content Recap pieces feel like they are going more smoothly these days and are coming together more quickly.

The latter is the best news because the faster I can crank out content, the further I can stretch my limited writing time. I always I have at least 10-20 articles and a few ideas for longer series in my head at any given point so the more efficiently I can use this time the better. No matter how fast and efficient I get though I know that finding time to write everything I want will always be the rate limiting factor in the equation.

~~~~~

If you’re curious about some of the stuff I’m hoping to publish soon …

On Nolan Writin’ I’ve obviously got Part 2 of my Minor League Free Agent coverage to do. I’m also planning to do a piece on the Rangers prospects that played in the Arizona Fall League this year since that league wrapped up play this afternoon.

On Seedlings to Stars we have 2 Harvesting Opinion articles in the queue – Cubs and Padres – that I need to write my piece for since Nathaniel did his part on both a while ago. I’ve also got the next Breaking Through column to work on. Beyond that I’m contemplating doing an article on the success rates of other draft pick positions in the last 20 years similar to what I did with the 35th overall pick this week.

I also plan to start work on 2 shorter series. One will be to cover the players that finished the 2011 season with a 0.300+ BA, 0.400+ On-Base % and 0.500+ Slugging %. I’ve starting pulling together some of the stats for this but I haven’t figured out exactly how I want to break out the columns. The other will be a series on the Seedlings to Starts 2011 All-Star Team for the Pioneer League. This latter series will be similar to the one James is currently doing on the Florida State League.

In addition I may, or may not, be doing some AFL based content for the site but that is dependent on whether or not a recent applicant decides to join our staff. Since the AFL is one of his areas of expertise and since I have plenty of other topics I want to cover, I will gladly leave the AFL to him if everything works out.

Finally, I’m hoping to write something random here on this blog in the next week or so as I continue my efforts to be more active in this format in addition to what I’m doing for FanSided.

On an (hopefully) interim basis I will be writing at least one article per week on our San Diego Padres site Chicken Friars. The reason? We have struggled to find a new Editor to take over the site and it has been largely dormant since August. It’s always fascinating to me how we can almost instantaneously rebuild a staff on some sites while others it is a long and arduous process. On the surface it makes sense since not all fan-bases are created equally, but some of sites we struggle to build a solid staff on are not the ones you’d expect.

Anyway, with just one Staff Writer who made his first post on the site at the beginning of October, John and I decided to jump in and help produce Padres content for our network.

Obviously we want to get things moving in the right direction and rebuild the reader base that has fallen off, but we also hope that with additional content we can attract a writer to take up the reigns and carry the site forward. Until that happens John will be functioning as the Interim Editor of Chicken Friars and I will be supporting him as a Staff Writer.

John has cranked out 7 articles in the last 3 days and I contributed my first on Friday evening which you can read here.

Based on the early returns we will most likely make it standard practice that we will jump in and help out our “weakest” or “most dormant” site going forward.

It’s Been a While

It was nine months ago to the day that I last published something here in my “personal” space and a lot has changed with my writing career and my personal life. Needless-to-say an update is long overdue.

To effectively recap everything we need to go back a few months to the start of the summer. It was in mid-May that I elected to step down as the Lead/Editor of FanSided’s Twins site, Puckett’s Pond. That was a tough decision in itself as “The Pond” set site single-month records in terms of posts, visits and pageviews during the month of April. In just three months at the help of the site I had built an awesome team of writers and we had collectively resuscitated our network’s presence in the Twins blogosphere. We had things moving in the right direction but several factors played into my decision to step down.

In May I started talks with Adam and Zach (FanSided’s founders) about further formalizing my role as MLB Director and my role in our network’s leadership. The primary result of those talks was that I turned a greater portion of my writing/FanSided time toward my “administrative” duties.

This transition fit very well with the changes in my family/work life. Justin began playing organized baseball this summer, Laura was selected to become the Pharmacy Manger for a new Hy-Vee that opened in our area, and our boys are getting older (obviously). That last one comes into play because they don’t require as much sleep as they used to and subsequently have a later bedtime than they did  back when I started chasing this dream. So all of those – and several other more minor things – were all cutting into my available writing time during the week.

Doing “network duties” and working with the 100+ writers that call FanSided MLB home were occupying a larger chunk of my time. My network demands had grown to a point where they were nearly as time intensive as my writing, but could be done in shorter blocks of time and that made this move a logical one to make. It did after all fit more naturally in my schedule and allowed me to work toward maintaining a better balance in my life overall.

However I am – and always will be – a writer at heart so I wasn’t about to abandon that aspect of my “secondary” career. Instead of writing 30+ times for one particular site, I decided to embrace my nomadic writing tendencies and write as a Staff Writer for three sites. I returned to Kings of Kauffman (Royals) as a Staff Writer and stayed on at Puckett’s Pond (Twins) in similar capacity. My intent was to publish one article per week on each of those sites.

The third place I started writing was Seedlings to Stars – our newest site dedicated to Minor League Baseball, prospects and the MLB Draft. S2S was a site I had dreamed of launching back in late 2009/early 2010 but as a network we needed a general MLB site first and as a result Call to the Pen was born March 28th, 2010 instead. Thankfully with our growth and increased presence in the online sports-writing world, Seedlings to Stars, became a feasible venture this summer.

I spent most of the 2nd half of May assembling a staff and building the infrastructure necessary to launch the site. After spending countless hours behind the scenes, the site officially went live on May 31st with a welcome/introductory post. Our first actual article followed shortly the following day.

My goal was to write two articles/week on S2S, one on Kings of Kauffman and one on Puckett’s Pond. I intended that any additional writing time I had beyond my duties as MLB Director – and the 4 articles I had committed to -would be dedicated to S2S. It seemed like a reasonable plan on paper. In theory it allowed me to cover my 2 favorite teams in the Royals and Twins on a weekly basis and also write about MiLB and the MLB draft on a more general level. Instead of being on the hook to write 7+ articles/week as a Lead Writer/Editor, I was only on the hook for 4 freeing me up for other network projects and tasks.

Like I said, it seemed reasonable on paper but as the summer progressed, things started to change. I found that writing for 3 sites less frequently was more stressful and more difficult to balance than writing for 1 site on a daily basis was. I also found that my attention and desire was always drawn to Seedlings to Stars and my articles for The Pond and KoK kept getting pushed down my list of priorities.

By the end of August it was readily apparent that Seedlings to Stars was where my writing heart and inspiration had set up shop. So I made the decision to focus myself to that site and end my formal role with the other two (though as Director I can post on any of our 32 MLB sites). While my good friend, Nathaniel Stoltz, handles the lion’s share of the daily content I handle almost all the networking, promoting and maintenance the site needs. I of course still contribute my share of articles to the site as well by publishing at least 3 times/week and Nathaniel and I also work on a collaborative series together that results in 2-4 articles week.

So that’s where I’m at as Novemeber is fast approaching.

I’ve knocked out some huge projects for our network and have many other big plans to help keep pushing us forward. I’m elated that John Parent has followed a similar path and handed Motor City Bengals over to a new Editor so he could also focus his time in his role as MLB Director of Development. Like Nathaniel and I on S2S, John and I make a great team and have FanSided MLB moving in a very positive direction.

After wandering around and taking my talents to several sites, I feel like I’m finally settled in a place that best utilizes my time and abilities. Writing about MiLB for S2S has been an absolute joy. If my nomadic tendencies ever crop up again, I can scratch that itch by writing an article for any of our 30 team-sites or Call to the Pen. Of course I have over 280 minor league affiliates and thousands of prospects to pick and choose my topics from so that probably won’t be a problem. Not to mention the draft and draft history, a favorite topic of mine which has been largely left untapped in my writing for S2S thus far.

I can’t say what the future holds for myself or FanSided but I do anticipate that we will share the same path for quite a while. I’m really excited about the network’s future and I am thrilled to play such a prominent part in something that has grown so quickly in such a short amount of time.

Strengths and Weaknesses

10 months ago I worked to launch Call to the Pen as the flagship site of FanSided’s MLB team. In doing so I started to pull away from my team oriented work on Kings of Kauffman. I made the move with a lot of hopes, plans and dreams, but I also had a lot of reservations on making the move.

I was unsure if I would be able to thrive in a general baseball format. I was unsure if I could competently cover all 30 major league organizations with a sense of expertise and insight that even team based bloggers/writers would appreciate or at least respect. I was unsure if my passion would carry over from covering the Royals to covering baseball as a whole. Among a million other things, I was unsure if the site would have any sort of success in the long or short term. Of course all of this doesn’t even touch upon the reservations I had about splitting my focus between a general baseball site and Kings of Kaufman which I had worked so hard to build in the previous 13 months.

It was a great opportunity but with all my internal uncertainty in tow, I spent a lot of time thinking about it. I sought out the consel of many members of my “inner circle” of family and friends and put a great deal of weight into their advice and opinion.

Ultimately – even with all of the uncertainty – I took the plunge and pushed forward with the knowledge that having baseball coverage on a general level was critical for the growth and validity of our network. I also knew that at my core I love to build things and the challenges that reside in the creative process. For the betterment of the Network and the inherent challenge I just couldn’t walk away from the opportunity that was in front of me.

So now here I am 10 months later. I’ve learned a lot on the fly and lord knows we have made many adjustments along the way, but all in all Call to the Pen has been reasonably successful. During 2010 – by and large – the site and the staff I assembled have surpassed my expectations. I can’t thank that staff enough for giving their time and effort to the site along the way.

I’m not going to lie. It has been a battle. The task was far more time consuming than I had anticipated. First to go was my involvement on Kings of Kauffman. Initially I stepped down from my position as Lead Writer but later (this fall) would have to accept that even staying on as a contributor for our Royals site was not a feasible option. In September I stepped down as MLB Director for our network as I continued to try and carve out more time for Call to the Pen and some other facets of my life.

But … for me personally covering baseball as a whole has been a struggle and a chore. My writing on the site has been, for the most part, devoid of passion and largely uninspired (at least in my own mind). I have struggled to find ways to live up to my own expectations in terms of productivity and quality of content. I say this despite trying to approach things from a variety of different directions.

I have come to the conclusion that as far as my writing goes, I operate best in a team-specific (as opposed to a general baseball) environment. As a result I have decided to ease the internal struggles and return to team-specific coverage dealing with a team that is near and dear to my heart.

It’s all about strengths and weaknesses and that is why earlier this week I made the decision to step down as the Site Editor/Lead Writer of Call to the Pen.

I made this move with a lot of mixed feelings. In some ways I felt like I was letting down the FanSided network and letting down all those writers who have invested their time in to helping build the site. In some ways I felt like I failed to achieve what I set out to do.

On the other hand, I took that leap of faith 10 months ago and while it became readily apparent that Call to the Pen/general BB coverage was not a good fit for my writing I have really enjoyed building the site and the staff to where it is today. I step down being able to look proudly upon what Call to the Pen has achieved thus far.

I went into this unsure of whether or not general coverage was a better fit for me. Now I know and I have no regrets on that. My decision also led to Michael Engel being able to establish himself as a lead writer on Kings of Kauffman. He has done an incredible job with the site since the moment he replaced me and that fact alone is a source of pride.

Along these lines, I am hoping lightning strikes twice and Call to the Pen will be able to surge forward under the guidance of the site’s new Lead Writer and Site Editor Nathaniel Stoltz. Things are already looking very promising and we have made a number of changes to improve the framework surrounding Nathaniel. The primary change is that Call to the Pen has been relocated. Instead of operating as our network’s 31st team site, we have moved it onto our network’s main page where it can serve as the true flagship site of our MLB coverage. You can still get to the site via the old URL or you can head directly there by clicking here. This move kicks off a slew of beneficial changes for the network and our baseball coverage as a whole that aren’t really applicable to this post.

So what does all of this mean for the future of my writing career?

Again it is all about strengths and weaknesses.

In the last 2 years I’ve written and worked for FanSided in a number of roles. I have been much more productive, motivated, and content in some as opposed to others.

Obviously covering baseball on a general level was not a good fit for me. I believe my writing in that capacity can holds up well against many of my peers but the productivity and motivation was always a struggle for me. When I was covering baseball on a team specific level those elements were not problems and the quality of my work was also at a higher level.

Beyond just the writing, there was another role that I held at FanSided that I excelled at. Not only did I excel, I was productive, motivated and engaged with my work. That role was a MLB Director for our network and oddly enough my work as a writer was also at its best during this time.

So I have returned to my “roots” on both levels.

This week I again became our network’s MLB Director, but with a twist. As we have grown, the job has become far too much for just one person to handle. It’s part of the reason I burnt out in that capacity back in November. So to prevent that from happening the MLB team will have not one but two directors. John Parent, who stepped in when I resigned the position a few months ago, will be my partner-in-crime on the baseball side of the network. Honestly this change in title is more symbolic than anything since I really never left his side and have been supporting him in whatever way I could over the last several months while also maintaining an active role in the leadership of our network as a whole.

As a writer, I will be taking on a “new” challenge and will be heading up our network’s Minnesota Twins coverage. It is a return home for me in a lot of ways.

For those of you who don’t know, when I started with FanSided back in February of 2009 I actually signed on as the lead writer of BOTH our Royals and our Twins sites and operated in that capacity for about 2 months. Then I broke my hand in softball and continuing on at both sites was simply not feasible. I opted to focus on my Royals writing but the Twins have remained near and dear to me despite my decision.

Since we are in the mode of change on a network and staff level, we have decided to rebrand and relaunch our Twins site. I have never been enamored with the site’s name of Twinkie Talk both because I felt it blended in with a large chunk of the Twins blogosphere and because “twinkie” can be used as a very derogatory term.

In the very near future, Twinkie Talk will be “reborn” as Puckett’s Pond with a new look, new logo, new feel, and with yours truly at the helm. I am elated to be returning to my Minnesota and Twins background. With a great group of contributing writers (Erin, Steve, and Josh) already in place and me returning to my strength as a team-based writer I think Puckett’s Pond has a very bright future.

Incidentally the AL Central will be the home of both MLB Directors. John with the Tigers on Motor City Bengals and myself with the Twins on Puckett’s Pond. With Michael proudly representing the Royals over on Kings of Kauffman the three of us will present a powerful divisional trio. Hopefully we will be able to find similarly productive writers for our Indians and White Sox coverage sooner rather than later.

I have every intention that Puckett’s Pond will become the long term home for my baseball writing career. Any branching out I do in the future will only be done so if I can continue on in my role on “The Pond.” The door remains open for me on Call to the Pen as well, but as of now I am unsure whether or not I will remain on staff over there. Just because general baseball coverage is currently a weakness of mine doesn’t mean that it won’t become a strength in the future.

It’s all about strengths and weaknesses. That and self-improvement.

Strengths, weaknesses and self-improvement. Those and following a dream.

We wrapped up our softball season tonight with a convincing victory which pulled our record to an even 5-5. After starting out 0-2 on the season we found our way and took off when we figured out where everyone’s best position was on the field.

Now it’s the offseason. It’s a time that I should spend getting in shape and working to strengthen my still shredded shoulder/rotator cuff. I should do those things, but despite a semi-constant desire to start working out, it never seems to happen. Maybe this winter will be different. Maybe not.

Speaking of things I should be using my time for, my motivation to write remains in the toilet. Is this a phase or is this something that is long term? Not sure which one it is at this point, but I’m hoping to snap out of it soon. My time is limited but there is something else in the background that has been holding me back. I wish I knew exactly what it was so I could resolve the problem but so far my efforts to ferret out the problem have been unsuccessful.

While my writing has suffered, I have managed to successfully fit some of my other hobbies into my weekly routine, get some projects done around the house and get fairly caught up at work. If I can squeeze in a regular exercise regimen and get back to publishing several columns a week on Call to the Pen I will be one happy camper.

The Week That Disappeared

One of my personal goals is to never go more than a week without publishing something on this site.

You’ve probably noticed that my last post on this site was 9 (!!) days ago so clearly I’m not achieving my own modest goals. My struggles to find writing motivation have continued and it has severely impacted my ability to turn out content. Looking back it seems like last week was the week that disappeared.

You probably don’t care, but I am going to break it down day by day for you. In the grand scheme this has little relevance or meaning, but I am hoping that writing something (anything) will help get me back into the flow.

~~~~~

Monday featured a typical work day that was augmented by publishing the weekly installment of Picks of the Pen over on CttP. My evening, which is typically my prime writing time, was gobbled by a “Protecting God’s Children” seminar. This was hardly something I wanted to attend, but it is a prerequisite to be involved with anything my kids do at school so there I sat. At least my wife was there with me as we stared blankly through 2.5 hours of video and discussion. The seminar had it’s moments and I learned a few things, but it remains 2.5 hours (3 hours if you count travel) I will never get back.

Tuesday evening is rarely a productive writing night for me thanks to our weekly softball game. The Designated Drinkers took home a victory and I finally hit a ball hard in my last at bat. My back shoulder is still a mess and is sapping most of the power from my swing. I need to get on the ball and start doing my rehab exercises to strengthen my swiss cheese rotator cuff or next season will be more of the same. We’ve got two more weeks of games and then it is the offseason. For another year I plan on getting in better shape during the down time, but like the last three years I doubt my plans will be acted upon.

Wednesday was a “boys night” since my wife had to work the evening shift. After the boys are tucked into bed “boys night” can go two ways. If the kids are helpful and cooperative I generally have some energy and motivation and wind up writing for a little while at least. If they’re less than cooperative, I’m generally exhausted and worn out. When that scenario plays out I generally wind up playing my Nintendo DS. This week however the boys were cooperative and I still wound up playing video games instead of writing (I’m fairly certain that my personal muse has taken a vacation). Pokemon SoulSilver was my game of choice for the evening.

Thursday evening I have absolutely no idea what happened and it is largely a void in my mind. I know I spent some of my time cleaning out our built-ins* and living room in preparation for some carpentry work and painting that was set to begin Friday morning. Beyond that I’m not sure what took place.

*The built-ins were installed almost 2 years ago and I still hadn’t finished painting them and was no where close to getting the trim work done. Needless-to-say paying someone else to finish the project was long overdue.

Zachary woke up during the night with an ear infection and my Friday suddenly morphed from a normal work day into taking care of a sick child day. I was able to get some hours logged at work while Laura took Zach to the Dr. but little else got done during the day.

Friday evening was another boys night and we made it a late one by watching Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes in our bed (mainly to avoid the smell of drying enamel downstairs). Zachary and Justin were both terribly amused by the movie which made it enjoyable for me as well. This is despite the fact that I cannot stand Tom and Jerry. Since our living room was dismantled thanks to the in progress built-ins project, my mind was far from “writing” mode. That being the case I logged more Pokemon hours on my DS. Gotta … catch … em … all!

Saturday, I got some work done and did some stuff around the house.  The built-in project continued on around us as we did our best to have a normal weekend. Saturday night our living room was still out of commission so I once again spent time with my DS. On the bright side I finally completed Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box. Considering I had recently ordered and received Professor Layton and the Unwound Future this was very good timing.

Sunday morning I worked to make up some of the hours I lost on Friday. It also featured the final stages of the built-in project and the guys were gone just before the kick-off of the noon NFL games. I cleaned up the living room, hooked our DVR/cable box back up so I could get the Chiefs on and then sat and watched the game. Once the game was over and the family was up from their naps/rest time we cleaned the living room top to bottom. After that Zachary and I ran to Home Depot and the grocery store.

When we got back I headed outside to fire up the grill only to realize that the drip pain had filled with water because of the horizontal rain we had the day before. Normally this wouldn’t have been a problem except I was too lazy to put the grill cover on after the last time I used it. Half an hour of cleaning later the grill was finally fired up and dinner was underway. After our meal and the typical kitchen clean up, I settled into make up the rest of my Friday hours while Laura watched the Amazing Race. I wound up working past 11 pm and then went to bed.

And that is how last week disappeared.

~~~~~

I’m hopeful that this week will go more smoothly. Laura only works one evening, we don’t have any school related things going on, Zachary is on antibiotics so he should be clear in the ear department and the urge to write is growing stronger after my 9 day hiatus.

Picks of the Pen has already been published today, and I’ve worked about half of my day thus far. On this afternoon’s docket I have to work, mow the lawn and have the typical block of dinner/family time.  Once we get the kids in bed I plan on diving into my writing. If all goes smoothly I should be able to get the next installment of After the Dust has Settled up on Call to the Pen.  I also hope to get a column prepared for tomorrow since my site is currently without a Tuesday columnist right now and it falls on me to pinch hit.

My plans are all predicated on the return of my muse who apparently has been vacationing in the Bahamas. Her plane is scheduled to arrive at 7:30 tonight.

Now that my lunch time is over I need to get back to work. Unfortunately I forgot to actually eat some lunch. Damn …

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