Monday, December 31, 2018

That's a wrap on telling the stories of 2018

Mom and me in KC.
I'm always one of those sentimental types that remembers meaningful dates, posts inspirational quotes and photos, and reflects on accomplishments at the end of the year. The 2018 calendar year wasn't always easy, but it was solid from a professional perspective between my fourth season as an in-game social media coordinator with MLB/Minnesota Twins and my work as a freelance sports writer.

The Twins didn't have the success of the 2017 season, but it was another fun year keeping up with the score updates on Twitter. The biggest deal, of course, was Joe Mauer's final game on the last day of the season and then his retirement in the fall. Other than that, I once again traveled to the Twins series in Milwaukee, over the Fourth of July this year. My mom and I also had a fun mother-daughter road trip for a Kansas City series over the summer as well, which was a lot of fun.

I wrote nearly 200 stories, sent thousands of Tweets and posts on social media, wrote two more children's books. I didn't post as much on my blog as I would have liked, but maybe that can be part of my resolutions for 2019! Here are some of my writing experiences from the past year, with linked text to specific stories.

As baseball season rolled into hockey season, I received the opportunity of an expanded role as a Minnesota Hockey Magazine contributor. I'm the primary Minnesota Wild/NHL beat writer for the magazine. With that, I'm credentialed for the season for Wild games and write a few stories a month for both the print magazine and online site.

In the spring I finished up two more children's books through Abdo Publishing that will be out soon: College Basketball Underdog Stories and the Ultimate NASCAR Road Trip.

It's been fun to have access to practices at the Wild's new facility, TRIA Rink in St. Paul. Being able to talk with players and ask questions of coach Bruce Boudreau has been another way to get my feet wet as a journalist and write about the team. I've written features about Zach Parise, Jason Zucker, Nino Niederreiter, Joel Eriksson Ek and even former Wild player-turned front office employee, Ryan Carter.

Minnesota Whitecaps at TRIA Rink.

My role with The Athletic was a little slow for a while, but I found a niche with Minnesota's newest professional team when the Minnesota Whitecaps joined the National Women's Hockey League this fall. The team has been around for years but played its first professional game as part of the NWHL at TRIA (their home rink) on Oct. 6 against the Metropolitan Riveters. I attended both sold-out games and talked with players, fans and the coach to document the inaugural weekend with a feature for The Athletic.

With a 16-game season, the NWHL format is a little different than the NHL. The Whitecaps were the first expansion team to join, making it a five-team league. It's been fun to follow them - most of the players have some kind of connection to Minnesota - throughout their first season, which has been successful so far.

In December, I wrote another piece focused on Whitecaps player, Olympic gold medalist and Hill Murray graduate Hannah Brandt after she practiced with the Wild at TRIA as part of the third annual Girls Hockey Weekend festivities.

Like the past couple of years, I'm still part of the Zone Coverage team. I write weekly about the Wild, plus I branch out here and there. I wrote about the Indianapolis 500 qualifying and race (from home), which was a nice way to write about one of my favorite events and have an outlet to publish.

With the 2018 Winter Olympics, I also wrote a couple of pieces for Zone Coverage about the Team USA women's hockey team and Andover native, Maddie Rooney. Don't forget to subscribe to Zone Coverage using my promo code, HeathWrites.

Mahtomedi Zephyrs - section champs.
My work with the Star Tribune continues, helping out with high school sports coverage including the state girls' hockey tournament, state tennis, state swimming, volleyball, football, basketball and even a fun feature last spring about a sibling track-and-field duo from Osseo High School. With the success of the Gophers women's basketball team last season, I also had the opportunity to cover a bunch of their games and write preview features. I also covered a very exciting section final in boys' basketball last spring, always a good matchup between DeLaSalle and Orono.

I added another couple of newspapers to my byline collection this fall. First, an editor I worked with at the Chicago Tribune moved on to a paper in Indiana - the Northwest Indiana Times - so I picked up a weekly assignment there, putting together a notebook focusing on different local graduates and their accomplishments as collegiate athletes.

Though my work with the Chicago Tribune-Pioneer Press was scaled back as part of other changes within the paper, I still had a couple of bylines with it this year. One was a fun feature where I got to talk with tennis player Caroline Dolehide, originally from the Chicago area and playing on the pro tour.

The NCAA regional volleyball tournament at the University of Minnesota Pavilion presented another opportunity - writing gamers for the Register-Guard in Eugene, Ore. The paper didn't have a reporter make the trip, so it was in need of a local freelancer to help out at the tournament in early December. I covered the regional semifinal between lower-seeded Oregon and home-team/favorite Minnesota. An Oregon upset of Minnesota meant I got to come back the next night and cover the regional final between the Ducks and Nebraska. I covered the NCAA volleyball tournament a few years back, so it was nice to be back again. Plus, the atmosphere during the Gophers match was really fun to witness.

It's been another year of growth and new opportunities, along with the usual routine of watching plenty of sports. Thanks so much for anyone who's followed along with my work on social media or read my stories. I always appreciate it.

Happy 2019!