Minor League Spotlight: High Heels On The Field

This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com

After a mid-season break, the Minor League Spotlight has returned with a focus on a writer that every fan of Minor League Baseball should be aware of and should be “following”!

If you use the social network of Twitter to find out the latest news and stories coming out of minor league baseball, Jessica Quiroli is a must-follow. Her Twitter account, Heels On The Field, is a shortened name of her blog, High Heels On The Field.

On Twitter and through her own blog, Jessica has become a valuable source for news and tidbits throughout MiLB. You can find her re-tweeting interesting news items such as Koby Clemens(son of long time MLB pitcher Roger Clemens) cranking two home runs in a game, or writing up an article on the talented young player in a way to bring him out from beneath his father’s legacy.

While she focuses some of her articles on the Trenton Thunder, there are many articles featuring players and teams from throughout the minor leagues. She provides a blend of writing that isn’t tied to just providing player updates. In some articles, she showcases players moving from one level to the next, like Matt Rizzoti of the Reading Phillies. In another she reviews the latest book to hit the newsstands that focuses on life in the minors, current Toronto Blue Jays minor leaguer Dirk Haywurst’s “The Bullpen Gospels”.

Jessica Quiroli’s strong daily twitter presence and in depth coverage through her blog are a must-read for any fan of the game. Jessica took some time last week to answer a few questions for the Minor League Spotlight.

Baseball Digest.com: How did you end up covering MiLB, and what path led you to write about baseball?

Jessica Quiroli: I started covering MiLB from the start of my career. I started writing for Scout.com at the same time I was writing a screenplay. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I just felt an immediate passion for it. After I visited Scranton (Phillies affiliate at the time), I did a couple of assignments at Reading and I was hooked.

My interest in baseball was always there, but I never thought I could be a baseball writer. I just knew I loved writing and baseball. My heart led me down that path. It wasn’t something I knew from childhood. I was just always very creative and always received attention for my writing. At a certain point, I realized writing about baseball was like an extension of myself. It was so natural, I couldn’t believe it took me as long to figure it out. It’s why I never discourage anyone from pursuing that or anything else they get an idea to try.

BD.com: Covering minor league ball, you’ve interviewed a number of ballplayers on their way to the big leagues. Have you had a chance to interview any players before and after they’ve reached the big leagues?

JQ: I don’t cover MLB often. Mainly I interview MLB players for Junior Baseball and that’s just a few times a season. The only thing that comes to mind is getting to know Twins reliever Alex Burnett last season and watching him get better and better at the Double-A level. Then when I covered Twins spring training, he was at big league camp. He’d received an invite. I found him to be the exact same guy and so focused. That’s what you want to see: young players who remain the same, even as their opportunity is happening. I’ve dealt with guys who’ve gotten sent up and back and some of them can’t handle it. Mike Zagurski is a guy who has such vitality and a working-class attitude that no matter how many times the Phillies bring him up and send him back, he keeps the same focus and determination. And he’s the nicest guy on earth. He doesn’t seem to get down on himself or feel put out by the process.

BD.com: You also cover affiliated baseball and independent league baseball, what would you say is the greatest difference between these levels?

JQ: The difference between independent league and affiliated is huge. I cannot overstate that. I spent a full season with the Atlantic City Surf and also did some coverage of the Worcester Tornadoes. Money is the obvious difference. But the mood is also different. You see their sadness sometimes. I remember after a game I was out with a few of the players having dinner. They had just lost a tough game, it was a blown save. The closer looks at me and says, “You know, sometimes I hate baseball.” I’ll never forget that. I realized that a lot of them were caught in confusion about their futures. They expected to play baseball for a living, they thought they could and it’s all they’ve ever really been good at. But as one coach at the independent level told me, good isn’t good enough for them. And if they can’t be better than good, it’s going to be extremely difficult. At the MiLB level there’s a ton of hope and promise. There’s more of a feeling that something bigger is possible.

BD.com: Baseball Digest.com has had a number of features this season that highlight women working in baseball, in particular Norm Coleman’s “Woman In Baseball” series. Though we live in 2010, would you say there remains a huge difference dealing with players and members of the media based on gender?

JQ: There are always going to be players and men in the industry who don’t take women seriously. I know when I walk into a MILB clubhouse, I’m likely going to be the only woman and that’s usually the case in the press box as well. I expect it with players a bit more. But when it’s a colleague that’s disrespectful to me, it’s more disappointing. When I’ve dealt with that, I’ve gotten very angry and I won’t tolerate it. Women in this industry can tend to be worse. They aren’t particularly supportive and encouraging of each other. There’s a lot of jealousy and judging. I really wish women in the industry would see the value of having one another’s backs, but if I could tell young women anything who want to do this for a living, it’s to have a great sense of humor and also put your emotional armor on. Be tough or you won’t make it. Don’t expect them to respect you when you walk in the clubhouse. Just do your job to the best of your ability and that’s all you need to know at the end of the day. And Have. Fun.

BD.com: Eri Yoshida’s pitching with the Chico Outlaws of the Golden Baseball League, the first woman in nearly a decade to play professionally. Do you think we’ll see a woman reach the major leagues?

JQ: I don’t have the highest expectations of women playing at the Major League level. In many ways, I like that women have their own sport. I wish it got more attention and interest. But I think softball has gotten more exposure and respect in the last decade, due to Cat Osterman and Jennie Finch. Those girls have so much physical power and I am thrilled little girls see young women that could give any boy a run for the money.

BD.com: You’re a force on Twitter, with more than 1,600 followers and nearly 18,000 tweets. How has the social network helped you in reaching a new audience and has it helped at all with reaching out to players and teams that use the social networks?

JQ: I was a reluctant Twitter participant. I thought it was just people wasting time. Then I realized how useful a tool it is in receiving and sharing baseball information. It has helped me professionally and I never feel out of the loop. Getting accurate information is the most important thing, so there has to be caution. I’ve reached a lot of new readers who see what I have to say on Twitter and decide to read my blog. I think it’s a trust builder. If people get an idea of how knowledgeable and interesting you are as a writer on Twitter, they’re going to look at other things you do and take your opinion seriously.

A big thank you to Jessica for taking time to answer a few questions for the Minor League Spotlight!

With the dog days of summer upon us, we will undoubtedly turn to “Heels On The Field” for the latest news coming out of minor league baseball.

Previous Spotlights:

Stay Tuned: Keep an eye on Baseball Digest.com for an all-new Minor League Spotlight next week featuring the Mets Single A affiliate, the Brooklyn Cyclones! The article will feature a few photos from a recent trip made to MCU Park in Coney Island!

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