Focus on less obvious plays

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To cover any sport, you need to understand its subtleties. Any schmuck knows that a pinch-hit grand slam is a big play, as is a last-second 3-pointer, or an 80-yard touchdown pass. But what led to these decisive plays? Did the batter fight off several good pitches before drilling the homer? Did someone set a great pick to allow the 3-pointer? And did the fullback fill in a hole to block a linebacker and allow the pass to be thrown?

Tyler Kepner focuses on some of these subtleties in the New York Times’ Bats blog and in his Yankees’ game story. In Bats, Kepner lists seven rules posted on the Yankees’ Class AAA clubhouse wall – sort of a guiding principles for anyone wanting to make it to New York. Sports reporters should also take note of these while covering games – run hard every step to a base (even on easy grounders), back up one another in the field, and turn bases hard (to put pressure on opposing defenses.) These little things often prove the difference in a game but are seldom reported, especially when they take place in an early inning.

Kepner addresses the final rule on the list (go in hard and break up double plays) in his game story, chronicling how Mark Teixeira’s efforts on the bases enabled the Yankees to rout the Rangers on Tuesday night.

The Texas Rangers’ Vicente Padilla had drilled Teixeira twice, the second time to load the bases with one out and the score tied. Teixeira took his revenge with a smart bit of hardball, sliding aggressively at second base to avert a double play, bring home the go-ahead run and prolong the pivotal inning of the Yankees’ 12-3 victory.

“It was a good coincidence,” Teixeira said. “There’s no way to retaliate as a player, but when you have a chance to extend an inning by breaking up two, it’s a good play.”

The Yankees scored seven runs in the fourth inning, including six after Padilla plunked Teixeira.

Look for these less obvious plays that make coaches and managers smile even when fans do not recognize them. That’s one way to stand out – and make it to the big leagues – as a reporter.

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