We have dozens of women covering pro and college sports for our team brands here at SB Nation. Meet one of those talented writers, Jen Rainwater, AKA Baseball Jen, who writes for our Oakland Athletics blog, Athletics Nation.
Why are you so passionate about baseball and the Athletics?
My grandparents raised my mother and her brothers in Pittsburgh during the 1950’s and 1960’s. My grandmother in particular loved baseball, and my mom remembers her always having the windows open in the summer while she was cleaning or ironing and she’d always have the Pirates game on the radio. Often my grandfather would get tickets to Forbes Field from his work, and my grandmother would take my mother to see her favorite player —Roberto Clemente — on a pretty regular basis.
They moved to Houston in the late 1960’s, and my grandmother would always say she “adopted” the Astros as her “new boys.” My mother, who did not want to move at 16, said she never embraced anything that had to do with Houston, but bring up Nolan Ryan, and the first words out of her mouth are always, “He should have gone into the Hall of Fame as an Astro.” Clearly, she was paying attention. I have my first memories of the game when I was about to turn two — watching the game from my high chair in my grandmother’s living room in my Astros bib, and my grandma pointed to the screen to show me who Nolan Ryan was.
We moved to California when I was almost four, and my parents took me to the A’s game for my birthday — not one of us ever looked back. We have all been die hard A’s fans since 1985. I remember we’d go to games often when I was a kid — the ‘88, ‘89 (especially, and it has nothing to do with the earthquake that rocked the Bay Area, although I remember that too — it has to do with one word: SWEEP!) and ‘90 World Series are especially vivid memories, even though I watched them from home.
Around the year 2000 my parents came home from a game and announced they had decided to get A’s season tickets. We’ve had the same tickets ever since and have not missed a spring training trip to Arizona to see the A’s since, as we have also not missed a postseason home game. It appears we may be headed towards a few of those this year, and even though I now live two hours outside of the Bay Area, I WILL be at every single one (even if I have to live at my parents’ for the month of October! If it was the entire month - I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t mind!). Even though I have moved and my attendance at games has dropped from approximately 60 to 30 a season, I always watch every single A’s game, which is exactly what I am doing right now!
What has been your favorite experience covering the A’s for Athletics Nation?
I had been a member of Athletics Nation for a number of years, but never had really interacted with the rest of the community. Now I have more A’s fan friends, everyone is very cool, and even if someone’s giving you a hard time, it’s always playful and all in jest! I love the team at AN, everyone is supportive and always helping each other out, which is a nice change from other places I have written previously.
What are some of the unique challenges you’ve faced?
The main challenge I’ve had since starting with AN in March were learning to write to a new and different audience. I’m used to writing about the A’s, but having always had to gear it to a national audience when I had to learn to remember to write less, give less background information because the people that are reading your writing are HUGE, DEDICATED A’s FAnAtics and the chance that they don’t already know the background information I was used to providing to the random reader is extremely slim. I still get sucked into that pattern from time to time but it has become easier as the season has passed by.
How did you start writing for A’s Nation?
Back around 2012 I started a baseball blog of my own — my first few posts were awful as I struggled to learn to write blog posts instead of television copy or a short prep sports piece for the local newspaper. When I look back, I can see just how bad those first posts really were, but after a few months I got offered an unpaid position at a blog called Sports Unbiased. About a year later I began working as the managing editor of FanSided’s Call to the Pen and wrote as a featured columnist on their national site. During the next few years I also wrote as a columnist at FanRag Sports while doing freelance projects on the side. I was talking to my editor one day on LinkedIn and he thought he might have a spot for me, as he’d read my pieces on Oakland and knew I was knowledgeable. I left FanSided and started writing for Athletics Nation and I love it! Sometimes I miss writing about other teams, so one day I aspire to write at both Athletics Nation and on SB Nation’s national site.
What women in the industry do you look up to?
Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle is my professional hero. I met her for the first time in 2002 when I was an intern with a TV station that televised the A’s broadcasts. She was always helpful and never looked down at anyone — including me — and I still know her today! What I think is most impressive, besides her amazing work ethic and knack for interviewing players and always getting the latest inside scoop before anyone else, is that she was the first female President of the the Baseball Writers Association of America. That to me is incredible, and it’s even more incredible that I can call her my friend. It blows my mind.
Jessica Mendoza also comes to mind. I admire the way in which she handled all the scrutiny of being the first female to be in the booth calling a postseason game or being the first to work on Sunday Night Baseball. I’ve had my fair share of haters on the internet, but some of the things written about her were awful (so were some of mine but they weren’t being seen nationwide!). She took it all in stride, brushed off the haters like they were next to nothing, and did an amazing job as an a baseball analyst in the booth, more than holding her own with the men she was working with.