Elliott’s day to shine

Bob Elliott finally received the recognition he deserved on Tuesday morning when the Baseball Writers’ Association of America named him the winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious service to the profession. Elliott becomes the first Canadian to win the award and he will be honoured at the annual National Baseball Hall of Fame induction weekend ceremonies on July 21-22 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Please take a moment to read my colleague Barry Bloom’s article on Elliott to get some insight into his career and how he evolved into one of the game’s best reporters. I won’t get into too much of that here because it’s covered elsewhere but I wanted to take a few minutes to share my personal story about Elliott and how he had a direct impact on what I do for a living.

I began to closely follow Elliott’s work in the mid-90s. When I was growing up in Saint John, New Brunswick, I wasn’t exactly exposed to a lot of quality sports journalism. Sure, I subscribed to Sports Illustrated and occasionally was able to find a Baseball Weekly at a local convenience store but for the most part I didn’t have access to the day-to-day coverage that normally comes from the big daily newspapers.

All of that changed when I was in middle school and my parents got the internet — suddenly I could read the complete sports sections of the Toronto newspapers. Even though I was 1,300 kilometers away I was able to follow the Blue Jays just like everyone in Ontario could and it became part of my daily routine to read up on what was new with the club.

This was around the time when I really started to pay close attention to Elliott’s work. It never ceased to amaze me the amount of sources he had and the inside information he was able to pass along to his readers. I couldn’t get enough of the rumours as he consistently beat his competitors to gather intel around the trade deadline and of course the Winter Meetings.

What became clear over the years is that Elliott was one of the most connected writers this country has ever known. He successfully became an insider by developing relationships with scouts, front-office personnel and of course players of the team he covered. Perhaps, even more importantly, Elliott was a crusader for Baseball Canada. He made sure the national program received an appropriate amount of coverage and in my opinion he did an incredible job growing the game inside the great country of ours.

A couple of years after I started following Elliott’s work I began to contemplate my own future in journalism. I had no idea how to get started and whether it was even a realistic dream for a kid growing up in the Maritimes to cover a Major League Baseball team. So, in an effort to answer some of the many questions I had, I reached out to Mr. Elliott. I emailed him asking him for recommendations of universities, tips on how to improve my writing, how to get published, etc etc.

Thankfully, Elliott took the time to respond with a well thought out answer. In fact he replied several times over the next few months and played a big role in helping me decide exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I put off getting a journalism degree until grad school but I used my time at St. Francis Xavier University to build up my portfolio and freelance to as many newspapers as I possibly could.

When I finally arrived in Toronto during the fall of 2005 it wasn’t lost on me how much of an impact Elliott had on my career. To him, I was probably just one of hundreds of kids who emailed him with questions but I wanted him to know that the fact he took the time to reach out helped guide me along the way. So I emailed with details of how I arrived in Toronto to chase the journalism dream — he replied again and it’s an email I still have in my Inbox six years later.

“Gregor:

Thanks very much for the nice note. It is a keeper. Sounds like StFX kept you busy.

That’s the ticket — getting your stories published in Telegraph Journal. Hope you kept the clips, so you can use them down-the-road job applications.

Keep chasing the dream and good luck.”

I eventually had the opportunity to work with Elliott during my time with the Toronto Sun. That continued on the Blue Jays beat after I decided to leave the Sun for MLB.com. He’s a man that I will always respect and someone I largely credit with helping me take my own path in this career. It might seem overly simplistic to him, but if he didn’t take the time to respond to me then it’s possible I wouldn’t have been convinced this was the right path for me to take.

Many thanks go out to him and it’s a well-deserved day of recognition for one of Canada’s best.

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