When I started this site in 2009 it took less than a month from the idea to the launch of the site.
Had I known this would be my job a decade later, I might have put more thought into that launch, trying to project out what the site could become. It’s not that rushing the site prevented anything, but it did make it hell along the way.
I announced last year that I’d be launching Pittsburgh Baseball Network this year. In some shred of wisdom, I said that PBN would be opening “in 2020”, and despite my best efforts to try and get specific dates along the way, I’ve mostly stuck to the “in 2020” timeline.
The reason for the delay? This time I know where this site is going. I know the plans I have for it. I know the expansions we’re making in 2021, 2022, 2023, and all the way up beyond 2030. (You watch enough MCU movies and you start to operate like Kevin Feige.)
Of course, that’s not guaranteed at all, but that has never stopped me before. I heard from those closest to me in 2009 that I was crazy for thinking a site covering the Pittsburgh Pirates and their farm system would work.
At the time I had no job, no resources, no car, no house, and I lived in a small town best known for having a ton of massive factories surrounded by endless farmland.
Five years later I was renting a condo ten minutes away from one of the best beaches in America, owning my own car, and making double what I previously made in my former job.
The ones closest to me suddenly knew all along I was going to make it like this. They never had any doubts at all, and absolutely never said repeatedly in 2009 and 2010 that “it’s time to go get a job at the Target Distribution Center,” which ironically I tried to do and failed the endurance test after just three years of being a sports writer.
Although, being a sports writer for 13 years now, and being around a lot of other sports writers, I’ve seen enough of the lifestyle to know that “rapidly declining health” isn’t really an ironic result. It’s a job perk.
I knew this site would make it, even before others did. I knew I could make it and support myself, even in that first year when I literally made $462 in revenue for 365 days of writing multiple posts a day.
By the time I “made it,” an idea was in my head that would ultimately lead to the decline of this site: What can I do for others?
I was in an industry where people were desperate for work, with few opportunities to break in. Massive companies like Vox were getting free labor from sites like Bucs Dugout, benefiting from the daily hard work of people who wanted to write about their team.
The idea of “reach down and pick the crowd up” is not a novel idea. It was my driving force.
Truthfully, I didn’t want to be a sports writer. It was fun, but my main motivation was getting out of my small town so that I could have a shot at something in life. Once I made it on that path — a path others struggle with daily — I felt extreme guilt. People were dedicating their lives to this and not making it. I didn’t even want this specific job and I made it.
So I foolishly tried to run a media outlet as I thought it should be run, giving others a platform and paying them fairly for their work.
I emptied my 401K in 2014 to make sure we could cover the playoffs, but also so I could pay our MLB writers for added coverage through the end of the year.
I traded in every collectible industry on the side from 2015-onward to supplement the site’s income and still manage to pay people for their work. I was getting offers to write for bigger outlets at $20-25 an article, while paying my own writers $50 an article because I’m an idiot who dies on principles.
And then the Pirates started to suck again and the biggest issues started revealing themselves.
I was covering an organization with a declining customer base, and my customer base was directly linked.
That baseball organization was run by a billionaire who demonstrated no knowledge of what was going on in his own sport or his own organization. Not the best company to anchor your own company to.
I was getting more and more emails from people who were trimming the budget, and while the stock market told us that the economy was fine, over half the country was in debt and more and more of my customers couldn’t afford $3.99 a month. And let’s be honest: No one needs baseball coverage, especially baseball prospect coverage. It’s entertainment and meaningless in the long-term. Although, I think we’ve seen in the last few months that there is a value to entertainment and escaping the crazy world — if you can afford to do so.
While all of this was going on, I kept paying my writers. It eventually reached a point in June 2018 when everything was falling apart. Our renewal base is strongest at the start of the MLB season, and we saw a massive decline in subscriptions that year. I finally got to a point where I couldn’t pay my writers.
I ended up paying all of them what I promised, eventually making the decision to stop paying my mortgage so that I could pay others instead. And in March this year, Fifth Third Bank — a company I’ve never entered into an agreement with — bought my house for $100 in an auction that lasted two minutes.
This was all after I tried to sell the house for $30,000 more than I bought it for. And then when it came time to close, the bank that purchased my loan from a smaller bank tacked on tens of thousands of dollars in lawyer fees — enough to remove any equity I had in the house, and leave me $4,000 short, thus blocking the sale.
This country is a fucked up place.
If you have money, you can be as inept and uncaring as you want, and nothing will ever come of it.
If you don’t have money, you need to get creative, and even then, the margins are slim. And this is only if you want to help yourself. Good luck trying to help others.
Life is a game you can’t win.
But I fucking love a challenge.
Here’s the thing: When you’ve had nothing, you realize that very little matters. A house, a car — these are things. It’s stuff. They make new ones all the time, you can always find values with the old ones, and ultimately you’re probably not going to have either for longer than 5 years before moving on to the next one. That’s especially true if you’re under a certain age right now.
When you’ve had nothing, what you realize is that what matters most are people.
My goal for this site has always been helping people, whether that’s providing opportunity for those who don’t have it, or providing entertainment for those who need an escape.
I won’t say I’m good at either one, but I’ve tried my best.
I’m also a fucking fool in the classic sense of the word.
I’m going to keep trying. Because I know I can find a way to support myself doing whatever I want to do. Having no respect for money makes that very easy.
That’s not what Pittsburgh Baseball Network is going to be about. It’s not just going to be a site where I can support myself and my family. I’ve got other ideas for that. This site will be my next attempt at what I’ve been trying all along: Providing upcoming writers an opportunity and providing readers with a brief escape from the real world.
Pittsburgh Baseball Network will launch in 2020.
If all goes well, it will launch in July of 2020. (Hey, that’s this week!)
I’ve been reviewing every decision and every stage of Pirates Prospects over the last decade, trying to figure out what I can do better the next time, while still maintaining the same goals. I’ve had a lot of mistakes to review, but a lot of things that went right, which I’d like to continue doing.
I’m extremely excited for what we’ve got planned, and I’ll have more information for you this week leading up to the release, every day in this First Pitch article.
Pittsburgh Baseball Network is coming soon.
**We will have at least five articles today, including the one you’re currently reading. If any news comes up we will have more. The other scheduled articles for today are as follows:
This Date in Pittsburgh Pirates History – Pirates acquire Carson Bigbee, who would spend 11 seasons with the team.
The One Who Got Away – Jack Pfiester was once a member of the Pirates. They gave up on him way too early and he went on to put up one of the best career ERA’s in Major League history.
1979 Season Recap – Pirates take on the Montreal Expos in a doubleheader.
Live Game Discussion – Pirates are at PNC Park for their home opener tonight. Steven Brault is on the mound against the Milwaukee Brewers
Hope everyone has a great Monday!
SONG OF THE DAY