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Monday, December 5, 2022

First Pitch: No Country For Old Bloggers

“I was sheriff of this county when I was twenty-five years old. Hard to believe.

“My grandfather was a lawman; father too. Me and him was sheriffs at the same time; him up in Plano and me out here. I think he’s pretty proud of that. I know I was. Some of the old time sheriffs never even wore a gun. A lotta folks find that hard to believe. Jim Scarborough’d never carried one; that’s the younger Jim. Gaston Boykins wouldn’t wear one up in Comanche County. I always liked to hear about the oldtimers. Never missed a chance to do so. You can’t help but compare yourself against the oldtimers. Can’t help but wonder how they would have operated these times.

“It’s not that I’m afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this job. But, I don’t want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don’t understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard.

“He’d have to say, ‘O.K., I’ll be part of this world.'”

-Ed Tom Bell, No Country For Old Men

*****

This is a job of passion.

This is a job of pain.

I think success in anything is all about finding the right balance.

We are all built with the capability of doing many things in life. At some point, we pick a path and go with it. We can continue to add possibilities along the way, but we can never advance in life until we decide “This is what I think I can do, and this is how I think I can do it.”

At least, that’s how it was for me.

I started this site in 2009 as a passion project. There was a lot of pain involved in getting it off the ground.

I grew up a fan of the Baltimore Orioles, following Cal Ripken Jr. It’s always a shock when I say I wasn’t a Pirates fan. I did follow the team, since my dad was from Pittsburgh, but I always followed the Orioles first.

The Orioles won the World Series the year I was born, and some of my earliest memories in life were at Memorial Stadium at a very young age. I feel like every baseball fan, if they dig deep enough, can remember the first moment they came online in a stadium at a young age and became aware of their surroundings. How sprawling the landscape of people appeared, and how loud the event was. It’s one of the first times in life when you say “Holy shit there are a lot of people here!”

By 2015, this site was recording over 10 million page views a year, and I was like “Holy shit there are a lot of people here!”

I was living in a condo about five miles from some of the best beaches in the country, and I was spending all of my time focused on baseball. I’m not a beach person, but I did want a life outside of baseball. It was taking too much of my energy to keep up with declining advertising rates. I decided to try turning this into a subscription site. That worked better than I had hoped.

From 2015-2018, this site had enough revenue to turn into a hodgepodge small media outlet. We had contributors at every level of the Pirates’ system, and the new subscription revenue allowed me to visit every team for extended looks. By 2017-18, I was starting to play around with the idea of the coverage you are seeing on the site this year.

I was also approaching burnout from trying to be a reporter and trying to run a growing site, while pouring everything into coverage. I didn’t take a break. I just changed and increased my responsibilities. I also took photos, videos, and was responsible for thinking about the future of the site.

I had to scale back and hope the site would survive. I needed to decide whether I was going to continue to report — which may have meant the end of the site at that point — or run the site and see how it did without me.

What complicated things was that the Pirates were starting to bleed fans. I saw almost a decade of steady growth on this site before the rollercoaster released at the top of the hill and the freefall began.

There’s that moment at the start of that drop where you’re not sure where the bottom might be on the ride down. I wrote about this in 2018, in a post that was picked up by Awful Announcing. I’m happy that this was over four years ago, because sometimes it feels like yesterday. I’m also happy that we were able to pay our writers from that time.

Pirates Prospects post shows challenges for subscription sites, need to deliver value vs. “support us or we’ll die”

In those four years, I decided on the future of Pirates Prospects.

Oh, and I did some growing along the way.

First Pitch continues below…

FUQUAY VINYL PLAYLIST

Each week in First Pitch, I give you a playlist of music for the week. This week I went MF DOOM heavy.

In 2019, I started getting into vinyl records. I spent the next year trying to buy as many of my favorites as I could. By the end of 2020, I had picked up my first two MF DOOM albums, including his collaboration with Danger Mouse, which was my favorite of his at the time. I listened to DOOM a bit during my college years, but prior to listening to vinyl records, I never really sat down and listened to many artists in full.

A few weeks after picking those albums up, it was announced that DOOM, aka Daniel Dumile, had passed away.

I spent all of 2021 diving into his entire musical career, including alter-ego projects King Ghidra, Viktor Vaughn, Madvillain, and some of his collabs later in life with younger artists.

It was during this process that I got inspiration and started envisioning Pirates Prospects in a different way, almost like a music project. This has always been old school grunge and hip hop style. I’m a guy with a business degree and a ton of knowledge about baseball. I’ve spent the last 14 seasons training on how to be a reporter and testing the limits of this site. I don’t want to work for the asshole who runs the Post-Gazette. Honestly, he couldn’t afford me.

We’re still the bloggers.

We’re still the artists.

We’re still the villains.

And as such, we play by a different set of rules.

This week’s playlist includes some of my favorite artists and villains.

First Pitch continues below…

THE CAT IS STILL ALIVE

Ed Tom Bell: How many of those things you got now?

Ellis: Cats? Several. Well, depends what you mean by got. Some are half-wild and some are just outlaws.

*****

I’ve been on the road for about a month. I’ve been spending the last few days with my cats.

While every other outlet writes off the Pirates and shifts gears into Steelers coverage, we’re just tuning up.

Our Altoona coverage has been featured on the homepage for a few weeks, with Anthony Murphy helping me with the pitching side of that coverage. Anthony has been doing an amazing job this year with P2Daily and the Pirates DVR to boost the daily coverage.

Behind the scenes, my plan with this site is to make Anthony the next me, being the main prospect voice on this site — while my job is to make things easier for both of us to produce this site.

I’ve been testing different approaches for the site this year, and the best approach has limited reporting and more production from me. We’ve always been a content factory, and the challenge with this site has always been best presenting that content, then monetizing it. Those two go hand-in-hand.

This year we have developed a new approach to coverage, lined up to the days of the week. The new Pirates Prospects is broken into three segments:

P2Daily: Every morning we catch you up on what happened throughout the system the day prior, with reports on the MLB and minor league games, along with video highlights and a daily discussion area.

P2Weekly: This is a work in progress that will lock in with a schedule by the offseason. Each day we will have a different feature. For example: First Pitch on Monday (Today!) and Ethan Hullihen’s payroll updates every Friday.

Premium: Our subscribers get our premium reporting, with article drops every Tuesday during the offseason. These come from our live reporting, and the subscriptions help to pay for the live coverage. You can subscribe here and support our work, while getting access to the Altoona and upcoming Greensboro articles.

The 2022 Guide: This will be my offseason summary of where the Pirates are in their rebuild, with reports on every player in the system.

*****

Wendell: That’s very linear, Sheriff.

Ed Tom Bell: Well, age will flatten a man.

*****

After the 2018 season, I decided to rebuild.

The Pirates weren’t changing their plans, and weren’t heading in the right direction. I needed to see how this site would do without me writing and reporting. I also needed to see how the site would do with the Pirates showing no signs of hope. Both tests felt essential to future doomsday scenarios.

Then came the pandemic. As the world was shutting down, I was realizing that I had nothing to worry about. We still had readers, and we still knew how to produce content for you to follow. I wasn’t reporting yet, and nervously used this time to test the low end of this site. If it died, it would die. If it didn’t, it never would. By June 2020, I decided to take a week off, smoke weed non-stop while alone at my house, write down every site idea I had on post-it notes, and put them in order for a plan on my dining room window.

Phase One of that plan just completed.

Not exactly as I originally drew it up, but with the same original intent, with the coverage outlined above and the start of a site that is bigger than myself.

Along the way I learned an important lesson about plans: They’re almost useless.

You can’t plan for anything in a world where a new pandemic can hit any moment, and we are always in that world now. The only way to survive is to adapt, and that’s how it’s always been. The only way to maintain adaptability is to have a streamlined process.

This is our 14th season covering this team. This site has outlasted the front office that inspired its formation. It has outlasted dozens of Pirates writers across the traditional news outlets. It’s outlasted some of the news outlets that existed at its formation. Adaptability has always been a key to this site remaining visible in the massive universe that surrounds the Pittsburgh Pirates.

At this point, I know that this site will survive as long as I have a plan for it.

*****

“You know Charlie Walser’s, got that place out east of Sanderson? Well, you know how they used to slaughter beeves, hit ’em right there with a maul, truss ’em up and slit their throats? Here, ol’ Charlie’s got one all trussed up, all set to drain him and the beef comes to, starts thrashing around. Six hundred pounds of very pissed-off livestock. If you’ll excuse the… Well… Charlie grabs the gun there, shoot the damn thing in the head, but with all the swingin’ and the thrashin’, it’s a glance-shot, ricochets around, comes back and hits Charlie in the shoulder. You go see Charlie, he still can’t pick up his right hand for his hat… The point bein’, that even in the contest between man and steer, the issue is not certain.”- Ed Tom Bell

*****

Last week I finished my coverage for the 2022 season, spending four days in Greensboro.

During this time, I acted in four different roles.

Producer.

Editor.

Reporter.

Photographer.

I can already tell you that David Hague is a much better photographer than I ever could be. That’s why he’s been shooting for our site for almost a decade, and received our entire photo budget this year. That will continue, and the budget will grow until we can make him full-time. He’s one of the most talented photographers in Pittsburgh, and I’m happy that this site allows him to pursue his passion, while allowing us to showcase his work.

I was always the reporter on the site. I’ve been working with Anthony Murphy on his reporting skills. No one trained me how to be a reporter. I was essentially trained by the Pirates’ old development system — and I got a unique, up close look at their development methods as a result.

My role next year will be the editor and producer of the site, which is what it has been for most of this year. Eventually, this role will be split, and I will be producing the site only. My coverage will change with the new role, with less frequent writing, but bigger topics.

We had this system in place in 2018, but it relied on me being the reporter, and I didn’t know how to make the adjustment at the time. The problem is that this site was built as a passion project, and along the way we’ve added people with the same passion.

We’ve been supported by people with the same passion.

That passion is baseball.

Your reason for following baseball may vary. A lot of people following this site are Pirates fans who are hoping for a winning season, and rather than giving up, they’ve joined like-minded fans in searching for signs deep in the system that things will get better.

Next year will be the 15th season of this site’s existence in some capacity, providing a place for you to dig in deep on Pirates information.

Today, we enter Phase Two of the site’s rebuild.

That’s where I combine my business degree (I feel like I get to use this for the first time!), my experience in this industry, and the combined experience of all of the people I’ve talked with along the way.

There will be weed involved in this combination process.

The end result will be an amazing offseason of coverage of this system, along with a brand new approach in 2023 for our 15th season.

That will be the first season where I will be comfortable sitting back and letting other people tell you about these players.

But you won’t be able to keep me away from writing about this system.

This is a passion project, after all.

I think we’ve all learned how to ignore the pain of the Pittsburgh Pirates at this point to preserve this unique spot in the matrix.

*****

“Well all the time ya spend trying to get back what’s been took from ya, more is going out the door. After a while you just have to try to get a tourniquet on it.” – Ellis

*****

Typically on First Pitch, I have other sections that are about the team. I’m shifting the purpose of the article a bit while we unload the season-ending coverage.

I’m also working on the personal side to get into my offseason life routine. I’ll have more on that in next week’s First Pitch.

Tomorrow I’ll have my first batch of articles from Greensboro. I can’t tell you what they are right now, but I can tell you that I’m really looking to follow up strong on my Altoona series.

Those Altoona articles were some of the best I’ve written in a long time, at least in terms of having fun and presenting information. That has always been the goal.

I’m looking to one-up those articles with my Greensboro look. I think Anthony is already gearing up to show you what he can do again.

Check back tomorrow afternoon for this week’s article drop.

I’m going to get back to crafting my new offseason production schedule.

That’s entirely designed to give you something entertaining to read each day on this site, 365 days a year.

Support our work here:

https://piratesprospects.com/subscribe

*****

Ed Tom Bell: What is it Torbert says about truth and justice?

Sheriff Bell’s Secretary: Oh… we dedicate ourselves daily anew. Somethin’ like that.

Ed Tom Bell: I’m gonna commence dedicatin’ myself twice daily. Might come to three times before it’s over with.

+ posts

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

SUPPORT PIRATES PROSPECTS

Pirates Prospects has been independently owned and operated since 2009, entirely due to the support of our readers. The site is now completely free, funded entirely by user support. By supporting the site, you are supporting independent writers, one of the best Pittsburgh Pirates communities online, and our mission for the most complete Pirates coverage available.

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tventimiglio

I like a lot of your writing and enjoy the site. I could do without the comments about marijuana.

ArkyWags

Is this a moralizing about weed comment?

Last edited 2 months ago by ArkyWags
tventimiglio

Its a fact about paying for content that I have zero interest in. I don’t care what anyone does, but, I don’t want to pay for content related to this. It happens regular here. Smoke until your heart desires. I don’t care about hat, your sex life, your politics. . I can subscribe to other sites to discuss any of those things.

pikebishop65

“$40 dollars of your time. I teach economics Tim and thank you for giving me an example of “Normal Profit”

Catch_22

We’re in the year 2022. Tim isn’t some burned out pothead. He’s using for anxiety and pain management.

docdon385

Have you ever known or met a “burned out pothead?” I never have myself and personally doubt they exist. I’ve known quite a few whose lives, as well as the lives of those around them, were ruined by alcohol though.

NMR

Doc, meet NMR.

Catch_22

hahahahahahaha. I was there back in the day. The good ol days

tventimiglio

I have no issue with your consumption. I don’t recall posts related to alcohol but would feel the same way. We’re paying for baseball content, not advocacy of MJ or anecdotal stories of use of it or alcohol. There is a separation of private lives and business. Here’s an example. I am currently being treated for prostate cancer a 2nd time. My clients are totally unaware. My job is to help solve problems for them, not to share my personal story. A blog devoted to your personal beliefs would be more appropriate.

tventimiglio

Rules are imposed by the customer. If you lose 1 due to your childish desire to do what you want it is too many.

tventimiglio

Okay. Just tell yourself. You’re the only one that buys it.
I’ll stack my success against anyone.

Last edited 2 months ago by tventimiglio
tventimiglio

Ok, then why the comments about the belief of the unsuccessful. Keep telling yourself your lies. You fail to deal with reality.

tventimiglio

Additionally, what value to any customer did your comment about weed provide in this article?

tventimiglio

Just foolish. It has nothing to do with being below anyone. People get money for their craft because it is superior, not because they are below. You’ve begged for donations here for years but claim not to need money. Yeah, you need it, we all do. After not subscribing for years i took a leap again because I enjoy the writing about the prospects and the team. Keep telling your customers fuck you. You’ll be homeless. You lost one here already as I wont be renewing. You’ve turned a brief opinion into a personal vendetta to prove you’re right. You missed.

Last edited 2 months ago by tventimiglio
gosteelers69

I’m also a big proponent of marijuana for the very reasons you stated.

docdon385

I’m with you 100% Tim. I’m not a big proponent of grass and don’t usually find the need for it personally, but I know people who are and do. It’s certainly much more benign than alcohol and tends to mellow and calm rather than inflame and provoke.

It has a long history of being demonized usually for one political reason or another including in1972 during the Nixon administration when it was classified as a Schedule I narcotic as a way of trying to get back at and disrupt the pot smoking hippies who opposed him. John Ehrlichman directly said as much in a 1994 interview. It has a lot longer history than just that, but this is not the place.

Despite a lot of trying, it’s never been proven to be a dangerous substance unless used excessively and nearly anything can be dangerous if over used, even water.

mpg43952

Oh, Cormac McCarthy. If you’re going to borrow, borrow from the best.

ArkyWags

I’ve either loved or couldn’t stand his books. Almost no in between.

mpg43952

Like Neil Young in the ’80’s – one concert you’d love, the next you’d shake your head and wonder what’s going on. Sign of a real artist!

mpg43952

That was a good book. “The Road” is also a fine McCarthy book.

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