JUPITER, Fla. -- A day in the life with Heidi Watney -- and really, the entire MLB Network crew -- starts with a little coffee talk.That's to be taken literally. A morning with Watney and her Network comrades involves a lot of conversations that aren't so much about baseball as
JUPITER, Fla. -- A day in the life with Heidi Watney -- and really, the entire MLB Network crew -- starts with a little coffee talk.
That's to be taken literally. A morning with Watney and her Network comrades involves a lot of conversations that aren't so much about baseball as much as they are about coffee. They get to the baseball, eventually, but first, it's really just about java and caffeine and the need to perk up at 7 a.m.
That's to be expected. These are, after all, baseball people. Baseball is generally played at night. Accordingly, the people who play, manage, coach, broadcast, write about and report on baseball are also, by extension, night people.
So Spring Training -- and its early, early mornings -- is a little jarring for just about everyone involved, including the MLB Network folks who traipsed through Florida and Arizona every day throughout March completing their "30 Clubs in 30 Days" series.
There's lots of coffee poured. The first cup Watney consumes is at the hotel's breakfast buffet.
"I have coffee the first thing when I wake up, at 5 in the morning," she said. "And at 7, I'm like, 'Nope, that didn't work. I need another coffee.'"
Enter Al Leiter -- former big league pitcher, current Network analyst and the unofficial vice president of Spring Training java fetching. As if on cue, he pulls up in his car and distributes the orders through his window -- to Watney, and to the producers and camera crew.
"Quad venti latte," Watney said, nodding to Leiter. "This is why he's our favorite."
A couple of hours later, the designated "runner" -- a locally-based individual hired to do exactly what the title dictates -- comes back with yet another tray of coffee. Unscientifically, this appeared to be the third and last round for the day.
Even without the coffee, Watney, the popular MLB Network studio host who anchors the nightly show "Quick Pitch" during the season, has plenty of energy to power her through the day. Her Marlins visit in late March was the seventh and final stop of her week-long "30 Clubs in 30 Days" assignment, but she showed no signs of wearing down as she worked to land as many interviews as possible in a very short window of time.
The preparation phase for these camp days begins the prior night, in Watney's hotel room, where she typically spends a couple of hours poring over the extensive information provided to her by the Network's research team. Armed with every bit of information she would want to know about the team she's covering -- projected lineups, rotations and bullpens, as well as reminders of how the team fared the previous season -- she has enough to get her through any interview thrown her way over the course of several hours.
Requests are made to the club's media relations staff as to whom the crew would like to interview, but the talent also needs to be prepared for anyone who is made available, whether it's a star player or the last man off the bench.
"I make sure I'm fresh on all the information, so I'm ready to talk to whoever they bring out," Watney said. "A lot of times, it can be anyone. You have to be ready."
At Marlins camp, the requests were pretty standard. Manager Don Mattingly (check). Giancarlo Stanton (check). Christian Yelich (check). And, if possible, Barry Bonds (no check).
Because Network talent does most of their work in the studio, being out among the teams is a welcomed change of pace this time of year. Spring Training's relaxed atmosphere, where players aren't yet tired from the season or weary of granting interview after interview, makes this a perfect backdrop for the Network's agenda.
A typical day for the Network at one Spring Training camp lasts about seven hours, not including travel time to get to the next site. While the days are long, the sun is hot and the schedule is tight, the crew seems to genuinely enjoy the process, and working together.
"Like I told Al, we're talking about a game," Watney said. "In the end, it's a game. it's not life and death. So if you can't have fun down here, why are you here?"
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.