We were fortunate to have recently been given the opportunity to interview NESN’s own Heidi Watney. Of course, as our reputations precede us, this interview was conducted from what is scientifically referred to as “a safe distance.” Also, all of our questions pertaining to leather pants, nuclear fission, circus midgets and Eckersely’s moustache were promptly jettisoned. Still, there’s some good reading here, so we invite you to pull up a chair and dig in.
Was your first year covering the Red Sox everything you hoped it would be?
My first year actually exceeded my expectations. I loved covering the Sox this year. It would have only been better if we won that game 7 of the ALCS and went to the World Series (where the Sox would, of course, have beaten Philly!). The team is great, the coaches are great, and most of all the NESN staff is wonderful to work with. I really have a dream job, and I’m not just saying that. I feel very blessed to be where I am, covering the best team in baseball.
What’s your favorite memory from the 2008 season?
That’s an easy one. Jon Lester’s no hitter. I was shaking with excitement when we got into the 8th and 9th innings. I don’t know how he was able to hold it together. The atmosphere in the ballpark was electric! It is the single greatest sports moment I have had the pleasure of witnessing. And to top it off I got to do the very first interview with him just minutes after the final pitch! Oh yeah… and it was my birthday!
In Boston, we even worship our sports commentators and on-field announcers (see the Cult of Remy). Has it been a strange transition from laid-back California to the fervent sports scene in Boston?
That has been the hardest part for me. I am not used to the attention paid to sports reporters in this town, but it is flattering. I just remember that the attention is because of the Red Sox, and not me. They are a great team, and I am a passionate fan of sports just like New Englanders, so I understand where everyone is coming from. It may be hard to get used to on a personal level, but as a fan of sports I love it! Californians should take notes on what a true sports fan is like!
Along those lines, how many marriage proposals/date requests do you receive from the fans in the stands during any given game?
I remember one precious kid (I think he was around 10) who came to the park with a “Heidi Watney Will You Marry Me” sign and a rose. It was so cute. but I think his dad put him up to it.
Do you think of some of the Yankees’ off-season moves? Buying themselves a title or just acts of desperation?
Well they are desperate after missing the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, and they do have the money to spend. It is unfortunate that they can do this. I would like to see more parity in baseball. It’s sad when one team buys arguably the top 3 free agents out there. That being said it doesn’t guarantee them a championship. The Rays are young and getting more experienced, and of course the Sox came one game from the World Series last year. It’s going to be an interesting and tough season!
Can you describe a typical day on the job for you during a Sox game?
First thing in the morning I get an email with all the newspaper and online clippings that mention the Red Sox, so I look that over before I even start the day. Once I get to the ballpark I check in with our production truck to see what they want from me that day. The clubhouse opens at 3:30, and I go in with a photographer and see if there is any player news or interviews to get.
Terry Francona has a meeting with the press at 4:00, and that is when we can ask about any lineup changes or injury status, etc. Between that meeting and the start of our pregame show I go out to batting practice and keep an eye on what’s going on on the field. I also get more interviews done then, and keep my ears open for any new information. After I’m done with the pregame show I grab a quick bite to eat and then take my place in the camera pit for the game.
During the game I have anywhere from 2 to 5 hits typically, depending on a number of factors, including live guests, the pace of the game, if someone is in scoring position, the number of outs in an inning, and if it’s a close game or a blowout. All that affects when and if I go on… and our producer, Russ, is the one who has to juggle it all!
Immediately after the game it’s time to head back into the clubhouse for postgame interviews. We have an hour long postgame show to fill, and we like to hear from the players and coaches as much as possible.
That’s typically my day… and I love it!
Coolest Sox player to interview?
Well, that’s a tough one because they are all really great. But if I had to choose just one I would say Sean Casey is a great guy to interview. He is very nice, and charismatic. He always has something good to tell you, whether it’s breaking down what went wrong, or praising a teammate (although he much prefers to do the latter). He really is a great guy.
So what do you do when you’re not on the job? Any places you like to hang in Boston?
I like to get out and see the city. In the warmer months I rode my bike around a lot. It really is beautiful here. I can’t do that with snow on the ground though! But I am getting out and enjoying the city. I love to eat… and there are some good places to go in the North End. I love Panza, and Giacomos… great food! I’ve also gone to a few Bruins games and Celtics games (for fun and work). It’s fun to get out and meet people, and I like to people watch!
To the best of your knowledge, has Tom Caron ever filmed a post-game show without pants? I’ve always suspected him of this.
Ha! Now that would be something. I really couldn’t tell you, because I am at the park, but I would be willing to bet he wears the pants!
Do you ever read any of the hundreds of Red Sox blogs out there?
I like to read the blogs (when I actually have time) to see what the pulse of the fans are. The stuff that interests me are when people comment about a controversial pitching change, or a player getting benched or something like that. I am a sports junkie, so it’s interesting to see if other junkies out there think the same way as I do.
We’ve already had our hearts broken by Hazel Mae and Tina Cervasio, who left town just as we were falling in love with them. Please tell us you plan to stick around for a while.
I will be here for awhile. I loved my job last year, and I’m just getting warmed up!
Thanks to Heidi and Gary Roy.