A Fond Farewell

“…to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”   ~T.S. Eliot

To the Crashburn Alley readers, my fellow writers, editor, and especially Corinne Landrey and Bill Baer, the former editors who created and helped shape this incredible outlet into what it is today:

Today marks an end. But as the poet T.S. Eliot wrote in 1943, ends are often beginnings, a threshold crossed that, by its very definition, means one has entered into something new having left where they previously were.

This marks my final post here at Crashburn Alley as I embark on my professional career in the oncoming days. I am, however, eternally grateful and excited to share that it will not be the end of the time covering the Phillies.

In the next few days I will head down to Clearwater for spring training for the first time in my life. I won’t be going as a player (as I hoped when I was a youngster with stereotypical big league dreams) and I won’t be going as a fan (as I assumed would be the case the moment I realized those big league dreams were a fantasy).

Where Phillies young and old nurture their hopes of making an impression and furthering their professional careers, so too will I. Entering the pristine new digs of Spectrum Field, credential proudly draped around by neck, I will work as a proud associate reporter covering the club for Major League Baseball.

Associate reporter is a fancy term for one-season intern, by no means a long-term position, but a beginning nonetheless. Last spring during an internship, I wrote a story about a dog taking in a Phils’ spring training game while drinking out of a water bottle cap. This spring, I’ll be a fully credentialed member of the beat covering the team for MLB and Phillies.com. Progress.

It was an end, after all, that led me here to Crashburn Alley.

I spent the 2016 NCAA baseball season as managing editor of Maryland Baseball Network, covering the University of Maryland Terrapins during my senior year of college. It was my first true experience covering a beat, and one that shaped me into the writer I am today. Last April, my end at MBN sparked the beginning of my time here at Crashburn, my favorite outlet at which I’ve written in my young career.

To make an end is to make a beginning.

It has been a special pleasure to share my thoughts here in this space, letting my fandom and objective analysis clash and sharpen one another. I first began reading this site toward the end of middle school during its formative years under Bill’s lead, a year or two after I laughed a buddy of mine out of the room the first time he praised the virtues of VORP.

The stat came from a site I’d never heard of, and fell on innocent, uninformed ears. I was perfectly content framing my baseball analysis (to the extent that you can “analyze” baseball when you’re 12) through the traditional methods.

In the last handful of years I’ve fully embraced the game’s statistical revolution that had been brewing—and thriving—for years before my epiphany. Without neglecting the time-honored ways of scrutinizing the game, I have strengthened my analytic will and adopted a more rigorous methodology and mental calculus when dissecting it.

It’s often the things you initially reject and then greet later in life with open arms that have the most profound impact on you. They remind you of your pliability, your ability to change, to ebb and flow, to remain not a troglodyte but an open-eyed member of society susceptible to change. It makes you admit, to yourself, that the way you once were is not the way you have to be.

To make an end is to make a beginning.

At the same time that I became captivated with sabermetrics, I discovered a passion I never knew I had. Halfway through college, when they no longer let you doggypaddle through the semesters with an undecided major, I joined the journalism school and was promptly thrown into the deep end.

I wrote my college admissions essay on my mindset as a high school pitcher. For my entire life, I always enjoyed analyzing the world around me, gleaning bits and pieces of information and piecing them together to instill a deeper understanding of my surroundings. I did this intently on the mound, looking for holes in swings, batter tendencies, and scared bottom-of-the-order hitters who stepped in the bucket.

Little did I know, that piece, based on my experience as a pitcher in Southeastern Pennsylvania, was the first of many I’d ever write about baseball. That is, if you don’t count the made-up transcripts of fictitious baseballs games I scratched across loose-leaf paper in 3rd grade.

In that essay I wrote: “The act of gathering such material has always been comforting. It is reassuring to know that without being force-fed information, I can still gather, analyze, and learn about the world around me.”

What is writing if not taking in the world around you and adding your own spin, observation and personal experiences?

Writing about baseball has held a special importance for me. It has helped me cope and provided the context to understand jarring experiences in my life, a cathartic release I have turned to when life has felt it’s most unfair. So it’s no surprise, in retrospect, that some of my favorite writings are only tangentially about baseball, using the game as a framework to appreciate, to understand, but not as the story itself.

It helped me mourn the loss of a friend. It helped me put into context the loss of Jose Fernandez.

Looking back, it’s not surprising I dug my teeth into this type of analytical assessment of the game, and even less surprising that—once finding my passion for writing—it transferred into performing my own sabermetric analyses.

I owe my current career path to the game of baseball and my love for it. Not because it is what I will be covering, but because it is the reason I have an opportunity, and eagerness, to cover anything at all.

I’ve made the climb up the ranks in the past two and a half years, working my way from youth baseball coverage to my new position covering a major league club from within the league’s own editorial branch. I’ve covered the 12-year-old Cal Ripken World Series, collegiate summer league ball, D-I NCAA baseball, blogged here about the Phillies and will cover them in earnest as a member of MLB.com this season.

I’m sure a call-up to the bigs elicits memories of the climb for journeymen ballplayers. While I have not logged the years of prep and practice those ballplayers have, I’ve put in the time at every level possible to prep for such a promotion in similar fashion.

I’ll always remember the pre-teen boys from Hawaii I covered last summer, their love and respect for their game and their opponents shining brighter than anything, a constant reminder of why these sabermetric analyses matter so much to me—because I love the game. I’ll always remember the frigid weekend afternoons spent in the Maryland press box and the hours spent creating Excel spreadsheets of starting pitcher game logs, the infographics made, the game stories chronicled. And I’ll always remember the hours spent down the rabbit holes of Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs, Baseball Savant and Brooks Baseball, that allowed me to share my opinions and observations here with you, all rooted in cold, hard fact.

If you’d like to keep up with my work, you can find me in the usual places on twitter, while my byline will appear on MLB.com and Phillies.com, supplementing the great work of Todd Zolecki whom you should already be reading.

Despite my departure, this is not the end. It is an end, of sorts, but not the end. Not the type of the end that accompanies the resolution of a children’s book, but instead the unsaid the end that is replaced by the blank space below the final words of a book chapter. It is a pause, however brief, before another chapter picks up where the previous one left off. The topic may differ, or may stay the same, simply viewed through a different lens.

This is the beginning of a professional career, one I am blessed to begin with a dream job covering the team I grew up watching, and the end of my regular contributions here at Crashburn Alley. But it is not the end.

To make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.

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4 comments

  1. rlh1004

    March 16, 2017 12:56 PM

    Good luck Mr. Harris, I’m sure you will succeed in your new venture! Your work here was much appreciated!

  2. Michael C Lorah

    March 16, 2017 01:07 PM

    Congratulations!

  3. Romus

    March 16, 2017 02:11 PM

    Congrats and good luck.
    Thanks for the outstanding work on CA.

  4. MK

    March 16, 2017 03:44 PM

    Enjoy the new position! Yewt.

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