Interview with Jamie Ramsey
Hello fellow Reds fans!
You know him as the face of Better Off Red and cat-lover @Jamieblog. But who really is Jamie Ramsey? Check out my one-on-one interview with Reds’ Assistant Director of Media Relations and discover just how he got his start working for the Reds in the Queen City.
Where are you from?
I’m from Hamilton, OH, which is about 30 miles north of Cincinnati. I grew up there, went to the public schools there, and eventually, after I graduated from Hamilton High School, I wanted to go to college somewhere out of state just to get away. I’d never been away from home or anything like that, so I wanted to find a college that was ideal for me. At the time, I really wanted to go into broadcasting for some reason. I had my eye on that so I narrowed my college choices down to Indiana, Michigan State and a little school in Mt. Pleasant Michigan called Central Michigan University, which I ended up to going for one year. I realized I wasn’t really into the broadcasting thing and plus, as you know, when you’re a freshman you don’t go right into those classes. You have to take all the other classes beforehand. And I missed home, and the out-of-state tuition was getting me a little bit, so I transferred to Miami University. Not all of my credits transferred so I was a little behind the eight ball. I ended up going to Miami University and while I was attended classes there – I was a commuter, I didn’t live on campus, I commuted not only to the Oxford campus, but to the Hamilton branch and Middletown branch – but while I was going to school there, an opening came up on the Reds Ground Crew at Cinergy Field. So I took a position with the Reds Ground Crew as a part-time guy on the field and once that ended (or, once I graduated from college I should say), I petitioned heavily to get a job in the front office. And it just so happened, it worked out. I got a job in the merchandise department. I hated it. I was working full-time, had benefits and everything, but I hated the job. It was not ideal and it wasn’t anything I was hoping to get into. Internship opened up in the media relations department while I was a full-time employee in the merchandise department. So I quit the merchandise thing, quit the full-time job and took an internship with Rob Butcher and the media relations department. That was about 2001. Ever since, I’ve been working in the Reds front office media relations department.
When you grew up, you thought that you wanted to be in broadcasting. Did you thought that you wanted to do sport broadcasting or just any type of sport media?
Just media. I was actually more into sports as a kid than I am now, which is kind of strange considering I work for a baseball team. I wanted to do sports but I was also open to other things. I went to Channel 12 and took a tour when I was in high school and I thought it was really cool. So I was up for anything.
So you went to Miami for a little bit. What was your major?
My major was Mass Communication. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 1999.
What classes did you take?
Surprisingly, I took a lot of audio/video classes, but most of the classes that I took involved writing. I took a lot of writing for media classes, media law and things like that. Anything that pertained to media. But mostly the emphasis ended up being on writing, which I really fell in love with and discovered that I was actually decent at it.
Did you prefer the writing courses? Did you have any classes that you took that you didn’t like very much?
I did! After I realized that I wasn’t so much into broadcasting like I thought I would be, the writing just came natural for me. I concentrated on that a little bit more. All of the electives that I had to take I didn’t like. As far as the media end, I really enjoyed and got a lot out of the mass communication classes that I got. Even though I wasn’t going to be a media lawyer or anything like that, I got something out of it that sometimes still pops up and I can address it or I know what I’m talking about. But there was nothing really that I didn’t not enjoy.
While in your education or early professional career, was there a person in your life that you turned to as a role model or mentor figure, either professionally or personally?
I had a few professors at Miami that I really admired. A couple guys that while I was going to school there, I enjoyed their classes so much that I really enjoyed going to their class. I would go to their office hours and speak to them. They got me more into the writing – they were the media writing professors that I had. I gravitated towards that and I had a good report with two of them in particular. Actually one of them is Rick Cingary, which he used to be a DJ oddly enough on a radio station a long time ago and he became a professor and I really got a lot out of him and a lot of guidance from him.
You said that you worked on the Ground Grew for a little bit. Can you describe your career path in specifics, including years, titles, etc?
I joined the Ground Crew in May of 1997, and I was there through the 1999 season, even into the offseason going into the 2000 season. It was from May of 1997 through the 1999 season, and that when I got the full-time position, after 2000 hit. I switched from merchandise to media in 2001.
You said that you “bargained” your way into it –
Yeah, well, back when Cinergy Field was around, the Reds organization was very small, much smaller than it is today. Everybody knew each other and I had personal relationships with front office members, ground crew people, people who cleaned the seats. I made it known to the front office people that I wanted a job in the front office once I graduated. I told them it was coming up and I would really like to stay with the organization and get a job in any capacity that I could. One day the merchandise lady came down onto the field while I was working on the pitcher’s mound in the offseason, and she said that we’re looking for someone and that they’d like to interview and hire me.
What skill sets and competencies do you feel are needed to be in your position?
Writing, definitely. Communication, you have to be able to put a sentence together, both on paper and verbally. You have to understand… you have to have a little bit of what I like to call “feel.” That means that you have to… *sighs* Let me give you an example. Don’t ask a player to do a TV or radio interview on his off day in the middle of a ten-game stretch where he played ten of eleven games. You have to have that feel. Definitely without writing, I don’t think I would be where I am today. You always have to be a personable person. That interpersonal communication has to be natural and free flowing. You have to be genuine.
What are your roles and responsibilities daily, weekly, monthly, yearly?
Our job is routinely un-routine. And what I mean by that is we have a cycle. We know what we’re doing in March, we know what we’re doing in July, we know what we’re doing in January because it’s a cycle. In November we start working on the media guide, which is a thick reference guide for media and at some certain times fans. We begin working on that during the season, and we begin hardcore work in November. It includes writing bios – my job in particular is to write the minor league bios, and that’s about 200 bios where you have to put their vitals and any superlatives that they’ve accomplished. That keeps us pretty busy. You know I have a little social media area/booth that I work at Redsfest and that takes a little bit of work preparing for that and then actually doing the event and the fallout from the event. I attend the MLB Winter Meetings. I just worked the NLCS for MLB as a volunteer, which is a great honor because they choose you to work. Then you start getting into the Reds Caravan which I help run one of the three buses and help organize the trip for that. Then you get into Spring Training, which I go to Spring Training every year. My colleague and I, Larry Herms, split it. We alternate years where one of us has the first half and the other has the second half. This year I think I have the first half. Through Spring Training we go right into the season. I help out with the minor league report, write the blog (of course the blog’s a year-long thing that I work on), I run the Twitter account and keep fans interested on social media, keep our brand out there in a positive manner, and then it just goes in a cycle. It all starts all over again – it’s funny.
Do you prefer the offseason or the regular season?
I do like the offseason because the hours are a little more set. You know where you’re going to do going in and going out. There’s not a whole lot of breaking news that happens as opposed to what happens during the season; you don’t know whether you’re going to be writing a press release if a player breaks his leg or something like that. It’s a little more routine, I guess you could say. You know what you’re going to get in the offseason and I prefer that a little bit more.
Who do you answer to?
I answer directly to Rob Butcher. He’s our Director of Media Relations. I kind of answer to Lisa (Lisa Braun). She’s our social media guru, and I fall under her umbrella with the blog and Twitter account. If I had to break it down into percentages, I would say 80% is Rob Butcher, and 20% is Lisa.
Who do you believe is your largest current influence in the field?
Wow, that’s a good question. I would say Rob is my current influence in the media relations area. Social media…. They call it “New Media” for a reason. It’s such a new adventure that I like figuring it out for myself. I don’t really have anyone in that regard.
You touched earlier that you prefer the offseason. What are your favorite and least favorite parts of your job?
My least favorite part is writing game notes while I’m on the road. I travel with the team occasionally, and when you travel with the team one of your responsibilities is writing a daily set of game notes, and that’s just a bunch of updated information and includes a lot of stats that you have to update. Usually we do those late at night after a game, so it’s really tedious. I don’t like it; I think it’s kind of an outdated thing that all 30 teams continue to do. And we’re counted on by the media to do it, but I don’t like it.
Do you see that changing in the future?
I do, I do. We talk about it every year in the winter meetings. Almost everything in print has got a shelf life on it nowadays. We’ve already cut down on the amount of media guides that we print. Some of the game notes we’ve already cut down – we used to do four-page game notes and we cut that down to around 2 pages. I think at some point everything’s going to be online or people that need it are just going to have to find it themselves. I think that’s a good thing for us. Our critics would say, ‘Well what do you do now? You’re supposed to do this for us.’ But I think it would give us an opportunity if we could take more of that time off of our schedule to concentrate on other things. I think it’s a positive.
What has been your biggest struggle while working in media relations?
I would say when you work in sports, especially in this position, (and I’ve been here 17 years now) you’re hindered on the pay scale. You don’t make a whole lot of money when you work in sports. I know a lot of my colleagues haven’t been working where they are for 17 years but a few that have are significantly wealthier than I am. It’s kind of discouraging, but it’s a testimate to what this place brings for me outside of the money thing. I love working here, and it’s a sacrifice that I’ve been willing to make. It’s still kind of frustrating every once in a while when you look at it and when you compare pay scales, but I like what I do. The only other thing I don’t like is the amount of time in the summertime the job takes. They’ll be times when we can work 90 hours a week. When you’re on the road, you always have to be on call in case something happens to one of your players or personnel. It’s very time consuming. The time doesn’t match the pay sometimes.
How do you feel you have grown personally and professionally while working in this field?
That’s a good question. I feel like, especially with the New Media/Social Media, when you try to have to figure things out for yourself or when you have limited help (like Lisa’s helped me as much as she can and she’s done a great job), but this field is so new for both of us that you kind of have to feel your way around. I feel like after maybe a rough start, I feel like I’ve paved myself in the social media field and that I’m doing a really good job. I really enjoy that. The whole idea of working for a baseball team is great, but you also have to take the pros with the cons. All the years I’ve worked here, I’ve learned something. I learn something every day. You mature as a person as you go into the niche of the job. The whole thing has been a learning experience. You learn how to deal with so many people, not just the 25 guys in the clubhouse but the coaches, the front office staff – you get an idea of how to deal with certain people a certain way. You still want to be yourself, but you don’t talk to the General Manager the same way that you talk to the 2nd baseman, and vice versa. They need different things from you and you have to be prepared to give it to them. You have to be precise and succinct. There are people who come through other organizations or situations where we’ve seen people where they’re great at what they do, but they might not get along very well with the people that they deal with so they don’t work there very long in that position. If you’re good at what you do and you can deal with people the right way, you’re going to be in the position for a long time.
How do you see your personal career growing?
That’s a good question as well. I should say I hope that the success of the blog can carry over into some bigger and better things as far as social media goes. I know I have a little bit of a ceiling in the social media department because my boss has been around a while and I don’t see that changing at any time. My eggs are in the social media basket. Once this continues to grow, and it’s been growing significantly for four years, as long as I continue to do a good job, I think there’s going to be a lot of positions and opportunities that open up to me personally and professionally. The whole idea of this being a new force to venture into is… I feel like I’m out in front a little bit and I think that helps, and I feel like I’ll be counted on to be a leader at some point in the field of social media.
Do you think that you’ll stay with the Reds?
I have no desire to leave at this point. I’m not going to turn down a great opportunity if it arises. If a team asked me tomorrow if I wanted to hold up their social media department and if the pay’s right, I would probably have to give it some serious thought.
How do you see the field of media relations growing?
Media relations are becoming digitized. My colleague Larry and I put together a set of press clips every morning that involve the Reds. We put those together, and when we were interns, we physically cut newspaper clippings and put them together. Now you cut and paste online and you’re done in 45 minutes. I think that’s a prime example of how that job has changed and I think it’s continued to evolve with online stuff, information that’s so readily available now. Another thing is media relations relies a lot on social media. Twitter is almost like our AP wire where we can see what’s happening like that *snaps*. There’s so much instant reporting now, where as before you’d have to wait on the newspaper or wait on the news on TV, or you’d have to wait for a story to get published online. Now it’s instant. Somebody can type it up now and just send it. It’s changed the way that we make announcements. It’s changed the way that we give off-the-record information. I think it’s going to continue like that. I think it’s going to make us keep our guard up more rigidly than before, only because if we know there’s going to be a trade made, we can’t ever let our guard down. You have to be prepared and rigid with our information.
Do you like it?
I do. I like it like that. It is kind of strange because everybody is a reporter now, especially with social media and blogs, and I kind of like that. There’s so much information that you can get – it’s not just from your beat writers. I like that if somebody knows something, you can look into it and see it. I think it polices itself. There are so many writers who write blogs, Reds blogs in particular, and when I’m online I know which ones are legit and which ones aren’t and I know what I’m going to read and what I choose not to read. A lot of it is regurgitation of what the professionals do. One of the issues that has come up has been credentialing bloggers and where do you draw the line. If this guy has a successful blog, do you credential him like you would credential a John Fay or a Mark Sheldon? I think that Rob does it right. I think it’s a slippery slope. If you start credentialing folks like that you don’t have the experience, it could be detrimental to people involved. The example that I like to site is: if you’re sick and go to the doctor, you’re going to someone that was trained and schooled properly. They know what they’re doing, while as the blogger has a computer and an opinion. You have to be smart about where you get your information and whom you get your information from. I think the anonymity of being behind a computer now has really boosted confidence for people where there’s no humility anymore. If somebody puts out bad information and gets called out on it, they don’t issue a retraction, they just go onto something else. It’s almost like a “slash and burn” kind of attitude with online media organizations. There are no ethics for “Twitter reporters,” whereas John Fay has to prove to his editor that he has a legitimate source that runs with the story because, well, they have to do that. There’s rules, laws and ethics that they have to follow while there’s no ethics from an amateur reporter.
How do you feel you have taken your skills, creativity and talents and have made an impact on the organization and the field of media relations as whole?
Not to sound like I’m really bragging or anything like that, I think it’s opened their eyes (like some of the old media types/newspaper readers who work here). It’s opened their eyes on what we can do and how we can generate business. I think the more creative you are, the fresher you are – it keeps people interested. And people like that. They just don’t want to go read some boring newspaper article – they want to see pictures online and watch videos and have fun. They don’t want to talk about stats all the time. I think it’s opened their eyes and generated a different fan base that they can market to. I think it’s been nothing but a positive for us.
How did you get the idea for the blog?
We had an intern here that wanted to start a blog. Our boss said, ‘Go ahead, you can do it,’ and he called it “Reds Internal Affairs.” Well, he was an intern. He couldn’t really do much. He couldn’t really take you “behind the scenes” like he wanted to. It got to be very monotonous. He was just posting game notes and basic stories. He fell into what everybody else was doing and he didn’t really need to have a job with the Reds to do what everybody else was doing. Once his internship was up, I told my boss I was willing to take it over and I think I can bring a different dimension to it. The rest is history.
Do you know where that intern is now?
Yeah, he works for the Braves. He’s in media relations for the Braves. I don’t think he does any online stuff, and if he does, it’s limited.
Do you feel like you embody the “Reds Way” that the Castellini’s have implemented? How do you feel that “Reds Way” has affected your job and your field?
I think people have to realize that you can’t take the fans for granted. They’re paying your salary, as much as some of them would like to yell and scream that at you to remind you that you’ve got to be nice to them, I think that it comes naturally with some of them that they’re interested in what you’re doing. For me personally, I appreciate that. I appreciate that people are reading the blog. I love that people are rooting for the same people that I’m rooting for. It brings people together. I think that’s very important. My idea is, I don’t want to be some nameless, faceless guy behind a closed door, writing a blog. I don’t want it to be generic. I want to give a name and face to the people. I want them to think that they “know a guy who works for the Reds” rather than just “oh that guy works for the Reds.” I want them to be able to know this guy that works for the Reds. I think if you bridge the gap a little bit with a personal relationship as close as you can (obviously you can’t be friends with everybody) but if you do your best to be friendly and outgoing and make them feel a part of the team, you’re going to get more fans that way. They’ll tell their friends, “Oh look, this guy’s really cool,” or, “This girl that works here is really cool, let’s go to a game and maybe we’ll see them.” I think it’s good to make us smaller. If you shrink us down to size where it’s not THE CINCINNATI REDS and just make it, “Oh, that guy works for the Reds,” that’s all I want to be. I don’t want to be like, “This is the guy.” I don’t want that. I think there’s a weird status thing for some people that work here. Even my friends will sometimes be like, “Oh, how’s the Reds going?” And I’m like, “Well how’s your job going? I mean you make more money than I do! How you doing?”
What recommendations do you have for a young person wanting to enter into not only sports, but also media and communications?
The first thing that I wish I had done is become fluent in Spanish, or Japanese. I think anyone who goes into specifically this field and they know Spanish or Japanese and they have the same skill set that we in media relations have, they’re going to become vice presidents. I really do. I think if you have those in your back pocket and continue to progress as a regular media relations person with that skill set, you can go a long way. I think someone could pave the way with a very successful career that way. There’s times we have to get translators to talk to Aroldis Chapman or Johnny Cueto and I think, “I wish I could do this myself.” Plus you build up a trust with these guys if you can speak their language. Also anyone, not even just players – If someone’s in the front office who is fluent in Spanish and English isn’t their first language, it can open up a lot of opportunities.