Interview with Yankees reporter Bryan Hoch

By: Chad Raines

Yankees MLB.com beat writer Bryan Hoch has been writing for the Yankees for nine years now. From breaking major news, to constantly updating the public on the ins and outs of the team, Hoch has become one of the most prestigious and credible baseball reporters around.
Hoch began his baseball reporting career as a small site writer that ended up becoming very successful. Through an immense amount of determination and a little bit of luck, Hoch has fulfilled his dream of covering the Yankees.

We, at the Bronx Bomber Blog, cannot thank Bryan enough for his courtesy in taking time out of his busy schedule to take part in this interview. It was a real honor hearing his insight and we look forward to contacting him again soon! Below is the transcript from the interview. We hope you enjoy the insight and background of the successful writer/reporter himself, Bryan Hoch.

1.  “Were you a Yankees fan before you began covering the team? If not, which team/ players did you grow up liking?”
“First of all, thanks for asking me to do this interview! That's kind of a weird story. I started out as a baseball-crazy Yankees fan - somewhere, my parents have a photo of me dressed up as Dave Righetti for Halloween (I'm left-handed and we didn't have a mustache to pull off the Don Mattingly costume), and the VHS tape of "10 Greatest Moments In Yankees History" was on constant loop in my house. The strike hit me hard and I have to admit that I lost interest in baseball for a couple of years as a result. My grandfather and father were National League guys all the way, first the Brooklyn Dodgers and then the Mets. Somewhere around 1996 they pulled me back in by telling me about the young 'Generation K' pitchers on the rise. Fantastic timing... turning myself into a die-hard Mets fan while the Yankees went on to win four World Series in five years. My friends had a field day with that.”

2.   “What is it like writing and covering for such a high profile team?”
“It's a challenge every day. While the members of the beat are pretty friendly for the most part -- we'll go to dinner together and stuff like that -- the competition is fierce between us. There is a large traveling contingent that goes wherever the Yankees go, and so we are always looking for a different angle or to break a story that will set our coverage apart. It's a terrible feeling to realize you missed something that one of your competitors had. One great thing about it is that you know every word you write will be consumed by a large audience. Because there is such fantastic interest in everything that happens with the Yankees, there really is no unimportant topic to cover.”

3.   “How long have you been covering the Yankees for MLB.com?”
“This will mark my ninth season, starting in 2007. I've been incredibly fortunate to have a front-row seat for some historic things, starting with the end of the Joe Torre era, the beginning of Joe Girardi's tenure, the closing of old Yankee Stadium, the opening of a new stadium and the World Series title in 2009... Not to mention the final acts of the entire 'Core Four.' And now it feels like a completely new phase in franchise history is about to begin.”

4.   “How likely (percentage) would you say the Yankees are to sign Cuban sensation Yoan Moncada and what leads you to coming to that percentage?”
“Tough question, but I'll ballpark it at 75 percent. I think the Yankees are still the favorites to sign him, and you know there is serious interest - you don't work a guy out three times if there isn't. They know the talent is there, they just seem to have concerns about the price tag, and that's understandable. Still, they've gone so hard in the international market since last July and will be in the penalty box for the next two years. The Yankees aren't going to have any No. 1 draft picks in their near future, and so if that's what they believe Moncada is, I say write the check and go for it. That said, you see this with free agency all the time - there are other teams out there and the player actually has to want to sign there. Anything can happen, but I'll go with an 75 percent chance he's in Tampa wearing pinstripes ... that gives me a decent out in case it doesn't happen.”

5.   “Which veteran player/pitcher are you expecting to bounce back and turn in a good season?”
“I think Brian McCann will be a lot better offensively than he was in the first half. The adjustments he made later in the year seemed to help and I think there's something to the idea that adjusting to New York and a new batch of pitchers in the AL might have been more overwhelming than he thought it would be. Mark Teixeira should be stronger with a full winter of training; you could see that he got fatigued and faded terribly in the second half as a result. Teixeira probably is not a 30 homer, 100 RBI guy anymore, but the Yanks would sign up right now for 25 and 85. And Carlos Beltran wasn't himself last year; he needs to be playing the outfield regularly and swinging without discomfort. If the elbow is right, he should be the middle of the lineup force that they are paying for.”

6.   “Which prospect or relatively unknown player do you expect to have a good spring and surprise some people (much like Yangervis Solarte did last season)?”
“I'll toss a few names at you to watch in camp, outside of the guys like Jacob Lindgren, Luis Severino, Aaron Judge, Rob Refsnyder and Greg Bird that you've probably read about so much. Nick Rumbelow made some huge jumps last year and is on a fast track, so he's a guy I'm interested in. Ramon Flores hasn't been talked about much because the Yanks' outfield is pretty set, but if he was in another camp, he might be competing for a starting job. The Yanks are high on him and think he has a big league future, so if injuries pop up, he'd be high on the depth chart. I liked what I saw from Tyler Webb during the first day of workouts too.”

7.   “What player/pitcher are you expecting to become a leader in the clubhouse for the Yanks?”
“I think it'll be a group effort and there are a lot of guys who can handle that. Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia are some of the first that jump to mind with strong leadership characteristics. Who knows, maybe Alex Rodriguez can even pitch in - he certainly was looked to by younger players like Robinson Cano in past years. One thing you need to remember is that even though Derek Jeter was the captain, he wasn't necessarily hanging out with everyone on the team at all times. The bullpen was Mariano Rivera's domain, and Sabathia was a leader of the pitching staff. So it has always been a group effort of sorts.”

8.   “How has or will the clubhouse attitude/composition change with the loss of Derek Jeter and the re-addition of Alex Rodriguez?”
“I think they'll be fine. As we previously talked about, there are plenty of guys on the team who command respect from their peers and can set a good example. The A-Rod situation is going to be more of an external story than an internal story. We'll definitely write about it and you'll hear about it on TV, but for the guys in that room, they really have other things to be concerned about. If Alex comes back and shows he can help the team on the field, his teammates won't have any complaints about that. I'm really curious to see what he has left in the tank after playing 44 games over the last two years.”

9.   “How do you expect the team to contend in the AL East this season?”
“It's funny; I look at the Yankees and you see a lot of obvious flaws and question marks, and then you look at the other teams in the division and you see it's all pretty much the same across the board. No one is going to run away with the division, so if the Yankees can hang in there until June or July and then make some reinforcement upgrades (Brian Cashman did an excellent job of that last year), they could be right in the playoff hunt when we look up in September. As currently constructed, I'd put them between 84 and 86 wins.”

10.   “What areas does the team have to improve in?”
“Health, for one -- and most prominently, cross your fingers and hope Masahiro Tanaka can be who he was through those first 17 starts. They've set records in back-to-back years for players used in a single season, and that's not the kind of franchise history you want to be seeing. It's amazing they were able to win as many games as they did without so many key contributors. That's an incredible run of bad luck. Other than that, I'll say the offense needs to be better than producing the third-fewest runs in the AL, but that's obvious. Having McCann, Beltran and Teixeira hit like they're supposed to would take care of that.” 

11.  “What are the strong aspects to this year’s team?”
“I love the bullpen. You saw what the Royals did last October with that shut-down pen and knew if they got a lead to the sixth or seventh inning, they should be just fine. I could see that happening with the Yankees, and it's something Girardi has talked about. Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller are a knockout one-two punch for the end of the game, and I think people are going to like some of the other additions in the late innings like David Carpenter. Adam Warren also did a nice job at times last year and could serve in a variety of roles. I also think their defense and run prevention will be improved over last year.”

12.   “What advice do you have for aspiring writers?”
“Here's what I always say: the most important thing to do is to write - it's like anything else, practice makes perfect. You can experiment with blogging to get your feet wet, participate with the school newspaper or perhaps even a local paper. English teachers and guidance counselors are a great resource and can point you in the right direction; they're there to help. Ask questions constantly. And I would say read everything you can get your hands on, because if your interests are well-rounded, it can help your writing and fuel your curiosity. Oh, and no cheering in the press box.” 

13.  “How were you able to progress into becoming a credible and prestigious writer?”
“Hard work, persistence and a lot of luck. To briefly outline my career, I started one of the original Mets fan sites in the dial-up days of the Internet (circa 1996, when I was 14), "Mets Online." This even pre-dated mets.com, though I believe yankees.com was already online. In any event, it grew into a popular destination for fans, and we had a lot of fun content there like trade rumors, a buzzing message board and my writeups of the games (some of which probably were terrible and I'm glad they've been purged from the Web). We were getting about 20,000 visitors a day, which was pretty impressive considering I was literally running it out of a bedroom in my parents' house. I interned with the Mets' official website in 2000 and got to go to Shea Stadium every day, a foot in the door that I refused to let close. I pursued journalism in college while using those baseball connections to line up freelance work. My Mets Online days ended in 2002, and so I started writing for a variety of outlets, including MLB.com on a freelance basis. Covering the Mets at the Winter Meetings in 2006, I heard that MLB's Yankees beat might be opening up and made sure to tell anyone and everyone who would listen that I was interested. It's not really a blueprint you could instruct people to follow, and for that I would say I've been incredibly fortunate.”

14.  “What is your favorite thing about writing about the Yankees and being around the game of baseball all the time?”
“You said it. Every morning, I wake up and I legitimately love what I do, and who I do it for. I've loved baseball for almost my entire life, and now I can look through the cards I collected as a kid and tell you personal stories about my interactions with many of them. This game really is full of some terrific people, both in uniform and out. One other thing, specifically about the Yankees, is that you can go to any country in the world and if you say, 'New York Yankees,' it's not difficult to find someone who knows exactly what you're talking about. Being in a position where it's my job to know and chronicle exactly what is going on in an organization like that, and then relay that information to a fan base that has an insatiable appetite for news, really is a dream come true. I cannot imagine doing anything else.”

Again, we can’t thank Bryan enough for the interview. It was a real pleasure and he’s a really nice guy. I look forward to reading his articles and keeping up with his twitter feed all season long. Bryan and us here at the BBB will surely be in touch a couple more times as the seasons progresses. Keep up the fantastic work Bryan!

Follow me on twitter @Chad_Rain
Follow Bryan Hoch on twitter for more Yankees news @BryanHoch
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