August 1, 2012

10 years

You'll soon find out, if you visit this blog more than a few times, that I am a huge Minnesota Twins fan.

- Me, August 1, 2002

Ten years ago today I was 19 years old and home from school for the summer following my freshman year at the University of Minnesota. I knew then, as I'd known without even a shred of doubt since I was about eight years old, that I wanted to write about sports for a living, but having already been turned down twice in applying for a spot on the Minnesota Daily school newspaper I was left with no obvious path to pursue that goal.

I'd spent the previous two months doing basically nothing productive, but in between eating all the food in my mom's refrigerator and watching the Twins and first-year manager Ron Gardenhire emerge as legitimate contenders I stumbled across a website called Baseball Musings. It was run by former ESPN researcher David Pinto and he wrote short articles throughout the day about a wide range of baseball topics while calling the website a "blog."

I had only a vague notion of what that word meant--this was 2002 and, for example, most people still used AOL as their internet provider--but I liked reading Pinto's articles and liked the less formal approach he took in his writing. One day he mentioned that his readers ought to consider starting blogs of their own if they liked reading his. And so I did. That day was August 1, 2002 and it all began with me typing Blogger.com into what was surely Internet Explorer.

I signed up for a free account, entered in a few details about myself, picked the most basic visual template, and chose a name: Aaron's Baseball Blog. Looking back, that name alone is a pretty strong indication that I hadn't planned on the blog turning into much of anything. But it was free, both to write via Blogger and host the site on Blogspot, and within five minutes I'd published my first article on the internet. I remember thinking it seemed almost too easy.

I'd just watched Marlins starter A.J. Burnett shut out the Cardinals on 128 pitches and he'd also thrown 132 pitches in his last start. It seemed to me that manager Jeff Torborg was overworking him and so I wrote 372 words about it, linking to Baseball Prospectus' "pitcher abuse points" and declaring stuff like "there's no way a 25-year-old in his second full season should be allowed to consistently throw that many pitches, start after start after start."

I then noted that Torborg could have lessened Burnett's workload by removing him from the game once it was no longer in doubt and concluded: "Burnett has been great this year and he looks like he'll be a stud for years to come. But the way he's being treated makes me think he's in line for some arm troubles. I hope I'm wrong." I wasn't wrong, as Burnett went on the disabled list weeks later and, after briefly returning, had Tommy John elbow surgery.

And yet looking back on my blogging debut whatever foresight or dumb luck was involved in being "right" about Burnett's workload seems totally unimportant compared to the annoying one-line paragraphs, obvious grammar mistakes, and other cringe-worthy aspects of that first 372-word post. Luckily for me no one was reading. Not that day and not for many days afterward. Actually, that's not quite true. My mom was immediately a daily reader, of course.

At some point I e-mailed Pinto to say he'd motivated me to create my own blog and he was nice enough to send some readers my way with a link. I remember that being a pretty big day, as I constantly reloaded "Site Meter" to track what seemed at the time like a huge amount of traffic roll in. Looking back, it was probably fewer than 100 visitors. But none of that mattered then because I was hooked from the moment I clicked "publish" on that Burnett post.

Later that same night I wrote about David Ortiz, who'd been named AL player of the month in what proved to be his final season in Minnesota, and began the post by saying: "You'll soon find out, if you visit this blog more than a few times, that I am a huge Minnesota Twins fan." I wrote six more posts in the next two days and almost literally no one was reading, but I was writing about baseball for what could in theory at least be an audience and that was the goal.

Ten years later I'm 29 years old and living in my own house. And still blogging, after 9.1 million visitors and 2,223 posts. I never did land that spot on the Daily despite applying nine times in four years. They didn't want me, but it turned out I didn't need them. Every rejection increased the size of the chip on my shoulder, pushed me further into blogging for the audience I built for myself, and motivated me to continue down the untrodden path of online sports writing.

It wasn't by design, certainly. My dream job had been newspaper columnist since the moment it occurred to me to have a dream job. I read the sports section every day as a kid, waking up early just so I had time to devour every word before heading to school. I dreamed of one day seeing my byline in the St. Paul Pioneer Press or Minneapolis Star Tribune, but when I couldn't even get my byline into the Minnesota Daily there was no choice but to change plans.

And luckily the rejection and uncertainty pushed me to a better path. In fact nearly every good thing that's happened to me can be traced to that spontaneous decision on August 1, 2002. Through blogging I discovered the like-minded community at Baseball Primer (since renamed Baseball Think Factory) and found my first real audience writing there. Friends made at Primer convinced me to attend the SABR convention in 2003 and I haven't missed one since.

Through blogging Gregg Rosenthal became a fan of my writing and asked me to contribute to Rotoworld's baseball magazine. Through blogging I co-created The Hardball Times and got to work with some of my favorite writers. Through blogging I was featured in Sports Illustrated, pictured in bed with a dog and a laptop. Through blogging I met John Bonnes, whose Twins Geek blog is one of the few that pre-dates this one and who's become a friend and co-host.

For decades the path to sportswriting was straightforward. Graduate from college, hopefully with experience at the school newspaper or a journalism degree, take a low-level job at a newspaper, work your way up from covering high school sports to covering a college or pro beat, and then somewhere way down the line perhaps move from reporter to columnist. I wanted nothing more than to follow that path, but I couldn't even complete the first step.

After devoting less and less of my time to journalism school and more and more of my time to paid writing work I dropped out of college to take a full-time job with Rotoworld. I worked long hours covering MLB and NFL, often six days a week with no offseason. I wrote bylined columns and non-bylined blurbs, became editor-in-chief of Rotoworld's print magazine and senior MLB editor of the website. And then when NBC took over Rotoworld I shifted to NBCSports.com.

It's been an amazing journey and along the way I've learned some lessons about how plans don't always work out and how, hard as that may have been at the time, it can actually be for the best in the long run. I'm not sure where the next 10 years will take me, but that's all part of the fun. Whether you've been reading this blog since 2002 or just discovered it today thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for helping to make that 19-year-old's dream come true.

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  • http://knuckleballsblog.com Jim Crikket

    Congratulations on 10 years of increasing success and growth, Aaron. May the next 10 be even greater! Onward and upward! – JC

  • Dane

    Congrats Aaron. I have been following you since 2004 and have always enjoyed your insight about the Twins and baseball. Keep it up!

  • Paul

    You are a bad-ass. I love your uncompromising insight, through thick and thin. Congrats on going after a dream and achieving it.

  • Brendan

    Congrats Aaron. I get a big kick out of reading your work. Perfect blend of stathead and funny writer…. same combo I loved about Bill James when I started reading him about two decades ago. Here’s to another decade or two… of whatever this has been. :>)

  • twinstalker

    Congratulations, Aaron, I’ve been a huge fan for pretty much the duration. I think John Bonnes provided a link one day, and I made my way over. It might have been 2002 even.

  • aaron.c

    I don’t remember when I started reading, and I’m not even much of a Twins fan (except that we all root for the underdogs). You got a mention for the first time on, I think, USS Mariner a great many years ago and I’ve read everything since. Congrats on 10 years of pursuing, and ultimately living, the dream.

  • Matt

    You are the best!!!

  • Dustin

    Congrats Aaron. I’ve been reading since sometime in 2004 and your website is typically one of my first morning stops. Passion doesn’t trump ability, but it often is the only thing that allows ability to shine through. You look back at that first entry and cringe, but it was supposed to be terrible. If it were great, you probably wouldn’t have been rejected at the Daily, and I’d be spending the first 10 minutes of my workday reading some other Twins blog. Good luck with your second 10 years.

  • SBG

    Congratulations.

  • http://twinschatter.com Ryan

    The highlight of those 10 years still has to be our 2005 Star Tribune Variety section photo, though.

  • Neau Mor Washed Up Vets

    Congrats. A GIF of you belongs in the internet hall of fame.

    Seriously, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and learned a ton from your writing.

  • AM.

    Congrats on a good run. However, as you have pointed out numerous times, aging does in all players eventually. This means, as you approach 30, you are inevitably entering your decline phase, I am sad to say.

    Take heart, though. Once you get married and start having kids (ironically) all you will want to do is escape to your basement to blog, even if it isn’t as good as you used to write.

    Seriously, though, keep up the good work, and keep sending the Twins FO your resume. Start as a stats consultant, and in 10 more years you will be GM just in time to shape the Sano-Buxton-Kepler prime championship teams.

  • MC

    Well done sir and keep up the great work!

  • mariettamouthpiece

    It’s your respect for the game and its history that drew me in, and it’s your intelligent writing style that have kept me coming back.

    It’s the ability that you have to reach fans of varying ages, levels of interest, and, dare I say, proclivities (i.e., Link-O-Rama and Official Fantasy Girls) that have earned you my admiration.

    You found your voice and your audience on your own terms. That is the hallmark of success in any vocation or business, and is nothing less than the American dream personified.

    Nicely done, Aaron.

  • Large Canine

    One more congrats to you Aaron. It has been at least 8 years for me reading your posts. Most proud of your weight loss. Here’s to many more years of success with that challenge and your professional journey.

  • Sinking Liner

    Congratulations, Aaron. I’ve always admired your fact-based, common sense approach.

  • https://twitter.com/cantpitch Hans

    Congratulations, Aaron! I’ve been a reader since that ESPN article back in 2006 and haven’t missed an article since. You have a bright future on this “Internet” thing.

  • Nick D

    Congrats Aaron! I’ve been reading every single post for about 6 or 7 of those 10 years. You’ve kept my interest quite well, while outlasting several other twins bloggers as well as the short-lived blogging experiments of just about every one I know. So happy to witness someone making a career out of a simple passion. You’re an inspiring dude.

  • Mark R (Columbus)

    Congrats Aaron. Here’s hoping for 10 more years (daily reader on the RSS feed and dedicated podcast listener)

  • David K

    As somebody who’s working toward a similar goal, this is a very inspirational and encouraging post, Aaron. Keep it up!

  • Ryan

    Great stuff Aaron, I have been visiting your blog daily for almost 7 years and I look forward to many more to come. Cheers!

  • Tony P

    Congrats on 10 years Aaron!! Your blog is one of my first stops in the morning.

  • Logan

    I want to start a #GleemanForTwinsGM trending topic on Twitter. Who’s with me?

  • Skorch

    Congratulations on 10 years, Aaron! Over the past near-decade (I’ve been a reader since almost the beginning) I’ve frequently bristled at some of the things you’d say when I disagreed with what you’d write, but you always had the data right there to back your thoughts up. I’ve just as frequently been happy to see your opinions matching up with mine. Congrats again!

  • Joe

    There are few websites that I’ve stuck with over the years. I believe I first read your blog in 2003 while I was also a student at the U of MN, and since then my reading tastes have shifted countless times. Kudos to you for keeping this baseball fan interested all these years!

  • D-Luxxx

    Congrats Aaron. I’ve been reading since MC turned me on to your blog somewhere around 04 or 05. As most people are commenting, you’re a daily stop for me during the week, and will continue to be one as long as you are writing. Keep up the good work!

  • Milan

    Congrats on ten years Aaron, you should repost this on HBT.
    -churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged

  • Scott Stahoviak

    Aaron, as a routine reader for the last 6 years, I have to thank you for your incredible insight.

    I don’t have any data to back it up, but I have to say your track record is impeccable in terms of analyzing all things Twins.

    It baffles me that the local media doesn’t give you more credit, especially considering how much material is ‘borrowed’ from your posts.

    Keep fighting the good fight and as always Lets Go Twins!

  • jfs

    congratulations, aaron. i try to read your pieces every day. they really are the best. wishing you many more years of success.

  • http://www.jmichaelward.com Jeremy

    Congratulations, Aaron. I’m not sure how many of those 10 years have included me as a reader, but I feel like it’s been most of them. I’ve always appreciated your insights, even when I disagreed with them for reasons that had zero statistical merit. I look forward to reading your musings for many more years to come.

  • neil

    And I thank you, Aaron, for doing what you do. Your insight has fueled a generation of more intelligent Twins fans.

    Don’t ever leave us!

  • James

    Congratulations Aaron. Been reading your stuff for about 5 years, after I heard you on KFAN (Power Trip, I think). My baseball intelligence has been increased by your writing. Thank you!

  • Drew

    Congrats Aaron. Your blog is one of my favorite stops on the information superhighway. But srsly, a Royals jersey?

  • Chris F.

    Aaron, you’ve got a great blog going here, and I check it just about every day, ever hungry for more servings of your insights. I also appreciated reading your story of how you got into blogging, and without a doubt, the Minnesota Daily’s loss has been a huge gain for all of us who love your work. Keep it up!!!

  • Gavin Rowe

    Aaron, I love the fact that you needle the mainstream media’s coverage of baseball consistently. Your work here is fantastic. The radio work with Bonnes is entertaining. Congrats on having the guts to plant your proverbial flag in the ground and defend it!

  • Tom W

    Daily reader since 2003 (and yes, I come daily even though I know your schedule is different). Love it.

  • http://www.mog.com/funoka funoka

    Congratulations. I found you through a Batgirl link back in the day and continue to enjoy your take on the Twins and the Friday music videos. Keep up the good works.

  • Andy

    Congratulations Aaron! I have been a daily reader for the vast majority of your run. While I agree with most everything you write, some of the most interesting stuff to me is what I don’t agree with – which is a long way of saying you’re a great writer.

    Also, one of my favorite AG.com moments was your headline after the Twins signed Tony Batista.

  • John A.

    Congrats, Aaron. Yours has been my favorite Twins’ blog since I came across it in the early days.

  • http://twinsfanfromafar.blogspot.com Twins Fan From Afar

    Congrats! Hands-down the preeminent Twins blog. It always has been, and I’m sure it always will be.

  • ML

    Keep up the good work, Aaron. My apologies if my original comment struck a nerve.

  • mike wants wins

    Congratulations, sir. I’m happy for you that you found your passion in life. You are a lucky man.

  • pekingman

    In your blogs, you often thank us for reading your material, but we also want to thank you for adding a lot of fun to our life in addition to great baseball analysis. I live in China and read your blog as well as listen to you and John on the podcast. Really appreciate all your work, and I’m glad you enjoy it as much as we do!

  • John H

    I’ve been enjoying your blog for a long time. I don’t know how many years but it shortly after I was turned on to Bat Girl. One of the other dads on my son’s baseball team told me that one of his neighbor’s daughter had just started a blog and I should check it out. I miss her but am glad you are still around.

  • JT

    I’ve been a huge fan of yours for the past year or so and have been meaning to tell you that for a while. I read every update on your site and listen to every single “Gleeman and the Geek” podcast. Every damn minute of it. Thanks for doing what you do. Please keep doing it.

  • CA

    Aaron Gleeman – I’m a long time reader and a first time commenter. I’ve never felt compelled to write before but this post really made me want to say thanks for everything. Keep killing it!

  • Seth

    Long since moved away from MN, I still follow you and the Twins, first from Morocco and now in Hong Kong! Keep it up, my man.

  • Tap

    Thanks for all the writing and podcasts. Really enjoy them.

  • Randy K

    I credit you with introducing me to sabermetics when I started reading (don’t really remember when but guessing 2004) and for that I thank you.

  • Cory

    Thank you for this baseball blog, I come here often. It is amazing what a chip on a shoulder can motivate a person to achieve.