Note: Wrote a version of this one for the March 12 issue of New Jersey Jewish News.
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Major League Baseball bigwigs worry that the game is losing young fans at a rapid pace. Among the issues are games that are just too long, lasting more than three hours and potentially lasting past a youngster’s bedtime. This particularly true during the post-season when games start later to accommodate broadcasters at the risk during the school year.
Matt Nadel, a 16-year-old sophomore at Golda Och Academy in West Orange, recently a published Amazing Aaron to Zero Zippers: An Introduction to Baseball History in an attempt to renew interest in the national pastime among a younger audience.
Nadel, who lives in Springfield with his parents, Debbie and Steve, and sister, Amanda, started blogging about the sport in 2012 and has become a bit of a media sensation, appearing on the MLB Network and gaining access to such baseball personalities as Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer,
NJJN: What was your “introduction” to baseball?
Nadel: In 2007, the Yankees played the Indians in the American League Divisional Series. I didn’t know much about baseball but I watched the games and really enjoyed it. I watched 2008 weekend Yankee games and watched more than half of the 2009 Yankee games, the year they beat the Phillies in the World Series. I’ve been in love with the game ever since.
NJJN: Did you do a lot of reading about the game? What were your favorite books? Do you have a favorite baseball writer? Favorite team? Player? Movie?
Nadel: Around the same time as the 2007 ALDS, I started reading a lot of books about the great Yankees, like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle. They were biographies for kids but I learned a lot. From those books, I got more names of famous baseball players like Ty Cobb and Willie Mays. Soon my knowledge of baseball grew so much that I wanted to teach people about it, so I started my blog, “Baseball with Matt.”
My favorite baseball book ever is probably Diamond Redemptions: Baseball the Way It Should Have Been by C. Terry Walters. It’s a book that takes a look at alternate realities of baseball history, like what if DiMaggio and Ted Williams were traded for each other? Stuff like that is really intriguing to me. Some of my favorite baseball writers include Roger Kahn, Marty Appel, Ira Berkow, and Peter Golenbock. My favorite team is the Yankees, but I’ll root for the Milwaukee Brewers if they’re doing well. My favorite player of all time is Mike Schmidt and my favorite baseball movies are Major League I and II. I’m a big fan of comedies.
NJJN: You seem to be more interested in the history of the game than other aspects? Why is that?
Nadel: I like watching current baseball…, but I love baseball history…because it’s so rich. It dates all the way back to the Civil War and ties in a lot with American history, especially during the World Wars. To me, out of the four major American sports, baseball has the best history because it has the coolest characters, most invigorating moments, and most interesting stories.
NJJN: How old were you when you first started blogging about baseball? How much time do you devote to it each week?
Nadel: I started blogging in April, 2012, so I was 13 years old, about three weeks after my bar mitzva. Generally, I blog once to three times a week, depending on the time of year. If baseball season is going on, there will be two to three posts a week. If it’s the offseason, there will likely be one to two posts a week.
NJJN: How did you go about getting the book published?
Nadel: After I’d written about 50 blog posts, I started copying the posts into a Word document, to maybe turn it into a book one day. When I got to about 100 posts, I decided to write the book. Since I loved A-Z alphabet books as a kid, I thought that would be a good format for a baseball history introduction.
I wrote the first draft of the book in 2013 with that format over about three months. After a bunch of edits, we were unable to find an interested publisher. But I didn’t want to self publish. Luckily, Mike Lynch from Seamheads ( a blog I guest write for) told us that Summer Game Books was looking for writers. We contacted Walter Friedman, the main guy there, and he liked my book idea, and decided to publish it. I was very honored that [Hall of Fame pitcher] Jim Palmer agreed to write the foreword. Also, since I’m just 16, make some money from babysitting, and don’t have many expenses, I thought it would be a good idea to donate the book proceeds to four baseball charities: the ALS Association, the Turn 2 Foundation, the Baseball Hall of Fame, and the Jackie Robinson Foundation. I’ve been very fortunate, and thought this would be a great way to give back a little.
NJJN: There’s been a lot of talk about how the game doesn’t appeal to younger fans anymore because it’s too slow or there are more distractions. What are your thoughts on that? What should MLB do to improve its appeal to a younger audience?
Nadel: I agree that the game is too slow and it definitely needs to be sped up. One way is simply implementing new rules to make the game quicker, which the MLB has already done. The game will always have 27 outs in a nine-inning game, but if the MLB puts more restrictions on stuff like how long is too long in between pitches or how long a batter has to prepare himself, then each game should speed up.
Also, I think some of the playoff games should start earlier so kids aren’t sleeping.
I’m actually going to be meeting with the Commissioner of MLB is the spring to go over all of my ideas on this subject.
NJJN: Who are some of the baseball personalities you’ve met/interviewed?
MLB: I’ve interviewed a lot of people, but my favorite interview was with Jim Palmer. It was my first interview with a Hall of Famer and my first phone interview with a former player. He was very engaging and we had an excellent conversation. I’ve also interviewed Mark Attanasio, the owner of the Brewers, Sandy Alderson, the general manager of the Mets, and Bud Selig and Rob Manfred, the former and current commissioners of the MLB, respectively.
NJJN: Most memorable baseball experience?
Nadel: My favorite non-blogging baseball moment was attending Game One of the 2009 World Series at Yankee Stadium, when the Yanks took on the Phillies. Philly won, 6-1, but I got experience the Fall Classic for the first time with my dad and two grandpas (it was the first time any of us had been to a World Series game). My favorite blogging baseball moment was getting press credentials to the 2013 Hall of Fame Classic in Cooperstown, New York. I got to interview a bunch of former players, including Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson, Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage, and Phil Niekro, and HOF President Jeff Idelson.
NJJN: Have you thought about a career path yet?
Nadel: I really want to be a broadcaster, but if that doesn’t work out, I want to stay involved with the game of baseball in any way, shape, or form.
NOTE: Matt Nadel will speak about his book on Thursday, March 26, at Bergino Baseball Clubhouse in Manhattan at 7 p.m., and Sunday, April 26, at the Barnes & Noble in Springfield at noon.