Happy New Year, SB Nation! I figured since this New Year's Day will feature th Winter Classic, which is one of my favorite personal sporting events, I would talk with one of the writers who will be attending that game on behalf of SB Nation.
Randy Booth has been a part of SB Nation since he was a kid. Literally. Booth was only 17 when he joined the network and we had to have his parents sign his initial agreement with SB Nation. Booth runs Over the Monster, the SB Nation Red Sox community. Randy also contributes regularly at SBNation.com. I've loved seeing Randy grow up with the network and here is the opportunity to get to know him better now. Have a great 2010.
Tyler Bleszinski: Tell me about how you came to be at SB Nation.
Randy Booth: I originally started blogging at my Blogspot stomping grounds in 2004. There I started "Red Sox Haven." Not the most original name, but it served its purpose. The only reason I started blogging was to improve my writing; I didn't know how far it'd take me at the time. About a year into RSH, I was offered the gig at SB Nation's new Red Sox blog, Over The Monster. It was an easy decision for me to say yes to SBN, which at that time was only a handful of new blogs.
Bleszinski: You've kind of grown up with the company. How have things evolved since you started?
Booth: In terms of size, it's night and day. I can't remember specifically how many blogs were around before Over The Monster, but let's keep it simple and say a lot less than 228. Now there's also a physical presence to SBN, which is pretty astounding considering five years ago it was just a few guys on a mailing list. What hasn't changed, though, is the leadership at SBN. The goal has always been to get the best writers, to have the best content and have the best communities. That philosophy has been the same since day one.
Bleszinski: You run Over the Monster but you're also doing some work for sbnation.com. Talk about the differences between the two.
Booth: There are occasions where I actually post the same link at virtually the same time on both SB Nation and OTM. I find the differences to revolve around the audience. I write more formally at SB Nation, making sure I get the pertinent facts into the story. At OTM, I can be a little more lax with how I write stories and cater to my audience a little less formally.
Bleszinski: What's the community like at Over the Monster?
Booth: It may be hard to believe since we're talking about Red Sox fans, but the core of the community is pretty savvy when it comes to their team. They all have different opinions, but they're able to dissect and discuss in a manner that really builds the community. And I'm willing to bet that the Sox fans who make up the community at OTM are some of the more reasonable Sox fans on the Internet. I'd even say that if I didn't run the show. I swear.
Bleszinski: How'd you come to be a Red Sox fan?
Booth: Living in New England (except Connecticut), it was just natural to be a Red Sox fan. My entire family is Sox fans, but my Mom really got the ball rolling early. She'd usually watch the Sox every night, even during the "ugly years" of the franchise. I'd usually take the games in with her, learning the ins and out, learning the players to love, learning the players to hate and the like. I remember watching the games and being able to recite every player's number. My mom would quiz me, I would get them right. I don't even think I could do that today, actually.
Bleszinski: What's your favorite all-time Red Sox player? How about current player?
Booth: My favorite "all-time" player is tricky since I'm an aged veteran at 22, but I need to give that nod to Bill Mueller. I'd feel guilty sleeping at night underneath my signed Bill Mueller photo of the 2004 World Series if I said anything differently. When I was younger, I was big fan of Mo Vaughn, John Valentin and Mike Greenwell. I hated Troy O'Leary, though. And I always will.
My favorite current player has to be either Dustin Pedroia or J.D. Drew. Two guys on different ends of the spectrum in terms of popularity, but I love how they play the game. Just like Mueller, they're guys who let their actions on the field speak for themselves (we won't mention Pedroia's loud mouth -- but that's one reason I love the guy).
Bleszinski: How about your favorite all-time Sox moment?
Booth: I'll choose two moments from 2004. One was obviously the comeback against the Yankees in the ALCS and then the eventual World Series victory. That speaks for itself. But one vivid memory was July 24 when Bill Mueller hit a walk-off home run against Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth. This was also the game when Alex Rodriguez walked toward the mound and Jason Varitek gave A-Rod a nice taste of leather. I remember leaning in to someone right before Mueller's home run and saying, "Mueller could hit a home run here. It's a 3-1 count and Rivera just throws fastball." Boom. Gone. I'm pretty sure I jumped out of my shoes.
Bleszinski: How are the Red Sox looking for 2010?
Booth: Despite general manager Theo Epstein's claim of a "bridge" season in 2010, the team looks ready to make another run for 95 wins. I wasn't thrilled about the John Lackey signing alone, but with the addition of strong defensive players like Marco Scutaro and Mike Cameron, it could make this a scary team. The Sox's offensive output may lack a little without Jason Bay in the lineup, but the pitching and defense should more than make up the runs. As long as the offense doesn't fall off the map, the Red Sox should be OK.
Bleszinski: I helped you get a credential for the Winter Classic. What do you anticipate it being like to participate in such a once-in-a-lifetime event?
Booth: I expect craziness. Complete and utter craziness. The game itself is historic, meaning the media alone is going to be overwhelming in tiny Fenway Park. Factor in how the fans are reacting to this game and it will make for one amazing day. They call Boston and New England a big-time hockey area, but throw that into the realm of the Red Sox and it's going to be something pretty special.
Bleszinski: Tell me something about yourself that people might not expect or know about you.
Booth: My family used to professionally race snowmobiles ... on grass. It's called grass drag racing. We were factory sponsored by Yamaha, traveling all over the Northeast. My job on the team was to clear out the track of any loose dirt, mud, etc. I'd also clean the extremely hot clutches after each and every race, plus do whatever else is necessary in the time-frame from race to race. After a seven-year hiatus, we will be back next fall. RX4 Racing coming to your neighborhood again, folks. (Maybe a topic for the Uncommon Sportsman?)
Bleszinski: Thanks so much and I look forward to reading all your coverage of the Winter Classic.