"Obsessed" is just a word that the lazy use to describe the dedicated.
That's what I used to say all the time in high school when people couldn't understand why I was the way that I was or why I did the things that I did. I was a 16-year-old junior when I first started my blog. Back then, I was only known amongst my peers as the kid who wore a Red Sox shirt every day. I hated that. I wanted to be known as the SoxSpace guy, not the T-shirt guy. Anybody can wear a t-shirt. I wanted to be the best Red Sox writer on the internet. Ever. I wanted it to be my job, not a hobby.
Back in 2006, social media was fairly new and blogs weren't the career landing spots that they are now. Around that time, if you wanted to make it in writing, you had to hang up the fan hat for a more polished, professional voice. I didn't want to do that. It wasn't me at all. I didn't see anything wrong with readers knowing that I was a fan who shared the same emotions towards the sport as they did. I saw it as a benefit. For me, writing was just an outlet to escape real life and express myself in a space where readers shared the same passions and interests as me. My friends were hockey and golf fans. Couldn't care less about baseball. I had my parents, who both love the Red Sox, but I wanted more than a two-person audience and I knew I was capable of growing one on social media.
Within a year, my blog had accumulated over 120,000 "friends". I was hooked. I knew that writing about the Red Sox and creating baseball content was all I ever wanted to do for a living. I'd die trying.
In 2011, I met an out of shape, hunchback, big nose, empty bank account, no tan-having, moppy-haired, poorly dressed Dave Portnoy. He was hosting the New England Sports Blog Awards at Jerry Remy's across the street from Fenway Park. For whatever reason, they only had that awards show twice. Once in 2009 when I won Best Red Sox Blog and then again in 2011. I won Best Red Sox Blog again on that night. Another trophy for the kid. But then something unexpected happened. I won Best Overall New England Sports Blog. I knew I deserved Best Red Sox Blog, but when I went up to accept Best Overall, I shouted out Barstool and said that they deserved this award. I'll never forget the surprised look on Dave's face. Maybe it was a little bit of ass-kissing, but it was also just a factual statement. Perhaps it stuck with Dave. I don't know. Never asked him.
Three years later in May of 2014, I was on the field at Fenway Park for the Red Sox Nation Day pregame ceremony. As the story goes, my girlfriend at the time was down on field level taking pictures of me. The NESN cameras rolled footage of her doing this later in the game, Stoolies took pictures of their televisions, tweeted them at Barstool bloggers, and Feits put her picture on the site with the Send Out The Smoke Patrol headline. Around that time, I had a little bit of a following on Twitter, so some folks recognized her and tweeted at Feits to let him know that this Fenway girl was actually @Jared_Carrabis' girlfriend.
Feits shot me a follow, checked out some of my stuff, we got to talking and next thing you know, I'm hired as the Red Sox guy for Barstool Sports, the blog that I had been reading since 2007. I've used this comparison a bunch of times, but it was like when Jason Newsted got to join Metallica. Dude was just a diehard fan that got a once in a lifetime opportunity to join the band. That's how I felt. Neither of us won a contest, a lottery or anything like that. We were both just really good at what we did, kept grinding for years as we awaited our opportunity to present itself, and got the chance to prove ourselves right where we belonged.
Within a year at Barstool, I started my first podcast, Section 10, named after the section at Fenway Park where my family had season tickets since 1998. At the time, it was just a little side project I was trying out to add another weapon to my content arsenal. With the help of Steve and Coley, it has since become the second longest running podcast in Barstool history, the number one Red Sox podcast in the world and consistently sits atop the charts as one of the top baseball podcasts overall as just a single-team show. It's my baby.
By 2017, Dave finally approached me about wanting a national baseball podcast. That's when we went out and got noted psychopath Dallas Braden who had recently become a free agent after a stint with ESPN. If you recall, Starting 9 was originally a podcast and a digital baseball show. At the time, I was living in a house in the Boston area with four of my friends. I had the bottom floor to myself. As the digital show started to take shape, Barstool had sent me some camera and lighting equipment, as we began doing practice shows. The feedback was that my backdrop looked like a crackhouse motel, so they wanted to send me a set to build and put behind me. My reaction was, so you want me to wake up in this room, blog all day in this room, and then do the digital show every night in this room that has my bed, a big ass desk and now a video set? When would I ever leave this room?
Would it be easier if I just moved to New York?
That question changed my entire life forever. They took me up on it. I packed up all my shit and headed for Manhattan where I'd spend the next three years of my life. It was a huge adjustment. I didn't always handle it well. I basically had spent the last decade of my life in isolation. I went to night school for college, I had worked three different jobs since high school that all had zero customer interaction and never had more than four people in the office at any given time. Now I'm in New York City with eight and a half million people running around, working in an office full of vibrant personalities and cameras constantly in my face, sometimes during my worst moments. It wasn't something that I loved, but I wanted to prove that I could sit at the big kid's table as an equal instead of being viewed as an afterthought because I wasn't in New York.
I think I proved my point.
During the first Christmas party that we had while I was living in New York back in December of 2017, I met someone by chance. Fate. Everything happens for a reason-type shit. I'm in the bathroom at this bar nine blocks from my apartment. Dude comes up to me and tells me he works for David Ortiz. I'm like, "Oh, that's sick!" I'm thinking he's doing social media marketing or some shit for Papi, but doesn't actually know him or work all that closely to him. I think he could sense the fake excitement in my voice, and he whips out his phone to show me that he has Papi's instagram and Twitter logged into his phone. Oh, okay. So, this is quite obviously someone David trusts if he's got the nuclear launch codes. Someone I feel like I should know. We exchange info.
As I'm sure you're aware of by now, I sort of Irish goodbye'd New York during the pandemic. My lease was up every August 1, which is right in the middle of baseball season AKA there never would've been an opportune time to move home with how busy my schedule is in-season unless they opened a Boston office, which there still are no real plans to open one as far as I know. We got sent home in March of 2020, I tried to stick it out in my 700 square foot apartment in New York City for as long as I could, but ended up leaving the city to ride it out in my childhood bedroom by May.
The longer the pandemic went on, the longer I sort of realized that this was my chance to move back home, something that I wanted to do all along. When I brought up the idea to Dave, he told me he thought it'd be a "step back" for me. Insert Michael Jordan meme -- and I took that personally. Around that time is when Michael, the guy who worked with David Ortiz, reached out and told me that Papi was looking to get into the podcast game. Again, I'm skeptical about everything. Never in a million years did I think this would come to fruition, but I offered to put David's team in touch with Erika and hoped for the best.
It took months. And I mean months for this thing to come together. Like, almost a year later. My brain's weird, though. I can't react to anything until it does or doesn't happen. While the potential podcast was hanging in the balance, it was out of sight, out of mind for me. Then all of a sudden, boom. Hey, get on a plane to Miami. We're a go.
Yeah, you're going to David Ortiz's house in Miami. You're interviewing him for episode one. As much time as you need. Holy fucking shit, dude.
You can believe me or you can call bullshit, but I did zero prep for episode one where I sat down with David Ortiz for roughly an hour and 45 minutes. Prep? My whole fucking life to this point has been prep for this. I don't think I missed a single pitch of this man's entire career. I honestly didn't even have time to get nervous or have my brain explode with anxiety or excitement because HELLO, you now co-host a podcast with the most legendary player in the history of your favorite sports team's franchise. The player who, without him, you would have zero existence, zero career, zero happiness. Straight up. Nada. It was just, one second this is not happening and the next second, I'm sitting in Papi's living room for a three-camera shoot interview flying back and forth to Florida while balancing three other podcasts and two digital shows every week. It's been wild.
Now that I'm sitting here, recounting all of the events that led to this moment, I am one lucky motherfucker. I can tell you I worked my ass off and that I've literally dedicated half of my time on earth to getting to this point, which is a thousand percent true, but I would be wildly naive if I failed to acknowledge that I was in the right place at the right time multiple times and met all the right people along the way. Without question, I've got a lot of people to thank. But hey, life is about making the best of every opportunity you're given. This is the newest and most exciting opportunity that I've ever been given in my whole life. And I intend on making it a huge success.
As far as what you can expect from this podcast, which we've named Call Him Papi with the approval of Alex Cooper herself -- I'm sure there will be folks who will say, "Oh great. Another Red Sox podcast." Nope. This ain't that. Episode one is me interviewing Papi, yes. But we've got A-Rod, we've got Gronk, we've got Fernando Tatis Jr., and I don't want to say too much because some of these are agreed upon, but haven't been recorded yet...how about the first ever Barstool Sports interview with Tom Brady? Lil Wayne? The guest list is something else. And I'm really excited for you guys to get to listen and watch.
Trust me, it's not lost on me how cool it is to have once been that kid sitting in the stands at Fenway Park, watching David Ortiz come to the plate, crush homers and win championships, only to grow up and co-host a podcast with him. I'm totally not playing it cool. How would that even be possible? I can't believe what my life has become, either. I'm extremely grateful to everyone who has supported me along the way, from my family and friends to the fans. I remember back in 2007 thinking that this was the top of the top when I did that Red Sox Nation President debate on NESN as an 18-year-old kid. Can't top this! Enjoy it while you can! Wrong. Wrong again. Wrong for the next 14 years. Got a podcast with David Ortiz now. Pretty fucking crazy.
Call Him Papi Episode 1, presented by Nutrisystem, coming to YouTube and a podcast player near you on August 4, 2021.