Blake Baumgartner has more to give and more stories to tell.
A passionate sports fan since childhood, he went to Michigan State University to pursue a career in journalism, ideally sportswriting.
For the better part of a decade, Baumgartner worked as a freelancer for the The Sun in Naperville, Illinois, a three-days-per-week newspaper, covering the important football, boys basketball and baseball stories of local high schools and serving as the lead prep writer.
“I was doing what a staff writer would be doing, covering those three beats. Features, gamers, all-area packages, any recruiting stuff, like if we had an athlete commit to a school,” he says. “I was doing what a staff writer would do, just without the title and cache that goes with it.”
There is one other main difference between Baumgartner and other full-time sports writers, in Naperville and other markets. Baumgartner has cerebral palsy, which limits his mobility.
“The only difficulty was football,” he says. While other reporters could stand on the sidelines, notebook in one hand and pen in the other to take notes, he needed to cover the game from the press box. “I can’t stand for long periods of time and being able to grip something in my left hand and write with my right. I’d have to be up in the press box, keeping my own stats, keeping play-by-play in a steno notebook. I can’t drive. My mother’s kind of a saint. She’d drop me off at any game and then pick me up.”
Filing stories wasn’t an issue as he’d attend games on Fridays and weekends, go home to file a story with his editor for a weekend website publication and the story would be in print later.
Unfortunately, Baumgartner knows his mobility limitations have restricted his abilities this far. He’s eager and hopeful, however, that this won’t be the end of his story.
On the advice of some contacts who have become allies at ESPN, he wrote a few pieces for Medium telling of his passion and challenges. The personal pieces were among the most difficult he’s had to write, Baumgartner says, but he wants to keep sharing his story, and his life, in the hopes of landing a full-time job covering sports.
“I’m scared to death that I’ve been typecast” as a high school sports writer, he admits. “My intention was never that. My intention was always to pay my dues.”
It’s All Journalism host Michael O’Connell talks with Blake Baumgartner, a freelance sports writer from Naperville, Illinois. They discuss Blake’s passion for sports and the difficulties he’s faced as a reporter with cerebral palsy.