Why yes, I do have the best job in the world. And there's no better time to let everyone else know, and maybe remind myself why:
In alphabetical order, here are 26 things I am thankful for this holiday season:
A. The Arizona Fall League: Six weeks of the game's top prospects playing in picture-perfect weather with the mountains as a backdrop? It doesn't get any better than that!
B. Best Buy's Geek Squad: Being a technophobe, when my laptop crashed in Arizona with a life's worth of data and pictures, let's just say it didn't help my recently diagnosed ulcer. But Special Agent Duve of the Geek Squad was there within two hours of my panicked call and voila, everything was saved and my computer was, at least temporarily, revived.
C. Camralady, aka Barbara Jean Germano: The best baseball photographer I have ever worked with as well as one of the nicest people. No one, and I mean no one, gets better pictures of the players, who simply come alive for her. Who else could get Albert Belle blowing a kiss to the camera?
D. Day games: Especially on weekdays. Baseball on God's green grass under God's blue skies. They are far too infrequent and always a pleasure.
E. Erica Brooks: She has been the guardian real estate angel for players in the AFL and Arizona-based Spring Training for more than a decade and is my guardian angel for reasons she knows.
F. Frenchy's Rockaway Grille: This Clearwater Beach institution, tucked away in the back of a parking lot on Mandalay, has the best stone crab claws, conch fritters, sangria and sunsets.
I whined and moaned and begged for a blog and am so happy to have one now, thanks to the amazing and patient folks who helped me figure out the bells and whistles. Please check out my twice-a-week (Mondays and Fridays) in-depth questionnaires with some of the top prospects in the game!
H. Homer Bush : Aside from having the best name in baseball, "HomeB" was one of the nicest guys in the game and at the top of the short list of players you'd want your daughter to marry. Forced to retire from the game way too early due to a congenital hip problem, he is the poster boy for "appreciate every moment in this game because you don't know when it will end."
I. Ivor Hodgson: The Kansas City Royals' sleeper southpaw hails from my home of Montgomery County, Maryland, went the small school route at Mount St. Mary's and is proving you don't have to be a "sunshine state" phenom with a baseball-factory pedigree.
J. Jim Bouton: "Ball Four" revolutionized how people looked at baseball and humanized its players, and I truly believe without it I wouldn't be doing what I am doing today.
K. Kevin Millar: One of the funniest guys with the biggest hearts it's ever been my pleasure to deal with in baseball. Whichever team is smart enough to sign this free agent won't regret it.
L. Lorenzo Cain: One of the great joys of my job is watching players blossom and bloom. When I met the Brewers outfield prospect in 2006 in West Virginia, he shyly told me I was the first interview he'd ever done. Now, after his AFL campaign, he is a superstar in the making and still the same wonderful down-to-earth kid he always was.
M. Mark Alan Teirstein, Mario Orlikoff and Paul White: Most people are lucky to have one amazing mentor, editor and boss in their lifetime. I've had three and am eternally grateful to this trio of truly awesome gentlemen.
N. The 1989 Nashville Winter Meetings: My first-ever Winter Meetings, I felt truly a part of the bigger picture, met so many people who took me under their wing, and, two months after having quit a 15-year three-pack-a-day cigarette habit, came home with pneumonia. That said, I hate Nashville as a site for the Winter Meetings as a whole and hope they never hold them there again.
O. The "Offseason": And not for the reasons you might think. There is no real downtime in what we do, and I don't officially go on vacation. But between October and February, some of my favorite events roll around such as the AFL, the Winter Meetings (which would have been a slam-dunk for my "W" had there not been a more deserving candidate) and the Rookie Career Development Program. I never get bored. Cold, yes. Bored, no.
P. Player Development Directors: The guys who make it happen, from when the prospects are signed and in the fold until they make it to the big leagues for good. Without their insight, cooperation and tolerance my job would be pretty much impossible.
Q. Quintin Berry: It might sound like I'm taking the easy way out on my Q by citing this exciting sparkplug on the fast track to the big leagues in the Philadelphia Phillies system. But the young outfielder's attitude toward the game is the kind you'd like to see from everyone you talk to: just happy to be there, grateful for the opportunity to play.
R. Rule 5 Draft: It is one of the highlights of my year and my colleagues make merciless fun of me for it. Click on the story to see why it is so worth watching.
S. Scouts: The lifeblood of the game, its past and its future, they could be paid as much as Alex Rodriguez and Johan Santana combined and it still wouldn't be enough.
T. Triple-A All-Star Game : Three days of catching up with what is always an intriguing mix of up-and-coming prospects and high-performing veterans with great stories to share. I've gone every year but one since 1993. Can't wait till Portland, Ore., in July!
U. US Airways Frequent Flier Miles (and Marriott Miles): It allows my family to not totally resent all the time I spend on the road.
V. Vero Beach and Dodgertown : A moment of silence, please, in memory of the greatest treat of Grapefruit League, a cross between sleepaway camp and a petting zoo for baseball.
W. Wayne Wilentz: My husband, for not just tolerating my job and its demands for the last 20 years, but always being supportive and enabling. He is an All-Star.
X. The XM Satellite Radio Al-Star Futures Game : One of the few opportunities of the year to bring the top prospects in baseball to the forefront before a big league stadium of appreciative fans.
Y. Eric Young, Sr., and Eric Young, Jr. : I first saw Big EY play as a center fielder at Rutgers in 1988 and knew immediately he'd be a big league star. I remember, several years later, he told me about his amazing and smart 10-year-old son, who got straight As and played the saxophone. Now that son is on the verge of big league greatness as well. And both are two of the nicest guys you'll meet. Like father, like son, and hurray for that.
Z. The Zooperstars: The Latkovski brothers, Dom and Brennan, took their dad's idea of a Harry Canary figure and parlayed it into on-field pandemonium and a top finalist finish in "America's Got Talent." I even got to don the Tiger Woodschuck costume and do the Tootsie Roll in Reading, Pa.