Nick Friar is a sportswriter and web producer for CSNNE, where he covers the baseball team he grew up idolizing, the Boston Red Sox. Much of his days are spent in the clubhouse, in the locker room, and on the field of historic Fenway Park.
Other than the ballpark, not much has changed. He has been doing this his entire life.
Before he started his career in journalism, Nick was a baseball player himself. As a kid, he learned the fundamentals in local town leagues, and then spent years refining his game through drills, practices, and games. He continued pursuing his love of baseball through every level of competition--eventually becoming a Division-1 athlete at Northwestern University.
He had it figured out at an early age that he wanted to stay around the sport of baseball. If he couldn’t do that through his own playing ability then he would do it covering the playing ability of others, as a sports journalist.
He did exactly that.
Read-on to find out how Nick successfully transitioned into journalism as his career as a Division-1 Pitcher in the Big Ten Conference came to a close.
Tell us about your playing experience—
I played college baseball for four years at Northwestern University. Didn’t play much my freshman year, then played significantly more my sophomore year and did well. Next year, I didn’t play well early and didn’t get much time as a result. I went and played summer ball, did well, got a cup of coffee with the Falmouth Commodores in the Cape Cod League and got to live out that dream for a bit.
Senior year was much better, started out as a reliever, wound up starting and led the team in wins. But I wasn’t ready to hang up my cleats, so I tried out for several Major League organizations, but to no avail.
I had one scout who was interested on some level, so I kept working on it while starting my journalism career. In that time he talked to me about trying Independent ball, which is unaffiliated professional baseball for those who don’t know, but it wasn’t what I was looking to do. Someone else reached out about playing overseas, but that doesn’t have the same promise as it might for a basketball player, so I passed on that, too.
I graduated in 2014 and continued talking with the scout until the start of August in 2015. At that point I felt it wasn’t going to happen, and I needed to move on. One of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make, but also one of my best.
What was your transition like after sports? What were the emotions and thoughts that you were feeling?
To put it simply, it wasn’t easy.
Everyone has ways they identify themselves, whether it’s their job, music they like, etc. I was always a pitcher. Didn’t matter that I played other sports growing up, that’s who I saw myself as and pretty much everyone else did, too. So to have that title stripped was strange.
I still get people who ask, “Are you throwing anymore?” and things like that. While I’m still surrounded by the game almost everyday, I hardly play at all now. Kind of did a 180. That’s not because I resent the game—couldn’t be further from the truth. But I am used to preparing at a certain level with my training and throwing. It’s not a matter of how I’d perform, I just need to know I did everything I could to do well.
But by not playing much, I’ve found more time to focus on both my career, along with other hobbies and relationships in life.
What challenges did you experience and how did you overcome them?
More than anything I’d say adjusting my mindset on a daily basis. Everyday always centered around what I did in my baseball preparation. That wasn’t necessarily a good thing either because there’s so much more to experience in life other than the sport you play or your job. I’d say I’ve overcome that and it’s allowed my to try new things and invest time in other interests.
Did you have a plan for life after baseball? Did you know what you were going to do when your playing career ended?
I did to a certain extent, yes. As much as I fought to give up playing, I always made sure I was prepared for a career after playing. But I still had every intention of staying close to the game and ever since I watched ESPN before school as a kid, I always knew I wanted to be a journalist once I wasn’t good enough to play anymore.
I’ve realized I’m capable of being more than just a writer—which is exciting—and I’m still working towards figuring out what that can lead to.
What are you working on right now?
I’m a writer and web producer for CSN New England’s website, csnne.com, where I cover the Boston Red Sox. With that, I also appear on WPRI Fox Providence and WTIC 1080 (CBS Hartford sports radio) as a guest to discuss the Red Sox.
Can you tell us about a typical day for you?
When I’m covering a game, I typically arrive at the park four hours before the game with the clubhouse opening up three and half hours beforehand.
I then spend time waiting for specific players to interview for a story until I get them or the clubhouse closes up just before the manager’s pregame press conference.
After the press conference, I’ll either head out to batting practice to get any other interviews I need or write up one or two stories.
Following the game, I wrap up my first story on the game, then head down to the post game press conference and then the locker room. Then I write 2-3 more stories.
I’m usually at the park for 8 hours a day.
Do you have any advice for athletes making the transition into life after sports?
Start planning early for a life after playing. You never know what can happen, good or bad, so it’s always better to be prepared.
And if you don’t think there’s enough time in the day to get it all done, you need to rethink what you’re doing on a daily basis or how you’ve allocated your time.
On top of all that, find something you love doing. It’s worth it. I may spend 8 hours at a baseball field, but it doesn’t even feel like I worked by the end of the day.
Anything else you would like to add?
Do whatever you can to differentiate yourself from others. There are a lot of ways you can do that. For me, that’s been my voice as a writer and how I present myself.
Remember to appreciate every struggle you go through. They aren’t always fun, but you can learn something every time. That’s how you become better at what you do.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Everyone makes them. What matters is how you respond.