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Feedback on newspaper profile

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by brandonhopper, Aug 23, 2012.

  1. brandonhopper

    brandonhopper New Member

    Hi everyone, I'm new here and look forward to learning.

    This is a profile I worked on for quite a while and published a few weeks ago. I'm interested in hearing in feedback anyone has. There is also a sidebar after the story.

    Thanks for taking the time to read it.


    One thing on Earth keeps Brandon Rix's attention.

    Unlike many recent high school graduates, he's not chasing girls 24-7. He doesn't constantly think about partying with friends, either.

    Days before leaving for college, Rix is worried about one thing.


    "It may sound far-fetched, but I want to play professional baseball. I do. That's the only thing that interests me," he said.

    Rix will leave Saturday morning to Liberal, Kan., where he signed to play baseball for the Seward County Community College Saints, one of the region's best baseball programs.

    "I've got to work hard enough," he said, "keep my faith and maybe God will reward me."

    There's the other thing that drives Rix. The person he rarely goes an interview without talking about -- God.

    "I know wherever I end up is where I'm supposed to be," Rix said in a trusting, calm voice. "So if it's supposed to happen, then, yeah, it's going to happen, but if it's not, then it's not. That's really all I can say. Either way, is it going to matter in the end? I just have to have faith that wherever I end up is where I'm supposed to be."

    It's her motherly instinct to protect her baby. Denise Province has given much thought to the question, "What if baseball doesn't earn him a living?" It's kind of her duty. Province has pounded into her son's head the value of a good education. For as long as he can remember, though, Rix has just wanted to play ball.

    "I didn't even pick a major," Rix said. "I'm just doing general studies when I go down there because nothing interests me enough to put that much time and effort into, except baseball. And that's the only thing I want to do."

    He's no fool -- he graduated CCHS with a 3.83 GPA -- he knows he's got to work in the classroom to stay eligible, as well as to meet several other incentives. He needs to maintain a 3.5 GPA or higher to get the $500-per-semester academic grant and a 2.5 GPA to keep his scholarship, he said.

    "There are these kids that know exactly what they're going for," Province said, adding she thinks her son should be a doctor. "Well, he's going to (school to) be a baseball player even though they don't have classes. If they had classes, he would be right in them."

    Brandon's dad, Troy Rix, has the utmost confidence that his son can achieve anything that he sets his mind to and prays about.

    "I have a nervous anticipation where I want to get this going," Troy Rix said. "I know where he's going, and I'm confident in that because I know who he is."

    Sitting down for a conversation with the CCHS graduate about what his baseball future might be like -- what he hopes it'll be like -- his water-filled eyes make it easy to see his passion for the game.

    "It means so much to me," Rix says, "Shame on me if I wouldn't get emotional about it.

    "Baseball wise, I want to go all the way."

    When asked what all the way means, without hesitation, Rix said, "All the way, I mean, all the way is all the way, man. I want to get up there. Every person that plays the game dreams of being in the Hall of Fame someday."

    And if any Tiger has a reason to dream that big, Rix would be the one. He won the league batting title during his sophomore year (.507) and senior year (.540) and was a hit away from winning it his junior year (.516). He's also the owner of league MVP and all-state awards. Rix started on varsity all four years of his career, and head coach Tim Ritter said he always was the best player on the team.

    "For four years ... he's been the best baseball player in our league I think," Tigers head coach Tim Ritter said.

    That may just sound like a coach sticking up for his player, but Ritter never has hidden his feelings no matter how it portrays his team.

    "I've had conversations with (Pueblo South coach J.R. Crowell), and he's said the same thing," he said. "He's the best kid south of Springs, we don't get to see those kids up there."

    Fellow Tigers graduate Eric Ritter will join Rix at SCCC. The two longtime friends will be roommates, as well as teammates.

    A strong team throughout the lineup, the 2012 Cañon City Tigers advanced to the final four. After the season, he was selected to play in the Futures Game, an all-star contest that pits the state's top 20 juniors against the top 20 seniors.

    Rix was on the same team as a Rockies' third-round draft pick and other players on their way to big-name colleges and the pros. Stepping onto the diamond -- at Coors Field no less -- Rix realized how badly he wants to make it.

    "Playing in that Futures Game, it kind of makes things go from kind of a dream to a goal, you know? Maybe this could happen," he said.

    "Sure, maybe it's far-fetched, but you shoot high. It's not like that saying, 'you shoot for the moon so you land among the stars.' No, you shoot for the moon so you go to the moon."

    Every region's best baseball players go to schools like Seward -- a top-tier, nationally respected program that's been ranked in the NJCAA's top 20 in 10 of the last 11 years, according to its website. After four years of separating himself from prep-level competition, he'll have to find a way to do it at the college level.

    Galen McSpadden is entering his 32nd year as the head coach of the Saints.

    "Our hope is that he'll help us get back to the national tournament and into the World Series," McSpadden said, adding that academics are important also.

    "We don't like signing guys here that only have a college opportunity after here," the veteran coach said. "Our goal is to sign kids to where they don't have a ceiling when they come out of here."

    In other words, McSpadden and his staff signs players they believe can be drafted after two years.

    Which is exactly what Brandon Rix wants to hear.


    The 2-year plan
    In some cases, it has it right in the name, "junior" college. Two-year colleges, whether it's a junior or a community college, aren't given as much respect as four-year institutes.

    When it comes to sports, that shouldn't always be the case.

    By his own account, Brandon Rix used to be ignorant, as well.

    "Once I learned that going to a junior college was more for sports ... knowing that it would make the perfect stepping stones ... was big," he said. "It took a little convincing of my dad because he thought I was settling because he didn't know. ... Now that I've learned about it, I wouldn't go any other way."

    Two-year schools gain an athletic edge for two main reasons. A freshman might get stuck behind a stud junior at a four-year school and ride the bench, not improving, for two years. That doesn't happen at a junior college, where the age range doesn't vary as much.

    "How many freshman are playing at the four-year level? Not a lot, not a lot," Seward County Community College head coach Galen McSpadden said. "That's the biggest thing. I believe, if you go (the) junior college route, you don't need to be sitting for a year. You can go do that at a four-year school."

    McSpadden said it's the perfect time for Rix and fellow CCHS graduate Eric Ritter to be going to SCCC since the Saints had a high turnover and aren't returning many players.

    The other big reason, in baseball at least, is the MLB First-Year Player Draft. According to MLB rules, a player at a two-year college can be drafted after his freshman or sophomore seasons. A player at a four-year school must wait until after his junior year or until they turn 21.

    According to its website, the Seward County Community College baseball program has had 82 players drafted and at least one each year since 1993, when Rix was born. One of the players drafted in '93 was former Cañon City High School graduate Mike DiOrio.

    Tigers assistant coach Steve Paolino graduated from CCHS in 1987 and played second base for McSpadden in '88 and '89. Through the years, Paolino and Tigers head coach Tim Ritter have earned McSpadden's trust. They've sent eight or nine players to SCCC.
  2. Bradley Guire

    Bradley Guire Well-Known Member

    First, I can be blunt. Don't mistake that for being mean. I want to point some things out and help you if you're willing to pay attention.

    Now, for the meat of what I think about your story ...

    As a profile, it's boring. Young man really loves baseball. So what? This guy is a dime-a-dozen. You've shown me nothing to make me believe he should stand out from the thousands of others like him who love to play baseball. All the cliches are there: Loves baseball, can't imagine doing anything else, has blinders on when it comes to his future without the game, parents quick to point this out but may let it slide because it could pay for his education.

    When I wrote profiles, most of my subject matter had nothing to do with sports. I just happened to write about athletes. Most of the time, they were screwed up people, because their loved ones were murdered or they became paralyzed before 18. This guy is Beaver Cleaver. When you mentioned you spent some time on this, I hope it wasn't more than a day, including interviews. Because the substance just isn't there. Not your fault he's a boring kid, but you've got to keep an eye out for something better. Maybe you could have taken it another direction with the faith angle, but you dropped it as quickly as you brought it up. It didn't go anywhere. Perhaps you could have written a bit on his faith in God then tuned and addressed his faith (blind faith?) in his future himself to succeed and make the majors.

    As to the actual composition, you've got to work on structure. One thing that really bothers me is the formula of exposition followed by quote, done multiple times. Here, you did it so that I felt even number paragraphs were exposition and odd paragraphs were quotes. Most of the quotes aren't even that interesting. Don't get bogged down thinking you have to quote everybody. It's okay to do interviews and use the information in the copy without quoting. Paraphrase. It was common for me to interview 10 people for a feature, but only quote a few. Even then, I didn't always mention those sources (either they had nothing to contribute or contributed only background details).

    Back on point ... exposition-quote-exposition-quote is sometimes the product of listening to bad editors who spout silly mandates about quoting three sources in every story. That's fine, but this is not the way to do it. What you're also guilty of is having a quote re-explain what you just told us in a sentence of exposition. Or vice versa. Congrats, you just doubled your story length and didn't accomplish anything.

    Your writing is also choppy. Lots of one-sentence paragraphs. Those are fine, but you're overdoing it.

    Other than that, you need to find interesting stories beyond "this player is pretty good, and he thinks he can make it big." In sports, especially high school, you can write that every day and not produce a single compelling thing to read. It's just not enough. Should you have written this story? Sure, but I wouldn't have written more than 10 to 12 inches. This is way too much story for too little substance.

    Then again, some readers (ignorant in my opinion) complained I wrote too much about people and not enough about sports. Probably why I left sports for news.
  3. brandonhopper

    brandonhopper New Member

    Thanks Bradley! I appreciate you taking the time to give such in depth feedback.

    I was originally going to write about his faith and how it helped him through sports, but after all the interviews I couldn't figure out a way to do that without being too preachy.

    I settled on this angle because he's probably the best baseball player to come out of this small community in about 20 years.

    Again, thank you.
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