Having people to turn to

It was an aspect of working in sports media that I hadn’t even considered, but when I walked into the Fenway Park dining room my first day on the job, I quickly recognized it.

Among all the randomly filled tables, there was one cluster that looked purposefully occupied. The people sitting there didn’t seem like casual colleagues -- they appeared to be actual friends.

My co-worker brought me over to the area; turns out that’s where he sat, too. They were a motley crew of media types: writers, radio personalities and those who worked behind the scenes. Some were veterans of the industry, others were fairly new like myself. I joined them and quietly observed this dynamic I didn’t expect to find in a highly competitive market, especially on a Red Sox beat that at that time was in the midst of World Series contention.

Their warm welcome was refreshing, as was their obvious support for one another, even though they worked for different outlets. From that day forward, they continued to call me over to join them for meals, included me in postgame outings and invited me to their annual holiday gathering (which I eagerly anticipated like a freshman going to a senior party).

It was never about wanting to be part of a group to “feel cool,” though. These people, who I am pleased to call my friends years later, were a support system in this small world of sports. When I had a question, they were there to offer advice. When a new job opportunity arose, they were fast to put in a good word. Anything I was going through, most of them had already encountered. Fenway Park meals turned into an instant learning experience. Being able to turn to them was invaluable as I began navigating the ropes.

I didn’t view myself as a “female reporter” when I began this line of work. Many women, including Jackie MacMullan — whom I interviewed for the TOMBOY podcast — had broken down barriers in the Boston market years before I got there. Rather, I saw myself as a young journalist starting off in a demanding industry ready to work hard at a new job. Both men and women alike were eager to help. When I was asked to write about my experiences for TOMBOY, the first thing that came to mind was, “I have been fortunate to have some really positive ones.” These relationships played a part in that.

As I got to know these fellow media members better, something unexpected happened. I ended up making two best friends who are so close to me I consider them like sisters. I was fortunate to meet women who saw the same value as I did in helping to build each other up. We have leaned on each other on countless occasions, able to uniquely relate to one another in both work and in life.

Even though the three of us live in different states, we have maintained a friendship for over 10 years. We got creative with how to see one another in spite of our often conflicting schedules. “Girls weekends” were far from the typical getaways — we’d meet in New York for Red Sox-Yankees series. Cover games during the day, catch up at night. Not exactly a weekend at the spa, but it worked for us.

The sports media industry is competitive. There are races to break stories and battles to get a scoop. Somewhere in between, though, is the importance of having people to turn to along the way. It makes the grind a lot smoother.