by Andrew Kulyk (@akulykUSRT) - posted 7:48 pm, July 19, 2013
It isn’t too often that a member of the media gets enshrined into a sports Hall. Tonight at Coca Cola Field was just one of those occasions as Buffalo News baseball writer Mike Harrington was inducted into the Buffalo Baseball Hall of Fame. Alongside were two other inductees, former Bisons players Dave Roberts and Ernie Young, both stars from the Cleveland Indians era as the Bisons’ parent club.
For Mike, it is an honor which is richly deserved. He has been at the helm as the Buffalo News’ primary Bisons “beat reporter” since 1993. He covered the team’s three championships, in 1997, 1998 and 2004, as well as the Triple-A World Series in Las Vegas in 1998. On the big league level, he has covered every World Series going back to 2000. He has also covered NCAA basketball and is part of the Buffalo Sabres media corps.
We are excited about our friend and colleague’s honor, for he has been an indelible part of the Ultimate Sports Road Trip almost from its humble beginnings. He also inspired us to get involved as media free lance representatives. Make no mistake. Without Mike Harrington’s influence, we are not here at Artvoice today. There is no Play Ball. There is no Puck Stop. Well, maybe there is, but it wouldn’t be us doing it.
Our association with Mike began way back in 2001. We were in the Buffalo Bisons press room, doing some “media” work for a public access sports show which was so hideous it could have made your eyes bleed to watch it. We introduced ourselves, told Mike what we were up to, and he was captivated. So much so, that he pitched the Ultimate Sports Road Trip as a feature story in the Buffalo News. It ran in 2001, and when we hit the finish line in December of 2002, Mike did a follow up feature story. That piece made it to the AP news wires, and then a whirlwind of media appearances, culminating with NBC’s The Today Show. That gave the USRT a true “15 minutes of fame” which we will always remember and cherish.
Mike likes sports venues. He likes sports travel and road trips. He especially loves ballparks, old and new. Some members of the media who travel to faraway places never see the inside of the public areas of a stadium or arena. Work involves entrance through some obscure security door, a ride up a freight elevator, a seat in a press box and then a work area near a locker room. Mike does far more than that. When he covers a road game, in whatever sport, he takes the time to explore the venue, get a gander of the city and what works and what doesn’t work with the architecture, streetscape, food and event entertainment. He takes the time to mingle with the fans and get their feedback.
When he tweets from Sabres games the playing of “silly blooper reel”, few other media members care or pay attention. The reason he calls out the Sabres game night crew is because he sees and experiences how cool and awesome game night presentation is in other NHL venues, and demands better from the Sabres front office for the fans and spectators. That’s the kind of guy he is.
We’ve always been a bit envious of Mike, because as much as he travels for his job, he gets to experience cool events and places that are hard for the USRT to get to. How many epic World Series’ moments, how many NCAA Final Fours? Being working media is hard and grueling work, but it’s also full of awesomeness.
But we are guessing that sometimes Mike is envious of the USRT as well. He follows our travels religiously, he checks out our Artvoice columns as part of his reading rotation. In 2011 we had the good fortune to travel to Europe and follow the Sabres on their epic trip through Mannheim, Helsinki and Berlin. The Buffalo News didn’t send Mike, but he was following our travels and stories every step of the way.
In 2009, New York opened two gleaming baseball venues, those being Citifield, the home of the Mets, and the new Yankee Stadium, home of the Yankees. In May of that year, Mike traveled to New York, and then prepared a multi page feature for the Buffalo News profiling the new ballparks. The body of work was USRT-esque. it totally captured the feel of everything regarding New York’s two new stadiums. We’d like to think that we had some influence and impact on Mike’s decision to go on that trip, and to do all that work to create something that was so journalistically superior and thorough.
The Buffalo Bisons press box is almost like a family – staff, media members, the official scorer and public relations people sit together, mingle and do their jobs. Mike is a mainstay of that environment. When we joined Artvoice in 2004, he made us feel welcome, and since that time, we have seen him welcome other new journalists and bloggers as they have made their way through the accreditation process and take their seats as members of the media.
And the last endearing memory we get to share – We get to cover a few hockey road games for Artvoice each year, and just happened to be in Chicago’s United Center in January of 2012. The Sabres played an awful and forgettable game that night, and were in the midst of a protracted slump. In the post game gathering in the hallway downstairs, Mike repeatedly challenged Coach Lindy Ruff on his decision to keep Ville Leino in the game after some horrible miscues on the ice. Exasperated, Coach Ruff finally snapped, “Mike, YOU COACH”, and stormed away in a huff. It was an epic media moment and we were among the few fortunate enough to have been there in person.
So on this night we raise a glass to toast our good friend, our colleague, and our mentor, Mike Harrington, on the occasion of this great honor. Thank you for the fellowship, and hoping for many more years of association through our work assignments and our shared love of sports.
Follow the Ultimate Sports Road Trip on Twitter @akulykUSRT and @pfarrellUSRT