Rooting for Jayson Stark, elected the 2019 winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for “meritorious contributions to baseball writing”, is easy. Being selected the Spink winner is a really, really big deal. This is THE award; a writer's World Series championship ring, in being recognized by voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of […]

Rooting for Jayson Stark, elected the 2019 winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for “meritorious contributions to baseball writing”, is easy.

Being selected the Spink winner is a really, really big deal. This is THE award; a writer's World Series championship ring, in being recognized by voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Getting the call from BBWAA secretary-treasurer Jack O'Connell this past December 11 in Las Vegas at Major League Baseball's annual Winter Meetings for Stark is a long time coming.

Stark went from being the interviewer to being the interviewee.   Covering baseball for The Philadelphia Inquirer, first in 1979 when being assigned the Philadelphia Phillies beat, Stark received the reception of that of a rock star, when he was announced as the 70th winner of the Spink award.

“It's so interesting,” Stark said during a recent telephone conversation.   “I'm used to chasing a story, and then, all of a sudden, you become the story.   It's been flattering and overwhelming (being name the Spink winner).”

In this age of social media, Stark found out quickly who his friends are, and in some cases where long lost acquaintances have gone, once O'Connell made his announcement.

How many people have reached out to Stark, beginning in Las Vegas?

So many well-wishers, about 500 in total while in Las Vegas, through texts, emails,Tweets, and on Facebook sent their personal and professional love to the Philly native.   Presently, Stark estimates he's replied to 1,000 messages, ranging from the commissioner of Major League Baseball Rob Manfred, to general managers, assistant general managers, managers, and team presidents.   When pressed for a name of someone the he was surprised to have heard from, Stark isn't shy to proudly comply.

“Jeff Bagwell (Hall of Fame Class of 2017),” Stark reveals.   ” His text, blew me away. It came out of the blue. How cool is that?”

The hall of famer's message was concise and heartfelt – “Very cool when the great ones get recognized”.   Stark responded with a thank you, only to be reciprocated by the former Houston Astro with a second text – “My Man!!!.”

Awards have a way of rekindling friendships and locating those thought lost, or at least dormant, for the recipient. Along with the baseball fraternity reaching out to Stark, people in his line of work have been equally happy for him.

“People reaching out to me is the coolest part (of winning the Spink award).   You realize   the relationships that have been built are meaningful and respectful.   It's just been amazing. Getting the call changed my life.   Not until you live it, it's hard to imagine.”

The Spink award dates back to 1962. Named after J.G. Taylor Spink, the longtime editor of The Sporting News, back in the day viewed by many in the game and in sports in general as the “Bible of Baseball”, Stark will join the exclusive writers' exhibit in the Hall of Fame's library – “Scribes and Mikemen”.   The annual recognition of baseball writing excellence by the BBWAA is something some may think is possible, but it remains total fantasy for most.

Stark shares a story about his visit to Cooperstown last July, while attending induction weekend.   Knowing that he was on the ballot, it wasn't until filing into Doubleday Field to attend the ceremony honoring the 2018 Spink winner Sheldon Ocker and Ford Frick winner ( presented annually to a broadcaster for major contributions to baseball) Bob Costas, that Stark realized he could be next.

“I ran into an old friend there, and he said that he's coming back next year for me,” Stark explains.   “This gave me chills.”

So far, Stark admits he hasn't begun writing his acceptance speech.   He hasn't thought about it.   Feeling honored, and thinking of the chills that he may feel on a hot July night, Stark seems to be holding his emotions together well.

The day after 2018's induction, Stark make the walk through the Hall of Fame gallery, then took the right turn up the winding walk-way to the library.   He tells of studying the names and faces of the previous Spink award winners at the exhibit, and being “blown away” by many of the greatest baseball writers' names of all-time.

To be a part of the exclusive writers' group forever immortalized in Cooperstown, Stark agrees there is no second highlight.   He is thankful for the opportunities that have now allowed a career recognition few will ever experience.   Stark remains as busy as he wants telling baseball stories in his humorous ways that continue to attract   new and referred readers.

The Athletic, a subscription-based sports website covering professional and college teams, is where Stark has been since last April 1.   The mutual association has been a success since day one.

“They (The Athletic) couldn't be more happy for me,” tells Stark of his winning the Spink award.   ” Alex (Alex Mather), Adam (Adam Hansmann), and my editors made an incredible website come to life. There was so much love at the event at the Winter Meetings.”

Prior to coming aboard The Athletic on April 1, 2018, a year earlier, Stark's career experienced a “put on waivers” moment.

An integral part of baseball coverage at ESPN since 2000, as a senior writer for ESPN.com,while contributing to SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, and other platforms along the network, suddenly Stark was released. A purge of ESPN employees had his name on the list.   When his former employer came calling, after the Spink announcement was made in Las Vegas, Stark was summoned to appear on Baseball Tonight.

“Of course I said yes,” Stark confides.   “None of this could have happened if not for ESPN.   I had 17 great years there. I'm not bitter or angry (at ESPN).   It was up to me to find the next “thing” in my life.”

Appearing as an insider along MLB Network's programming since 2018, Stark also keeps baseball busy with hosting “Baseball Stories” on   Stadium TV.

“I couldn't be luckier”, states the 2019 Spinks award-winner.

Behind every success story, baseball included, there's a strong support system that motivates and appreciates the sacrifices required.   Stark is clear how important his family is to his career.   His hall of fame family includes three children, who share the same love of the game as he.   Daughter Hali is with Major League Baseball as director, New Media and Content Marketing,   Son Steven, who lives in Colorado, has worked at the Rockies. A second daughter, Jessica, interned for the Phillies and Comcast SportsNet.

The support of Jayson's wife Lisa, who he met at a ballpark, remains of major importance to his regrouping professionally.

The Stark family will be in attendance at Doubleday Field come July to support, and possibly pass boxes of Kleenex down their seated row. The life-changing emotional roller coaster that began with a phone call from Jack O'Connell last month won't be parking until summer.

Stark credits his parents for his steadfast attitude to see, conquer, and adapt in media.   His love for journalism began with his mother June Herder Stark.

“She was a really great writer who infused the love of writing to me,” says Stark of his mother who wrote for The Philadelphia Record daily newspaper, and played a significant role at Philadelphia's Where Magazine.   Jayson's dad, Edwin Stark,was an electrical   engineer.

“We had a lot of fun, debating who were more important, artists or scientists,” recalls Jayson.

As Stark will make his way down Cooperstown's Main Street in July, passing F.R. Woods Baseball Town Motel and Souvenirs, followed by Doubleday Cafe and Sal's Pizza, once making the left turn into Doubleday Plaza, the drumroll of baseball immortality will beat and another writer will be   welcomed through the game's pearly gates.