January Edition: Getting To Know... Katie Sharp
Katie Sharp has a ninja’s deftness, only with words and statistics, not weapons, incisively informing and entertaining us with her rapier-like observations. Educated as an undergrad at Williams College and eventually receiving her M.B.A from The Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon, Sharp now has ten successful years as a sports researcher and analyst under her belt. She is a well-known writer/editor and researcher at River Ave. Blues with other work published at SB Nation, ESPN.com and The Cauldron/SI.com.
As a veteran sports analyst, Sharp shares her knowledge of advanced metrics and interesting news by telling stories through numbers, across multiple platforms, including both online and print publications. She primarily covers the NFL and MLB, focusing on statistical analysis and team/player performance and evaluation.
Becoming more popular by the tweet, Sharp has changed the way her fans watch the game of baseball, primarily how they watch our beloved New York Yankees. She has been influential in a game where numbers are becoming more important than anything the eyes can see or the gut can feel. It’s time we get to know a little more about our friend Katie Sharp, as she revolutionizes the way we observe sports in modern day America.
Our Interview with Katie Sharp...
NYY Sports Talk: Let's start off with an easy one. What team did you grow up rooting for? What are some of your earliest memories of the team and who were some of your favorite players? Katie Sharp: My favorite team growing up was the Yankees. Some of my earliest memories were listening to games every night on the radio with my Dad, because we didn't have cable and didn't live in the NYC area. It wasn't just listening to the play-by-play, though; he was always quizzing me about players and stats and other historical tidbits. My favorite player growing up was Ryne Sandberg. Now let me explain: In Little League (yes, I played baseball, not softball!) I played shortstop and second base, and this was during the pre-Jeter years – late 80s, early 90s – and the list of Yankee middle infielders was pretty pathetic. Sandberg obviously was pretty darn good then, a great role model on and off the field for me.
NYYST: We know you were previously employed at ESPN as a researcher and now work as a writer/researcher for the River Ave Blues. What caused the transition from a big entity like ESPN to a blog that was just on the rise of becoming popular? Did the River Ave Blues contact you or did you first inquire about the job? Sharp: I left ESPN because my husband got a job in Vermont, so we obviously had to leave the Hartford area and move there. I initially wrote for a smaller Yankees blog – It's About The Money, Stupid – and after about a year doing that, River Ave. Blues contacted me about writing for them. They were just starting to expand (previously, Mike Axisa, one of the founders, was the only writer) and knew about my work, so they asked me to join the team. I was incredibly thrilled, because I knew they were arguably the most popular independent Yankees blog and it was awesome to be able to contribute to the site.
NYYST: How do you track down all of these amazing stats during the games? Is it more of a laid back experience where you're just surfing the internet for something that catches your eye, or are you specifically looking for stats about a player or a team, trying to find something valuable? Sharp: There are a bunch of terrific websites that I use to look up stats – Baseball-reference, Fangraphs, Statcast are the big ones – and usually I am reacting to whatever is happening during the game. I also prep a bunch of notes before the game, and those focus on trends, streaks, potential milestones, superlatives (good and bad), ranks, etc. From there, I start to specifically hunt down the relevant information as the action unfolds, and then share it with the wonderful Yankee twitterverse.
NYYST: Can you still be a "fan" watching the sports you love, or has the work of getting all of your stats taken some of the enjoyment away from the games? Sharp: I am definitely still a “fan” and go through most of the same emotional highs and lows of a typical fan. But I also tend to be a bit more rational, because I try to look at the underlying numbers and analyze the stats to get a better understanding of what’s really happening and why it’s happening.
NYYST: What's it like to be referenced during Yankee games? David Cone and Michael Kay mention you quite a bit. Has this translated into more recognition from Yankee fans in a noticeable way? Sharp: Oh, wow, it’s been unbelievable. I never could have imagined that it would happen when I first started tweeting stats during games, and the first time, I remember, I was in total shock. It has definitely led to an increase in popularity among Yankee fans, I've gained a ton of followers – so I can't thank them enough for recognizing me and using my information on air. It's still a thrill to hear my name, and I'm so grateful every time.
NYYST: Your twitter bio says you live in Boston. We love the city of Boston...during the months of November-February, of course. What's it like being a Yankees’ fan trapped in Red Sox Nation? Sharp: We moved there just before the start of the baseball season last year, my husband got a job about 25 miles north of the city. We don't go into Boston that much (the traffic is HORRIBLE), so thankfully I don't really feel “trapped” in Red Sox Nation. But it sucks to have to watch NESN (because of the MLB.tv blackouts) when the Yankees and Red Sox play each other.
NYYST: We want you to be honest here, does it get annoying getting so many requests from your followers for stats during the games? And yes, that does include NYYST and the 157 quirky stats we ask for. Sharp: It can be a bit overwhelming at times, but it’s not annoying. I truly enjoy helping people understand the game better, I love the challenge of looking up information, and sometimes it even leads to me finding more interesting and fun stats to share with my followers. It’s a win-win for everyone!
NYYST: Once the Yankees hit the golf course, what's life like for Katie Sharp? Do you enjoy other sports? Do you still have commitments to RAB in the off season? Sharp: Sports and numbers are a year-round obsession for me. I am big fan of the NFL, college football and college basketball – I try to read as much as I can about those sports and watch as many games as I can. You'll also usually find me tweeting interesting stats and notes on game days during the winter, especially for the Giants and the UConn Huskies basketball teams. I'm taking a break from writing right now, but will probably start up again with some stat-based articles as Spring Training gets closer.
NYYST: Where did you grow up? Give us a little insight into your childhood and what you feel inspired you to take the career path you've chosen. Was your family always supportive of your goals and dreams? Sharp: I grew up in Connecticut, just outside of Hartford. I was a tomboy for pretty much my entire childhood, played as many sports as I could, and I was also a sports news junkie. I inherited my passion for sports knowledge and stats from my Dad, who was a huge fan of the Yankees and Giants (football). The first thing we'd do when he got home from work was read the sports section of the newspaper together and discuss the big stories. He also loved to play trivia games with me about baseball, football, basketball, hockey … anything to do with sports. So I knew from a very young age that I wanted to do something that involved sports when I grew up. My parents have always been very supportive of my goals and dreams, they know that sports have been my passion and the heartbeat of my life since I was very young.
NYYST: It seems as if you take great pride in being a Navy wife, as you should. However, we can imagine it gets difficult at times as well. What has your husband meant to your career? Has his service in the Navy ever distracted you from your work? Sharp: I am so very proud of the incredible dedication he has to the Navy and protecting our country. He's been unbelievably supportive in me pursuing my dreams and goals, while at the same time I've been steadfast in helping him achieve his goals and dreams. We've both made some sacrifices along the way, but never has his service distracted me from my career. The toughest times, obviously, are when he has to be away, whether it’s for a three-day drill weekend in Virginia, a two-week exercise on the west coast or a six-month active duty assignment in Asia.
NYYST: Ok, back to the easier questions, we think. In your opinion, looking back at the "Baby Bombers" on the 2017 team, who has the best chance of making it into Monument Park? Sharp: I think, simply based on his unprecedented stats and historical numbers, you have to say Aaron Judge.
NYYST: During our second ever podcast episode, when you were kind enough to give us your time for an interview, you admitted to us you were quite the tomboy. What sports did you play? Were you very competitive or was it more about going out there and having fun playing sports you enjoyed? Sharp: I was very, very, very competitive when I played sports growing up, but at the same time it was definitely the most fun part of the day for me. I was on soccer, basketball, hockey and baseball teams year-round; I also played a ton of pickup football with my friends (my parents wouldn't let me play on a team), skied a lot, and did several years of martial arts training (Jukido).
NYYST: Any hobbies outside of stats and sports? Sharp: My “other” hobbies are running, cooking – if I'm not watching sports, I'm watching the Food Network – and hiking.