Saturday, May 30, 2009

Baseball Dreams

Robbie Lumpkins and I

ABC News on Campus Website Photo Shoot, May 11 2009

On Monday, May 11, I drove back up to Gainesville. The new bureau hires were meeting to take a group picture for the website. Later that night, Brittny and I decided to go to Swamp with some friends. When I was there I ran into a friend of mine, Clayton Pisani. Clayton is on the UF baseball team. We started talking about baseball and he asked about my job with ABC News on Campus. The reporter in me came out and it wasn't long before I asked if there was anything newsworthy about baseball this season. After a few seconds, he said, "Robbie!"
"Robbie? Is he on the team?" I asked.
"Well, kind of," he responded. Clayton preceded to tell me about Robbie Lumpkins...

I had discovered an amazing story. Clayton said I could meet Robbie at the next home game that Friday.

When I got to the stadium, I walked up to the dugout and looked for Clayton. All the players were facing the field, looking exactly the same in their baseball uniforms. Their distinguishing marks were of no use because of course, I didn't know Clayton's number. So for a good five minutes, I awkwardly stood above the dugout, looking for Clayton, as onlookers most likely assumed I was checking out the team physique.

Once I found my friend, I asked if he knew where Robbie was.

"Over there," Clayton pointed to a man in a wheel chair sitting in section F. I walked over, sat next to him, and started talking.

Robbie was so friendly and kind. I explained I was a reporter from ABC News on Campus interested in doing a feature story on him and his love for the Gators. Robbie's face lit up and he quickly responded, "anything for the team!"

That week, my photographer and I followed Robbie around at two home games and one practice. Meeting Robbie was a blessing. His story changed my life. Robbie faces obstacles every day, yet he is so positive and has so much love and passion for life. He doesn't let his disability define who is he and what he can do.

I finished the story on Wednesday, May 27, and sent the script over to Hank Astengo, the sports anchor at the local ABC affiliate in Gainesville, WCJB TV20. I called Hank on Thursday and asked if I could swing by and let him take a look at the finished product. When I got to the station, we went to an edit bay and popped in my tape. When my story was over Hank said, "I have to rearrange my show."
"What?" I asked, extremely confused.
"I'm using this tonight," he replied, "This is amazing!"

I was in complete shock. I thought Hank would critique my package and have me change a few things, and if I was lucky, maybe he'd post it on WCJB's website. To my surprise, he wanted to air my package that night.

So, I called Robbie and everyone else I could think of and told them to watch the news at 6 and 10pm.

The next day, (yesterday) WCJB's assignment desk called me and said CNN picked up my story!
CNN Baseball Dreams

ESPN also picked up the piece! ESPN U Gators' No. 1 fan

I hope all who watch this are inspired by Robbie and his incredible story...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Gators Give Back

I turned a package after I finished the documentary for "First & 15."  It's on ABC's website. Check it out!

Monday, May 4, 2009

My Spring Semester Has Officially Ended...

Interviewing Aaron Hernandez, Draft Day April 14 2009

It's 2:40am and I'm staring at the purple bows on my sheets and the high school shrine my mother has made of my vanity. I'm back home, lying in a twin-sized canopy bed I've had since the third grade. The spring semester ended this past Friday, and that means sorority house move-out, and summer move-in with the parents. But there is a silver lining. Interning in New York City this summer is still an option. I need to make some calls this week.

I got home about two hours ago. I was at the bureau till about 11pm, editing a story for ABC.

Before that I was squeezing my entire room into my car. It's a miracle Sparkles (my fish) survived the two-hour drive. I had a few close calls with him. I actually pulled over on the interstate when it looked like he was floating.

Prior to the big move-out, I was at Firestone getting new tires. And guess what? The television in their waiting area is set to WUFT....(all along I thought no one watched us). After about an hour of some great local programming, I decided to get up and watch the mechanic work on my car. He was no where to be found. Bored, I walked around the store checking out the tires. I was thinking about a story Brian Ross did on aged tires being sold as new. In his standup he showed viewers how to decode the digits on the tire that represent the manufacturing date. I couldn't remember what Brian Ross said but that didn't stop me from playing detective and investigating the tires anyway. I had to look closely because I'm blind as bat. Around my fourth tire, the man at the front desk cleared his throat and looked at me. I smiled and walked toward the garage.

My mechanic was back, and with a McDonalds bag in hand! For the next two hours I waited as the man at the front desk suspiciously watched my every move. I debated telling him, "I was just checking the dates on the tires," but realized that would be weird, and it'd be easier to let him think I was a tire-thief.

What compelled me to get my tires changed? Well last night after I left the bureau, I decided to get a burrito for dinner. I called my mom while on my drive, to complain about how stressed and tired I was. I quickly realized my car wasn't moving when I put my foot on the gas pedal. A glance at my gas gage...oh, what do you know, empty. I pulled over as my car slowly lost momentum. I started crying. My mom started to panic as she yelled at me for being irresponsible. It was when I called triple-A, and they asked for my location, that I realized I was in front of Shands hospital, blocking the turning lane into the emergency room.

The one-eyed man from University Towing was there in a flash. Yes, he had one eye. He looked like the old man who repaired Woody in Toy Story 2.

The one-eyed, Toy Story repair man look-a-like from University Towing told me my tires were bald. When I called my dad this morning he said, "ya know, you need to get new tires on your car before you drive home, they're pretty bald." Funny you say that dad...

So, it's been a long week. The picture at the very top of this post is from "Draft Day," one of the events during the week of First and 15. Shortly after that interview, my documentary was presented to over 1,000 people. To see first hand, my work touching the viewers, evoking their emotions; it was the most amazing feeling. All those eyes fixed, for 7 minutes, on something I created...I'll never forget that night. And it gets better, that Saturday, April 18, my documentary was shown a second time, at the Black Tie Benefit Dinner. But this audience was very different. The dinner was $1,000 a plate, so you can imagine what high rollers were in there. Guests included Governor Charlie Crist, James W. "Bill" Heavener, Coach Urban Meyer, and Erin Andrews. I stood in the back of the room and watched as hundreds watched my documentary. Later that night I was told by an athletic director that he's, "never seen so many people crying at the same time."

My spring 2009 semester of college has officially ended. I am in one piece, my family and friends are in good health, I got three A's and a B+, Sparkles is alive, I have new tires on my car and one amazing documentary under my belt. I couldn't have asked for a better semester.

Tim Tebow and I, Black Tie Benefit Dinner April 18 2009