Graduate Covers Orioles for The Sun

Former Greyhound reporter covers the Orioles beat for The Baltimore Sun

By Ryan Eigenbrode  |  Photos by David Rehor
Jeff Zrebiec with Nick Markakis

On a Sunday morning in June, Jeff Zrebiec, ’01, takes the elevator to the press box at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. It’s more than two months into a six-month season, a stretch where Zrebiec has been on the road for almost 30 days and has spent the better part of 30 more in the same press box at Camden Yards.

This week, however, Zrebiec has a rare opportunity, three consecutive days off. His colleague, Dan Connolly, will travel with the Baltimore Orioles on a road trip to Toronto.

But that doesn’t mean Zrebiec has a ton of time to himself.

“An off day for me is only making a couple of calls,” Zrebiec said. “I am a list guy, so usually for a couple of off days, I have a list of 25 things I need to do: laundry, make travel plans, do expense reports, but you don’t have to go food shopping during the season because you are never home.”

Put Me in, Coach

Such is the glamorous life of a beat writer for a Major League Baseball team. Zrebiec has held that role at The Baltimore Sun since 2006, after spending the previous year as the paper’s No. 2 baseball writer.

During the season, Zrebiec typically writes at least one story a day, usually two, about the Orioles, and posts blog entries on The Sun’s website. For Zrebiec, the job represents the realization of an ambition that dates back to his days covering the Middletown (N.J.) North High School football team in the fall of 1996.

“My high school won the state football title, which was a big deal at the time. The game was at the Meadowlands,” Zrebiec remembers.

“Practically the whole school was there, and everyone was sitting (in the stands) with their classmates, but I said I wanted the opportunity to go up in the press box. There were other reporters there, and I said, ‘This is kind of cool.’”

One for the Books

A year later, as a first-year student at Loyola, Zrebiec began writing for The Greyhound. His experience led to internships with WBAL-TV and The Sun and eventually a full-time job with the newspaper where the communication major has spent his entire professional career.

Prior to joining the Orioles beat, Zrebiec spent time covering high school sports, University of Maryland men’s basketball, and college lacrosse. His first year with the Orioles, as the secondary beat writer, was the memorable 2005 season.

“That was the year where I wasn’t experienced enough, but it should have been a book,” he said.

“You had Brian Roberts’ career-threatening (elbow) injury; they went from first place to last in one of the epic collapses; the manager (Lee Mazzilli) was fired; Sammy Sosa and Miguel Tejada were on the team, hated each other, and divided the locker room.

“You had Rafael Palmeiro’s steroid bust, and as it turns out, there was a federal informant following Larry Bigbie and the team. Early in the season, they were in first for like two months. The stands were packed, and I thought it was the coolest job ever. Everyone wanted to read what you wrote, and when things are going well, then (players and coaches) want to talk to the media.”

Extra Innings

While the Orioles’ success that year faded quickly, Zrebiec’s dedication to his job did not. With the proliferation of the Internet and social media, reporters are busier than ever.

“You are never off. Even if you are on a vacation, you are on call, 24-7,” Zrebiec said. “I am of the mindset, especially at this time when everything is immediate, that you can’t be good at your job unless you are completely engaged with it.

“But I think of getting another job, and (I realize) I am wired for this.”

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1 Comment

  • Posted by Alexis Mcbath | January 11, 2016

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