Guess Who’s Back? (and Other Site News)

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Guess who’s back? Well almost back anyway …

Like a still-half sleeping bear emerging from its winter hibernation, I’m still wiping the sleep from my eyes and shaking away the cobwebs of the dreams from weeks past. I had intended for my “leave” to last through the end of this year, but I’m itching to get back into the swing of writing and reincorporate all things Call to the Pen back into my life.

The break has done me a world of good and allowed me to fit some other things and hobbies back into my life that writing had previously pushed aside. My sabbatical from writing also reinforced that I truly love to do this. Despite having a multitude of things to do with my extra free time, I kept finding myself thinking up new article ideas or simply longing to launch into an article.

Honestly it came as a relief when I realized how much I was missing both writing and running this site. I put off taking a break (and it was long overdue) because a huge part of me was worried that once I stepped away from my baseball writing that I would never come back. I walked to the edge of a life without FanSided and without Call to the Pen and the love of baseball, the love of writing, and the love I have for this network pulled me back.

It all happened just as I hoped it would, but much faster than I had anticipated.

So here I sit writing. My last post was only 2 weeks ago but it feels like it has been months and there’s a reason for that. While I was still publishing a few things here and there, mentally I had checked out quite a while ago. I was burnt out and barely going through the motions.

Now, my mojo is back. My desire is back. My batteries are recharged. I’m now ready to jump back in with both feet and do so knowing that I need to ensure I set aside time for some of my other hobbies as well. Maintaining balance has never been one of my strengths, but I’m learning! I’m reinvigorated and I hope the quantity and quality of the work I publish here going forward will reflect that.

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While I wasn’t writing these last several weeks, I was still thinking about this site and its future in ways that went way beyond how I fit into the Call to the Pen picture. Stepping away from the writing has allowed me to detach from the day to day and gain some perspective on where we are at with this site. I have posed tons of questions to myself and sifted through a number of random thoughts and ideas. Some of these ideas really sucked (oh if you only knew how some of them sucked) but I think I found a few with real merit that will be to the benefit of CttP and (hopefully) the FanSided.com Sports Network.

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First and foremost among these ideas (and this one is the real gem) was to add more dedicated staff to the site. Having some of our most talented lead writers from the team sites contribute weekly columns to Call to the Pen has worked great (and I hope that format carries on) but I’ve always felt this site needed more. I needed more. I’ve needed someone to push me. A bobble to my bubble if you will. That’s where Nathaniel comes in.

If you read our content on a regular or semi-regular basis you’ve already read some of Nathaniel’s work. He’s been a featured columnist on this site since its inception and has provided a weekly edition of This Week in Prospects (TWiP) for seven months now. He’s chipped in some “bonus content” pieces along the way, he stood with me as we’ve tried to find a good (and different) way to cover transactions, and he’s provided some of the best trade analysis to grace the web/general baseball blogosphere.

He’s also been my primary sounding board when it comes to this site, and my writing in general, since he joined FanSided as the Lead Writer of our San Diego Padres site, Chicken Friars. During that time, Nathaniel has also become a good friend and some of our chat related discussions on specific players in the minors and majors have been nothing short of epic.

Late Sunday night he published an article titled Clay Buchholz, Jason Hammel, and Fielding Independent Pitching. That article is significant because it marks the start of his tenure as a dedicated writer for CttP. He will no longer be splitting time between this site or any other and it is a move that I believe will be to the benefit of both of us in the long run. Like I said, I’ve needed someone to challenge me here and that’s simply not something our featured columnists, based on the nature of their positions, have been able to do.

I’ve needed someone else in this with me full time without allegiances or commitments to any other site out there and now I have that. I’m excited to see what we can do and where we can take this venture.

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If you have been a fan of our scheduled columnists and/or regular columns, don’t worry, they remain a part of our lineup and my plans for the site. My hope is that Nathaniel and I will be able to publish a good 50 articles (between the two of us) each and every month. Factor in the daily columns and you should be able to count on 2-3 fresh articles each and every day of the week from the Call to the Pen staff.

In addition to bringing Nathaniel on as a full-time writer, I plan on finding a few reliable and talented writers to join our staff from outside the family of FanSided’s MLB team sites.

Our columnists have done a great job so far, but their primary focus is, and should be, providing regular content for, and growing, their own sites. Jordan (Cubbies Crib), Justin (That Balls Outta Here), Ryne (Redbird Rants), John (Motor City Bengals), Steve (Blog Red Machine), Michael (Kings of Kauffman) and several others that served on staff here have all sacrificed time they could have spent working on their own sites to provide content for Call to the Pen. The fact that they have, and continue to do this, has been very humbling and it is something that I greatly appreciate. I know they each have their reasons for contributing that go beyond mere selfless acts of charity on a weekly basis but it still means the world to me that they do what they do.

That said, I can’t shake the guilt and feeling that their contributions here have taken away from their work on their own sites. I’m not going to push them away or encourage them to stop providing content for Call to the Pen. That’s certainly not my intent. However, by forming a core staff of contributing writers focused and dedicated to this site, my hope is that it will allow them more freedom and flexibility to take a week off from their column here and there during those periods where their time is stretched especially thin because of work, school, family or whatever the case may be.

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On the content side of the coin I have a number of things that we’re going to roll out and give the ol’ college try. The ones that work well we will make regular features. The ones that don’t will be set aside to be reevaluated, redesigned, or scrapped altogether.

You can look forward to a weekly poll column, a regular “mailbag” feature and a point-counterpoint column wherein Nathaniel and I argue a relevant topic each week (or month) as time and topics allow.

Since John has been doing a great job recruiting new staff for our various team sites, I’d also like to reintroduce some collaborative posts but do so in a more manageable fashion.

Further, because I think it is important to have Call to the Pen serve as a platform to showcase the talents of our various baseball writers I’m also planning on working with John and our staff to provide some guest posts. I believe this will be an excellent way to show off those writers that don’t have the time or desire to contribute to the site on a regular or recurring basis.

Nathaniel and I will not be tied down to specific topics and will roam the baseball landscape to cover and react to that which moves us, but we do have our areas of focus (some might call it “expertise” but I won’t go that far) that I’m sure we will return to on a regular basis. From Nathaniel you can look forward to plenty of minor league and prospect coverage as well as articles that are sabermetrically inclined. As for me, you can look forward to draft related articles, series that run down various topics organization by organization, and I always enjoy covering various roster moves by way of player profiles.

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In a nutshell we’ve got big plans. (Big plans I tell ya!) Only time will tell what we can do with them.