ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 24: Pitcher Bruce Chen #52 of the Kansas City Royals wipes his face as he is relieved against the Texas Rangers in the 6th inning at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on April 24, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
There are over a dozen BtBwriters an over the next week and a half you'll get to know all of them, thanks to Satchel Price's genius idea. Each one of us will be interviewed for your entertainment, reference, and education. Enjoy!
Dave Gershman: Your graphical work is some of the best around. Talk about what got you in to graphic design let alone baseball graphics.
Justin Bopp: Thanks for wanting to interview me, David. I think this is your wheelhouse, by the way, and you’ll probably have a fine career doing exactly this for a big network in the near future. But enough about you, let’s talk about me. Wait, that’s not how it goes…
Anyway, I started out at your age (really, that was only 1999!) actually wanting to make video games. One disastrous year in Arizona, a bunch of school loans, and a life-long lesson to never eat cactus at a friend’s house learned the hard way, and I came back to my hometown KC with my tail between my legs. But I didn’t come empty handed. I came back with a taste of graphic design that I picked up from the classes I actually attended. Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and at least one or two others I and the world have since forgotten all hooked me. Nerd that I am, I found a graphic design outlet making avatars for my friends in various online games (please don’t ask), and eventually making charts and graphs of video game sales and posting them on my favorite forum. Yes, I’m fully aware of the depth of nerdery required for such an endeavor.
Still, I had fun and loved the attention. Eventually I and a friend with similar baseball interest wanted to put some sabermetric thoughts to paper, and with little to add other than "I bet a graph would look cool," we started a really horrific blogger sports/snark site. In surprisingly little time, Sky Kalkman brought me on at BTB to make charts and graphs for baseball nerds. The rest is really history.
DG: On a similar note, talk about your love of baseball.
JB: Truthfully, I’m a Royals fan, which means I hate baseball. I’m mostly kidding, but my KC brethren will understand why pre-season football is vastly more inspiring than September baseball (at least in Kansas City). If you’re asking why I still pretend to love baseball, talk baseball, write about baseball, and make graphics and charts about baseball, it has to be that one of my first memories was my Dad giving me a 1985 Royals World Series jacket. Blue, shiny, and with those stretchy cuffs and waist like used to be cool in the 80s. I remember going to see Bo Jackson (he broke a bat on his knee, HOW TOUGH!), and George Brett. Things get hazy from there, and hey, the Royals are back! Man I love/hate baseball so much.
DG: Who are some writers and other baseball people who have had a big inspiration on you? Discuss with us your motivation for this type of work as well.
JB: I love Joe Posnanski and Rany Jazayerli, both of which can write their hearts out and make grown men cry, especially Pos. What I learned from each is that there’s nothing wrong with being an optimist or being nice when you’re writing about sports, and that’s such a contrast to the overwhelming, undying snark made popular by FJM (which I loved, btw). I just think humor should be left to those that are good at it, and there are so few people that are actually good at it. I really like writers and announcers that can be both enthusiastic, informed, and analytically savvy at the same time. Jeff Passan (now at Yahoo Sports) is one of those people.
DG: Talk about your pre-BtB era and what eventually prompted the idea to write for Beyond the Box Score.
JB: I kinda answered it above, I think. It started as a joke, a way to try humor (note my previous comment about leaving it to those that are good at it) and see if we could get any traction. Sky liked it and brought me in and frankly, I loved the attention. So I kept making baseball graphs.
DG: Being the manager of Beyond the Box Score, talk about what you expect from your writers along with the work you expect to be featured daily on our great site.
JB: Expectations are a funny thing, especially when it comes to a blogger format like we have. The hardest part of my job is asking you guys to contribute more without handing you cash. It’s the way things work, though, and there are a lot of opportunities available to those that take that platform and do something with it. If you want specifics, I expect my writers to read, write, live, and love baseball – and be able to relate that love through an analytical, sabermetric lens to a larger audience.
DG: What are some of the mutual goals among BtB writers and yourself. What can readers expect from this site going forward?
JB: Goals: "Get famous, get jobs, get paid." BTB is an amazing talent pool and I fully expect to see you guys with national gigs. Readers can expect an ongoing sabermetric approach to analyzing baseball.
DG: Being such a busy guy, how in the world do you have time to write for one of the best Saber sites in the blogosphere?
JB: I really don’t have time, actually. I just sleep less. Yes, it pisses off my wife. I always noticed the luckiest people also tend to be the hardest working, and I want to be lucky. In baseball terms, I want as many Plate Appearances as possible. Maybe I’ll get a hit or two?
DG: What are your goals and expectations? Where do you plan to be in 5 years, Justin?
JB: My goals are amorphous and change based on available data and known opportunities, but I really love managing web sites, mentoring writers, marketing and web strategy, and of course supplementing that with graphic design stuff. In 5 years I’d like to be running/Editor-in-Chief’ing at a major, several-million-hits-per-month site. I love this stuff and I think I’m good at it.
DG: Last question. Talk about some of your favorite baseball memories dating back to the time you are a kid and now where you are.
JB: I once called a Ross Gload home run. You know as well as I do how dumb and how unlikely the one-in-a-thousand chance of calling a home run is. Well, with Gload it was like one-in-a-million. That was pretty cool.
DG: Thanks Justin for doing this interview. It's a pleasure to write for the site you do such a great job running.
JB: Thank you, Gersh. Mind getting to work on that podcast?