New St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist Jose de Jesus Ortiz, who covered MLB for the Houston Chronicle most of the past 14 years, on Wednesday talked with The Ryan Kelley Morning After about his new job, his career journey and his love for baseball and soccer.
Will you talk a little bit about your interests and career up to this point?
“I’ve covered Major League Baseball most of my career. Baseball is my love, soccer is my passion. I’m probably at a soccer field 70 percent of the time when I’m not working with my kids…I’m at one sporting event or another either working or at my kids’ sporting events.”
How many years have you covered baseball?
“Fifteen. I covered the Mets for the Newark Star-Ledger. Then I covered the Astros since 2001, took a little two-year hiatus to write sport features and cover soccer…then I went back on baseball in late 2012. So I’ve pretty much done baseball the last two decades.”
What was it like covering the Astros when Albert Pujols hit that game-winning home run off Brad Lidge in Game 5 of the 2015 NLCS?
“It was the loudest silence I’ve ever heard in my life. Minute Maid Park with the roof closed is the loudest stadium I’ve ever been in. That stadium was rocking. We were all ready…I had my story ready…and then Brad Lidge, who had dominated the Cardinals and Pujols. I had this great story on how the Astros reached the World Series…then he hit that monster. As a journalist, you want to appreciate the moment, but you’re also hauling ass trying to write it. It was crazy. You have to understand the Houston sports history. This is the city that saw the Bills pull off that miracle comeback vs. the Oilers. The Rockets were known as Choke City before they won in the 1990s. So Houston was used to let-downs. But then Roy Oswalt was a hoss (in Game 6).”
On when both the Cardinals and Astros made a claim for winning the NL Central in 2001:
“A memory that I’ll also never forget from old Busch Stadium…I was the guy that took the call from Lance Berkmann in 2001…from the dugout…he asked for me. I pick up the phone and Lance says, ‘Look at the outfield wall.’ He said, ‘They’re trying to claim the division.’ 2001, 2004, 2005, those were amazing times for both franchises.”
What did you choose to take the St. Louis job?
“It’s a great opportunity. I love baseball. I cannot tell you how much I care about soccer. So you combine those two (and I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity for a columnist). Being an Astros beat writer in Houston is sort of like being a Mets beat writer in New York. No matter how well the Mets are doing, the Yankees losing will get the headlines. That’s how it was like covering the Astros with the Houston Texans. So I’m excited about covering one of the best franchises in sports. To give you a long, long answer to a very simple question, I think this is the perfect place for me to become a columnist…because this fits my skillset. My biggest trait…the one I take the most pride is my hard work.”
More on his writing style:
“I probably can guarantee I’m not going to be one of those columnists who will write about themselves. I want to tell stories, I want to give opinions. The first one will probably be one of the only ones I write about themselves.”
On style being similar to the late Joe Strauss:
“I’m probably more like Joe Strauss than anyone else on the Post-Dispatch right now. I’m trying to find a way to pay respect to Joe in one of my columns. Rest his soul…I looked up to him a lot. I’m not going to be a cheerleader. I’m not funny. I’m a little bit serious. But I also realize this isn’t life and death. I read a column from another city where they put life and death in an NCAA Final Four column. That’s ridiculous.”
Listen to the complete segment here: