The Johnson City Cardinals Lack Media Relations Skills

Marky Billson
5 min readJul 13, 2018


There may be more talent in the Appalachian League this season than ever. So why is one team making the media jump through hoops to gain access?

Marky Billson, host of Tri-Cities Sports NOW

Baseball’s popularity has taken a hit. Players lack star power, in large part because they are perceived as prima donnas.

Therefore, one would think baseball teams would want to make their up and coming talent accessible to avoid the prima donna label.

Unfortunately, for at least two teams in the Appalachian League that’s not the case.

This season is unique in the Appy (Rookie) League in that four 2018 first round draft choices are playing on teams based in the Tri-Cities; the Cardinals’ Nolan Gorman, the Mets’ Jarred Kelenic, the Twins’ Trevor Larnach, and the Reds’ Jonathan India.

Throw in Shane Baz of the Bristol Pirates, Pittsburgh’s top selection in the 2017 Free Agent draft, and the Appy League seems to have more collection of talent in the Tri-Cities than ever before.

Unfortunately, the Johnson City Cardinals’ front office has told 1420 NBC Sports Radio Tri-Cities they must get approval from St. Louis Cardinals officials for local media to speak with Gorman they must receive approval from St. Louis. And New York has, at least initially, made Kelenic off limits in his first days in Kingsport as well.

I’m confused. If Gorman and Kelenic can’t handle the Tri-Cities media, which generally treats its subjects with kid gloves, how are they ever going to face the press of St. Louis and certainly New York?

Meanwhile, other players on Appalachian League teams, such as the Greeneville Reds’ Aaron Quillen and Josiah Gray, Cincinnati’s second round selection in the 2018 Draft are made available for the asking. It’s just a matter of timing.

My dealings with the Johnson City organization were distressing. With the success they’ve had at the gate, setting modern single game attendance records on consecutive nights on July 2nd and 3rd, I wanted to naturally know how it was done and give the front office their just deserts of praise.

An interview with General Manager Zac Clark was scheduled, and promoted, for July 5th on Tri-Cities Sports NOW.

Unfortunately, 15 minutes before air time, I’m told by Cardinals broadcaster Matt Davis through Facebook messaging Clark would not be available.

“Could we reschedule for the following day?”

“Sure,” was my reply. I did stress my disappointment with being told so close to air time, especially after a day’s worth of promotion, but I do realize things come up.

And to his credit, Clark did appear on the show at 1:45 p.m. on July 6. His interview is archived here.

Unfortunately, when I told Clark “I hope everything is okay” prior to going on the air, the sort of probing that lends one to tell another why they couldn’t make a previous appointment that amounts to free publicity to the club, I received only an “it is” type reply.

I don’t know if Clark was sick, was called to an emergency meeting by the St. Louis organization, or he was pulling children from a burning building on Thursday.

All I know is it makes the franchise look bad when an appointment is made and not kept without an explanation.

The interview request for Gorman was met with patronization from the Johnson City Cardinals. After being told interview requests for Gorman would have to go through the major league organization, I reminded Davis that even major league players aren’t this sheltered.

In the big leagues, reporters are allowed to go into the clubhouse before and after a game to talk with players, coaches, and the managers.

Sometimes it’s difficult to track them down, and there’s always the ballplayer upset because he had a bad day. But for the most part even the biggest stars are there for conversation.

When I ask why Gorman wouldn’t be made available in such a manner, how players were always available this way not only in the big leagues but previously by the Johnson City Cardinals, I’m told by Davis it’s determined by the Johnson City manager, Robert Espinoza.

If true, it should be stated a manager should not have the power to shut down media access.

Finally I’m told Gorman would be available on Saturday, July 7 at 2:20 p.m. for “a couple of comments.” More than four and a half hours before the game I’m credentialed for.

So the Cardinals want me to make two trips to the ballpark to get “a couple of comments” from Gorman instead of appearing live on Tri-Cities Sports NOW or having a taped chat by the batting cage or in the clubhouse 90 minutes prior to the game or so.

Why Gorman is available at 2:20 p.m. on a Saturday for a short recorded interview but not at 1:45 p.m. for a live interview during a weekday, I don’t know.

I would have complied, except Davis then asked me to commit journalistic sacrilege.

“Could you send me the questions you’d like to ask?”

No! To even ask such a thing is the height of unprofessionalism in media relations.

It brings back memories of Adam Wellington, the 2009 Johnson City Commission candidate who refused to talk about his background to the Johnson City Press unless they submitted his questions in writing to him.

Wellington received only fringe support with less than 400 votes.

Davis then had the audacity to say he was looking out for Gorman. He’s only 18, after all.

Please. The first round draft choice of the St. Louis Cardinals from Phoenix, Arizona has never been subjected to the media before?

Johnson City broadcaster and media relations liaison Matt Davis was worried Gorman could not handle an interview without knowing what the questions would be beforehand.

With mass media today’s high school athlete is as media savvy as his professional predecessors were. A quick internet search finds Gorman quoted by Joe Trezza of and Richard Obert of the Arizona Republic after Gorman was selected by the Cardinals. There’s also a one minute and 13 second interview of Gorman on

So what’s with having to jump through all these hoops? Furthermore, what’s with treating myself, who previously announced Johnson City Cardinals games and sold tickets for them in a previous generation, this way?

What’s with treating any member of the media this way?

This shouldn’t be an indictment of Gorman. He likely hasn’t had any say so in the matter. He’s articulate and is one heck of a power hitter. Hopefully, he hits home runs in the major leagues the way he is in the Appalachian and becomes one of the best quotes in pro sports.

But when the media is given this kind of hassle, it’s easy to see how baseball players get the reputation for being prima donnas, even when the situation is out of the player’s hands.

And, in turn, why the sport is rapidly losing popularity.

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