Women’s History Month Interview Series: Q&A with MLB Network’s Heidi Watney
There is much more to MLB Network anchor Heidi Watney than meets the average baseball fan’s eye. Popular for her prior roles as the Boston Red Sox beat reporter and host on NESN, Watney now hosts “Quick Pitch” every weeknight at the studios located in Seacaucus, New Jersey, where I met with her earlier this month to learn more about her roots.
Nicole: How did you initially get your start in your sports career?
Heidi: When I was in college, I just loved sports. I would sit and watch sports with all my guy friends. I actually wanted to be an actress and had a Hollywood agent and the whole thing, but I had a scholarship to college. My parents said, “You’re getting a $100,000 education for free, so you’re going to finish college, and then you can do whatever you want.”
By the time I had graduated, all my friends said, “You should be a sports reporter. You love sports, you know sports, you talk sports. It seems like it would be right up your alley. And I thought, wow, that sounds like fun.
Nicole: So you’ve always wanted to perform?
Heidi: Yeah, my whole life. From the time I was speaking, I was in theatre, and I had a photographic memory as a child, so I always had lead roles. As a kindergartner, I was the person who could remember what to say. So I did theatre my whole life and wanted to be an actress.
Nicole: What made you give up on being an actress?
Heidi: I was apprehensive about the acting world and just what you hear about Hollywood, so in my senior year of college, I started interning to see if reporting would be a good fit at the local NBC affiliate and never looked back. I love this, and I don’t regret for a single day going down this path because I’ve had so many cool experiences, and I get to perform.
Nicole: I read you’ve done pageants, too?
Heidi: I actually didn’t do a lot of pageants. My senior year of high school, one of my church friends who was involved in a local pageant convinced me to enter. I literally had never been in a pageant in my life, but she talked me into this, like, two weeks before the pageant. I wore my prom dress, she gave me a bathing suit to wear, and she taught me how to walk and stand. It was like a crash course, but I won the locals and went to Miss California. So it wasn’t like I had a long career in pageant stuff. My mother wouldn’t have approved of that.
Nicole: Oh, wow. What was that experience like?
Heidi: It was a very cool experience. It’s just funny how things work out. Winning the local was cool, but they kinda train you for Miss California. It’s like finishing school. You learn how to speak properly and how to address people, and you learn how to just kind of be a lady, and that helps in life.
Nicole: Did you also play sports growing up?
Heidi: Yeah. I was on the diving team, the track team, the gymnastics team, and I was a cheerleader/dancer. I was not good at the hand-eye coordination sports – didn’t play softball, didn’t play volleyball. I ran track and hurdles and all that kind of stuff.
Nicole: As a former beat reporter for the Boston Red Sox, how is it moving from New England to Yankees-Mets territory?
Heidi: I think it’s because I’m not working for a team now, and I’m not the ballpark everyday, but I don’t really get a lot of grief or anything. I went to Yankee Stadium when Mariano [Rivera] pitched his last game there, and that was awesome – just goosebumps moment. I cover every team now, which is a cool part about being here, because you’re everything: all the players, all the games, all the action. If there’s a big event, you’re a part of it.
Nicole: On a larger scale, how does the east coast compare to the west coast?
Heidi: I’m a California girl. The biggest thing for me is that my family is all in California, and I do miss them. I try to get back as much as I can, in the offseason especially. But the east coast is more passionate. People are a little more intense. They’re more into it, which is one of the great things and why I came back here. It’s because I’m a passionate fan, and I’m into sports in a way that more east coast people are into sports. This is a huge generalization, but west coast people in general are not as passionate about sports.
I do miss the weather, though. This winter has felt like ten years long.
Nicole: Who, if anyone, has had an influence on your career and why?
Heidi: I don’t really idolize people, but I look at people like Linda Cohn. I think she does a great job. I would say if there was one person I’d try to emulate, it would be her, because she’s like grace under fire. Everything she does is done with a smile on her face, and if something goes wrong, she can laugh about it and move on. She rolls with the punches, which you have to do in this business.
And she handles herself with class, too. There’s just nothing there to talk about other than what a good job she’s doing. So if there is someone to look up to, I would say she would be it.
I don’t really try to model my career after anyone, though. I know everyone always asks, “What’s next? What’s your next step? What do you wanna do next?” And I’ve never had a next or an end goal. Whatever doors have opened, I’ve gone through. It was the right place, right time. I don’t need to be doing anything other than what I’m doing right now. As long as you’re enjoying what you’re doing, you’re in a good place.
Nicole: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Heidi: Don’t pay attention to stuff that’s out of your control. You can’t control what bloggers are gonna say. Everyone has an opinion, but really just try to do the best you can. Be the best self you can be, and don’t worry about the rest of it.
Nicole: Lastly, have you ever experienced any negativity in your career because of your gender?
Heidi: It’s just different. It’s not necessarily harder or easier. It’s life. Men and women are different. They are genetically different so you have different experiences, and you get to places differently. There are some jobs that are more suited for women, and there are some jobs that are more suited for men.
I try not to be a person that uses excuses at all. The biggest thing for me when overcoming obstacles is faith. I’m a Christian, and I’m from a Christian family. If I’ve ever felt something that felt difficult or hard, or not fair, I pray about it and try to make the best decision I can and move forward.
I don’t feel like there’s really been a time where I’ve been discriminated against or something has been egregiously unfair because I’m a woman. I feel like there are plenty of women who probably had to go lay down those roads years before me, and I am reaping the benefits of what they went through. I think now, people are more respectful of women in this business, and I just never want to make excuses.
If you keep your nose clean and do a good job, in the end things may happen and rumors may happen, but people who are doing a good job – you know, it’ll come back around, you’ll get rewarded.
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