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An Interview with Jake Mintz

In December 2012, two friends from Maryland bonded over their love of Yoenis Cespedes’ workout showcase video on a podcast rightfully called “Cespedes Family BBQ” and the rest was history. Jake Mintz and Jordan Shusterman began recording their quirky baseball banter when they were just seniors in high school. Not long after the two baseball fanatics became hits on Twitter and began to gain a loyal following. Upon graduating college, the duo landed jobs with MLB Advanced Media in Chelsea, New York. I was lucky enough to chat with one half of Cespedes Family BBQ, Jake Mintz. Read the interview below:

As a lover of minor league baseball myself, I find it hard to find people to talk to about Evan Longoria’s monster season with the Hudson Valley Renegades, crazy theme nights, and awkward mascots. My question is how the heck did you two find each other? Did you click immediately?

Actually no. Jordan and I have known each other since childhood because we went to the same synagogue, but we didn’t know each other that well. I ended up going to Jordan’s school for middle school and we had a small class and we really didn’t like each other. We were too similar I think. The two tall, loud, blonde, guys who liked sports a lot and thought they were really funny. We didn’t brawl on the playground or anything, but weren’t particularly friends. Then we went to different high schools and didn’t talk or anything until 10th grade or so. We each kind of realized that the other dude was posting a lot of random baseball stuff on Facebook and we both went “Oh I know who Jurickson Profar is, I wonder why Jordan does.” We started chatting a bunch, chilling, playing video games, and playing catch. By Senior year of high school we were really close.

How did you both come up with the idea of the podcast “Cespedes Family BBQ”? Why record?

We came up with the idea for the website nine months before we started the pod. The name obviously comes from the video of Yoenis roasting the pig. We knew we wanted to start a blog because we were having all these goofy baseball conversations and figured we might as well start writing them down somewhere. I remember were chilling in my living room and we were like “Oh that Cespedes video is weird as hell, let’s do something about that.”

I think we started recording the podcast because a big reason we got into this whole world was through a podcast that no longer exists called “Up and In”. More myself than Jordan, but I think we both wanted to be exactly like those dudes on that podcast so we figured why not. We had recorded some random stuff of us bantering in the car a few times before that so we figured why not put it online.

When did it resonate with you guys that you were onto something big? Was there a specific moment where you it just hit you?

There were a few different moments I think. I remember being at the World Series in 2013 (I went to school in STL so I just bought a ticket to a game at Busch) and I tweeted I was going to the game and Craig Calceterra from NBC DM’ed me and asked, “Can I come say hi?” and I said, “Of course!” We only had about 1,200 followers at that point so I remember that being a significant moment.

Summer 2014 was also huge for us. We road tripped from our homes in DC to Texas and did player interviews for Baseball Prospectus. We had very little player interaction up to that point, so figuring out that not only could we do that, but we were pretty good at doing it – was huge. Interviewing Dexter Fowler in the Astros dugout on that trip was a super memorable moment. It was first time we got credentials at a big league park and the first time we interviewed a big leaguer. He told this story about cold calling Barry Bonds for hitting lessons and Jordan and I were freaking out on the inside but did our best to play it cool.

Last big memory was the World Series in Chicago. That was more of a “started from the bottom now we’re here” type deal. Getting paid to watch and talk about the World Series next to my best friend at age 21 felt almost fake. I remember, we were sitting literally in the last row of the auxiliary press box, up against the chain-link fence at the very top of Wrigley, the oversized flag was on the field, and they did the flyover and I was like, “What the hell is this? How the hell did we get here?”

How did you guys manage attending different universities/schoolwork/D3 side arm pitching and podcasting all at once?

Being in different places for college was sort of tough, but not as hard as it seemed. Doing the podcast weekly-ish was huge because it forced us to actually interact and talk with each other for two hours on a consistent basis. Those conversations were vital in developing an ability to be on camera and convey semi-coherent thoughts and opinions about stuff. In some ways, being so busy and having so much to do at school- between friends, playing baseball, class and what not, was actually kind of helpful. There was so much going on, the time and energy I put into the blog and the podcast was only for stuff I actually wanted to do, and stuff I actually felt passionate about. I wasn’t going to waste my time writing pieces that I didn’t want to. Why write “Adam Laroche Free Agency Takes” when I can go chill with friends and I have 5 essays to write. That meant the stuff we were making was stuff we wanted to make, which put more joy and passion into the whole thing, which I think came across and helped people latch onto our stuff.

How did you go from two high school boys talking about baseball to two paid boys talking about baseball?

Doing the road trips over the summer was huge. We did DC to the Field of Dreams in 2013, DC to Texas in 2014, San Diego to Seattle in 2015, and then DC to San Diego and back in 2016. These did two big things for us. One was that it allowed us to actually go and see all these places which allowed us to develop a certain cultural language and knowledge about the sport on a geographic level. Like I can talk to Person X about how the Clinton Lumberkings’ stadium kinda smells like dog food because there’s a Purina factory nearby. Person X is then like “interesting, this nerdy little kid kinda may know what he’s talking about.” The second thing is interrelated; these trips allowed us to go and meet people face to face. It’s one thing to be like “oh ya these dudes are funny on twitter sometimes” to “oh they may know what they are talking about.”

Doing these trips built up enough of a following from people in and outside of baseball to the point that MLB emailed us spring of our sophomore year and they were like “We like what you do, wanna do it for us next summer?” and we were like “Yes of course!” We did that 2016 road trip for them and then they brought us on for actual jobs once we graduated in June of 2017.

What is the best piece of advice you can give to those who have dreams of working in sports media?

Two big things.

1. Find a niche. Do something different. Everyone wants to get into sports media, but it’s such a crowded field so it’s best to find out something that you really like or are really good at and focus on that.

2. Enjoy it. Don’t do it because you have to. Do it because you want to. Working in Sports Media and sports in general requires you to put in an insane amount of time and work, more than other fields, because so many people want in. I’ve never gotten sick of baseball and I can’t anticipate that I will. Whatever you’re passionate about is what you’re going to enjoy throwing so much effort into so I would emphasize that.

If there was a “Tweeting” category on Backyard baseball, who would you give all ten baseballs to and why?

Among current tweeters in baseball: Trevor Williams with Darvish gaining ground quick.

What is your favorite memory of recording the Cespedes Family Barbeque podcast and why?

Wow -so many to choose from. I remember recording with Mike Mordechai during lunch at the summer camp Jordan and I used to work at and getting yelled at by one of the other counselors because we were being too loud. We had to apologize to Mike Mordechai for that one.

Getting Chris Resop on the podcast talking about the piece Jordan wrote about how Chris Resop grabs his nuts after each home run was super surreal.

Sitting on the floor of Jordan’s Aunt’s apartment recording the final pod was cool too because it finished where we started: on the floor of someone’s living room with two minutes and a computer. Full circle.

Let’s get it in writing: World Series Predictions for 2018?

I’ve picked the Dodgers the last 4 years and I got so close last year. I’m going to go different this year and take the Nats over the Yankees in the series. Harper gets his ring and then stays in DC.

Favorite MiLB and MLB ballpark and why?

MLB is tied between Petco and PNC. PNC is the best view and the best park if you’re there for a super baseball-y baseball experience about the baseball. Petco has that too, but it also is in San Diego and is just such an open, welcoming park.

MILB is a no-brainer: McCormick Park in Asheville NC. It’s the second oldest park in America (built in 1921 I think) and it’s insanely cool. Asheville is a super hilly place and they built the park into the side of a huge hill so the backdrop is a super cool looking mountain. Because they didn’t have a whole lot of space (they built it into a damn mountain) the park is hilariously small. Like 290ish down the lines and 370ish to center. Cool city too. Clean air. Highly recommend it.

If you could bat flip anywhere in the world where would it be?

This is something I’ve thought a lot about and I have a few answers. The Coliseum in Rome is a big one, that’s the OG baseball stadium. All seven wonders of the world honestly. The pyramids would be particularly dope. Oh I’d also like to bat flip off the helipad of that building in Dubai where those dudes played Tennis that one time.

For all those who listened to every podcast episode, I have to ask- have you heard from Big Poop recently?

So we’ve actually become buddies with OBP. He lives near where Jordan went to college and I know they hung out a few times when Jordan was still there. Andrew (that’s OBP’s real name) is a super talented and nice dude and was such an awesome part of the podcast community. Next time we’re back in the Ohio area we’ll definitely hit up the monster.

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