During the thick of the season, New York Mets fans turn to the team’s various beat writers for game recaps, player profiles, and injury updates. In the off-season, fans look to the beat writers for trade news, free agent rumors, and in the Mets’ case, information on how the sale of the team to a certain billionaire is going.
Deesha Thosar has been the Mets beat writer for the New York Daily News since February 2019. Prior to her work on the Mets beat, she was a reporter for MLB.com. Thosar has produced consistently excellent Mets coverage during her tenure, with her reporting on the Steve Cohen sale transaction standing out to me as an instance where she was clearly the most trusted voice in Mets sports writing on the matter.
I spoke with Thosar recently and we discussed a wide variety of Mets and sports writing-related topics. Read on for a full summary of our conversation.
Was there any journalist or sports media personality that you followed closely growing up who inspired you/you wanted to emulate in your career?
That’s a good question. [Growing up] teams from New York I’ve always connected to, so both the Yankees and Mets were closer to home than national writers. Then when I was in college, I started following more national writers. I started paying attention to Jeff Passan, he’s one of my favorites from Yahoo Sports and since his promotion [at ESPN]. Lindsay Adler is another [writer I admire]. I started following her about a year before I met her, so once I met her, I remember going up to her and being like, “I’m a huge fan!” Now, I know her pretty well. But yeah, those two taught me how to cover a beat, baseball specifically. Other than that, I always knew since high school that I wanted to write about baseball, and that was all the inspiration I needed.
What’s a skill you use in your job today that you didn’t learn in journalism school or wasn’t hugely emphasized?
I’d say something they don’t teach you in school is the real-life “feel” aspect, which I know is hard to describe. It comes down to not being afraid to network with anyone, which they might start teaching you anyway towards the end of your studies in journalism. But I think it’s [especially] important. Relationships can form so easily, and can be based on talking to people even not about baseball. Just be open to talking to anyone about anything, put it in your back pocket, and you never know how they could be helpful down the line.
I think also when you’re starting out, you don’t always have faith in the people you’re meeting. You’re like, “oh no, are they even going to remember me?” You know, just all those kind of thoughts running through your head of “is it even worth it?”
Ultimately, it’s not so much about “will they remember you,” because they will. They’re trying to get across [to you] in the same way you are [to them]. Opportunities and conversations can pay off even years later, so don’t be discouraged or worried about whether you made an impact [right away] or not.
If you had to sum up your writing style or approach to sports writing in a couple of sentences, how would you do it?
Most important [to me] is finding a way to get the news across as clearly as possible. I don’t know if that answers your question, but that’s how I go about it. It can be different if it’s news or more of a feature story, but the concept of themes and circling back to the point you’re making [is is very important]. I know especially in high school and college they teach you what’s your main point, what’s your thesis, why are you writing this article. I think the more you work through a story, as words are coming out, it can be easy to lose sight of what the main point was. Re-emphasizing that point and nailing it on the head are what I think should be the most important things.
What has been your most memorable moment or game covering the Mets so far?
When you try to remember things about seasons, the beginning and the end are what often stand out. In 2019, the final game where Dom [Smith] hit the home run and people were losing their minds, that was a top moment. More than that, it was probably [Pete] Alonso’s home run, the one that broke Aaron Judge’s record. That one was probably just the craziest in terms of pure emotion, from Pete and the crowd. People were hailing to him and it was awesome, it was a good atmosphere.
Another not good topic, but definitely a memorable one, was during the pandemic when Dom had to explain to us, unfortunately, why he was feeling the way he was feeling after all the [George Floyd and Jacob Blake] riots. When we look back, we’ll probably wonder how everyone overlooked him as a prospect [in the minor leagues], and now he’s one of the main stars of the team. It’s been an interesting trajectory, and we’ll see how he keeps going.
Those few days were also memorable of course for what happened with Brodie [Van Wagenen] and the hot mic. Those were some good [circumstances] and some bad ones.
What specific challenges/benefits are there to covering the Mets as opposed to being a more general MLB reporter and creating content for multiple teams?
I was just thinking about this today, reflecting on my days at MLB because of the column that I wrote. It’s definitely more enjoyable to cover the Mets now that I’m not employed by Major League Baseball. When they’re paying the teams you’re covering, there are a lot of restrictions. You can’t talk about anything controversial, and you have to avoid touchy subjects. It’s not even a situation where if you get the team’s approval then you can talk about it, it’s just a complete rule. That really limits you in terms of what you can cover, and that’s why MLB.com writers were not considered to be part of the BBWAA for a long time [until 2015]. At the Daily News, there’s more of a freedom of what I can cover. Their freedom and openness has helped me develop my niche and my comfort zone of what I like to write.
It’s interesting because I always wanted to write about baseball, but I always pictured it as a team effort. I grew up reading the Daily News, the New York Post, Newsday, and the New York Times, [where] it’s always a subset of writers that are the go-tos. At Newsday now it’s [Tim] Healey and [David] Lennon, and at the Post it’s [Mike] Puma and Joel Sherman. But I’ve been on my own at the Daily News since I joined. We never actually hired a columnist until we got Bradford [William Davis]. In that way, I’ve kind of been on my own, but you definitely get freedom to choose what you want to write about since you’re not working with someone else for it.
Who is your favorite Mets player to interview and why?
So far, it would definitely have to be Alonso. On any given day you can get something different from him, whether it’s a funny quote about [Mercury] in retrograde or something more chill where he’s answering why he’s doing the 9/11 cleats. He is a genuine player and I think those genuine interviews are always the most enjoyable for me because you can sort of skip over the shield of “reporter to player” and talk person to person.
On the opposite end of Alonso, some players are just playing the game because they love playing baseball. They don’t want to “entertain” us. I would put basically all of the pitchers in that category except [Noah] Syndergaard. Some of them can play the entertainment card well, too. It works on both sides – you don’t have to necessarily entertain, though it’s probably best [for fans and writers] when they do.
Who is a current or past baseball player that you’ve never interviewed, but would love to talk to? What would you ask them?
If we’re talking about anyone past, it would definitely be Jackie Robinson. If I had the opportunity to ask him something, I guess it would be about all the awful, horrible things he had to go through just to get to the major leagues, and once he was actually in the major leagues, what he had to continue to overcome.
If you wrote a book on the Mets or baseball, what would it focus on?
Now this is a thing, because my friends have been telling me for a while now to write a book, and now you’re asking me about it! I’m centering on the idea, especially jumping off from my column a couple days ago, but everything that women have to go through when they’re in such a polarizing industry is definitely a topic that I would love to cover. This could be me teasing it, [since] I’m starting to write some stuff down of the things that I have to go through now so I don’t forget it. [Things like] being the only woman on a beat, in a market like New York, and how different that can be compared [to what other sportswriters go through].
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Thank you so much to Deesha for being so generous with her time and for giving Mets fans some insight into what it’s like to report on the team. You can follow her writing for the Daily News here, and for up-to-the-minute Mets coverage during the 2021 Mets season, follow her on Twitter here.