I don’t know how else to begin other than by saying that I feel sick.
As I spent the day working from home, crunching numbers for the Section 1 volleyball tournament seeds that will be released tomorrow, two of my sports colleagues were let go. Rangers beat reporter Rick Carpiniello and Yankees beat writer Chad Jennings were among five laid off Tuesday — a man who put in nearly four decades at the company, and a man (not that much older than myself) who I looked up to as a mentor of sorts.
Truthfully, the reality hasn’t really hit me yet. It’s been a few hours, but I’m definitely still in a state of shock. Just yesterday I was guest lecturing at Purchase College and talking about how layoffs were a reality, and just yesterday I was telling the class how much Chad’s tutelage meant to me.
I figured it was only right that since they’re both no longer with the company, the rest of you should know what kind of men they are. I’ll start with Carp, because it’s the shorter story of the two.
In six years, I never saw Carp too much. He was hardly in the office (much like Chad), so our paths rarely crossed. My first interaction with him was during a training session for a new program the company was implementing for reporters to file stories.
I was the only part-timer in the group, since most of the other part-timers couldn’t make the morning session. I sat next to Carp, and in-between double-checking one another, he was cracking jokes so funny that I had to restrain myself from laughing out loud.
I never met the man before that day, and he despite his experience and credentials, he never looked at or treated me like a 22-year-old part-timer. He looked at me and treated me like a colleague. He was like that every single time I saw him, and I respected the hell out of him for that.
Chad is a different story.
The first time I saw Chad, it was like seeing Bigfoot. He walked through the office to drop off an expense report, and I said to someone, “Oh my god, is that Chad Jennings?!” It wasn’t until years later that I actually spoke to him.
On that day, he was helping out with volleyball playoff coverage. We didn’t talk a whole lot (outside of pregame notes for his match), but there was some dialogue. After an exhausting day that featured two long finals, I asked him for a favor:
“Hey Chad, I know you’re extremely busy, but if I could get like five minutes to talk to you before or after the match tomorrow, I’d love to pick your brain about some stuff.”
“I think there’s a diner down the street — you wanna grab something to eat?” he responded, in his Missouri accent.
It had to be like 10 p.m., but I jumped at the chance. We spent probably two hours in that diner, while I dug out every question the 7-year-old Yankees beat reporter could want to know. He answered every one of them, happily. When the check came, he wouldn’t even let me pay for my pancakes.
That night alone pretty much told me everything I needed to know about Chad Jennings.
A year later, when I took my mom and stepfather to the Red Sox-Yankees game, I texted him saying that I could see him in the press box from our seats. He responded, unprovoked, “Do you want to come inside?”
A few minutes later, he gave me and my mother and a guest pass for the press box just to look around. In those five minutes, I saw several of the baseball writers I read, Michael Kay, and John Sterling. For someone who always dreamt of one day being in that room, it was overwhelming.
That April, I got to shadow him for my first Yankees game. He took the time to explain everything about what goes into the long day of a Yankees beat reporter, and never lost patience with my constant questioning.
When I covered my first solo game a month later, Chad sent me a detailed email of reminders and text of encouragement. It calmed all my nerves.
I’ve been fortunate enough to speak in several college classes as a guest lecturer, and I try to work in the diner story about Chad every time. I think it says a lot about how colleagues at very different stages in their career can interact with one another, and I know it can speak to the kind of impact an experienced worker can have on a younger colleague.
I’m sick that they’re both out of a job, and I’m sick that I wasn’t there to at least thank them each in person for everything. Hopefully one day I’ll get a chance to repay them for their kindness, and I’ll get to take Chad out for that late-night diner rendezvous that’s three years overdue.
I know I’ll be able to pay Chad back for the pancakes, but I’ll never be able to pay him back for everything else he’s done for me. He made an impact on me and my career that I’ll never forget. Hopefully I’ll be lucky enough to be that kind of a mentor to someone one day.