A Summer Spent With The Chatham Anglers Was A First For Alexandra Russell

By: Kat Szmit

Topics: Cape Cod Baseball League

Alexandra Russell became Chatham's first woman sportswriter this season, relishing her role with the team. Contributed Photo

CHATHAM It all started in a hockey rink half an hour outside London, England when I was four years old. I had never seen anything like it.

What happened between the boards captivated me. I loved the sound of skates slicing the ice, chaotic in the frenzy of push and shove. And the speed. They glided like dancers, graceful with an awareness of their surroundings that I could not comprehend.

When my parents brought me to my older brother Patrick’s first practice for our local hockey team, I discovered a passion for watching sports. I spent 14 years watching hockey in my home country of England, before beginning my freshman year at Brown University in 2016.

I loved baseball, although opportunities to see it at home were scarce beyond the occasional Red Sox game on TV. However, I did get an annual fix — my family visited Chatham every summer and brought me along to Anglers games. Little did I know that I would be working with the team years ahead.

At Brown, I began to translate my passion for athletics into writing when I joined the sports section of the university’s student-run newspaper, The Brown Daily Herald. I pursued my interest in hockey first, covering the men’s team in the winter. Then came baseball, later in the spring.

I loved the thrill of capturing those extraordinary moments, creating an atmosphere in my writing that made the reader feel like they were at the game. I found it exciting to make sports accessible to the public. It did not feel like work to me.

Halfway through the spring semester, I applied for the reporter and social media intern position for the Chatham Anglers. I wanted to pursue my interest in sports writing and improve my skills in an environment that would allow me more freedom to develop as a journalist.

When I arrived at Veterans Field on a sunny day in early June, I was not disappointed. At first, it felt overwhelming — the busy day-to-day game schedule differed from the weekend doubleheaders that I was used to covering, which forced me to adapt quickly. It was also a challenge to organize my responsibilities in the most efficient way possible so that I would be able to effectively balance writing with social media.

On my first day, I was told by a member of the board that I was the first female writer that the organization had hired in its history. It was not always easy to have that position, but I knew that if I did this job, and did it well, it would make it easier for other women to follow in my footsteps.

It was amazing to see the players come together from different schools and backgrounds to develop as a team. I grew more comfortable around them as they grew more comfortable with each other, which happened quickly. Working with my supervisors helped me improve my interviewing skills, between developing questions for the players and coaches during the game and responding more spontaneously in the interviews themselves.

My daily interactions with longtime Chatham manager John Schiffner taught me countless things about the challenges that players face in the transition from college to Cape League baseball, the emotions and the true sense of family that define the Anglers as a team and an organization. I began to appreciate just how special Chatham is. As one of my supervisors once said, it’s like a Norman Rockwell painting, beautiful and picturesque.

I also learned a lot about collaboration and group skills through working directly with the rest of the media team, which consisted of two broadcasters, a videographer and a photographer. My experience with them taught me a great deal about the importance of effective communication.

The only downside was that the season, being only eight weeks long, was so short. I felt that I had finally found a groove in the last week, but I learned so much in my experience and wouldn’t change it for the world. I made so many friends and memories that I will cherish forever.

That’s the thing about the Cape League season — it is so brief, yet so special. There is a beautiful simplicity about the teams coming together and playing under the sunset, with the quiet knowledge that it only lasts for the summer. You learn to forget everything else and be truly present in the moment, and savor those perfect snapshots of your experience.

The camaraderie of the team was second to none, which made me look forward to getting to the field every day. It was a privilege to work alongside some players who I know will go on to have brilliant careers in the major leagues.

As for the future, I have not crossed anything out just yet. I hope to pursue my dream of being a sportswriter in the U.S. after graduating from Brown, and will continue to write about sports for the paper when school starts again in a couple of weeks. If I could only take away one thing that I’ve learned this summer, it’s that anything is possible. There are countless amazing stories out there in sports. They just need to be found.