© St. Petersburg Times, published April 14, 2003
With the Major League Baseball season just a couple of weeks old, St. Petersburg Times sports writer Marc Topkin's job is just heating up. Topkin, 41, covers baseball and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He travels all over the country and gets to watch new Rays players do their stuff, including Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli. But he also gets to see other cool players from different teams, such as Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra and Ichiro Suzuki. Topkin grew up as a baseball fan in New York and then in South Florida. He attended Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. He has been at the Times for about 20 years and has covered baseball since 1987. Topkin has been to 14 World Series and countless All-Star games. His kids love sports just like their dad: daughter Carlyn, 14, plays softball, soccer and swims; and son Ben, 12, plays baseball, soccer and skateboards. Xpress asked Topkin five pressing questions about his job.
-- SHERRY ROBINSON, Xpress Editor
Xpress: How did you get into sports writing?
Marc Topkin: I was 12, playing Little League baseball in Coral Springs (near Fort Lauderdale) and there were no scores or stories from our league getting into the local weekly paper. When I called and asked about it, they said they didn't have anyone to do it, so I volunteered. I'd write a little story each week, and from there started branching out to do other things that they didn't have anyone to do, like pro soccer. Then I started working for my high school paper and then my college paper. Basically, I like telling people what's going on.
Xpress: How do you keep your stories fresh during such a long season?
Topkin: From the start of spring training until the end of the season is eight months, and about 200 games, so it takes some creativity. I try to imagine what I'd like to read and -- something that (fellow Times sports writer and columnist) John Romano taught me -- I try to think of what made each game unique that day, whether it was a key play, a particularly good or bad performance, what someone said, or even something odd like the weather, the opponent, the promotion at the ballpark that night, things like that.
Xpress: Who are some of the most talented and nicest players that you have met?
Topkin: Those are not always the same, but I have met plenty of both, including Barry Bonds, Derek Jeter and Ken Griffey Jr. Atlanta's Gary Sheffield, who grew up in Tampa and used to live in St. Petersburg, is a superstar player who is always nice to me. One of the nicest players I've ever met is John Flaherty, who used to be with the Rays and is now with the Yankees.
Xpress: If you could go back in history and meet any player who would it be?
Topkin: Probably Babe Ruth. I've heard and read so much fascinating stuff about him, I would love to have seen him for myself.
Xpress: What is the coolest part of your job?
Topkin: Probably the fact that I get to go to work at the ballpark every day.
-- Contact Marc Topkin at Topkin@sptimes.com.