When she grows up, 11-year-old Nicole Parker says she wants to write about baseball and work closely with professional players, as demonstrated in her Orioles fan blog, "Diamond Diaries — By: A Daughter (and her dad)." Although the Ellicott City resident passes her weekdays in the fifth grade at Waterloo Elementary School, Nicole got a taste of her dream career in February when she interviewed Baltimore Orioles players at spring training in Sarasota, Fla.
Nicole said she began the "Diamond Diaries" blog with help from her dad, Alex, at the end of January, sharing her experience at the Orioles FanFest at the Baltimore Convention Center and her thoughts about the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
A few weeks later, Parker said, he and his daughter took a spontaneous three-day trip to watch the team practice and play during spring training after scoring interviews with pitchers Tyler Wilson and Oliver Drake through public relations director Kristen Hudak.
"At that point, I said to my wife, 'We got to go,'" said Parker, a former sports journalist at WJLA, Channel 7, in Washington, D.C. "Nicole loves the Orioles."
The 23-year sports journalist said he is fueling his daughter's "baseball fever." Following their arrival the day before, Parker and Nicole woke up early on Feb. 21 to begin their day at Ed Smith Stadium.
"We went in the media room and hung out for a bit," said Nicole. "Then, I saw ESPN anchor Randy Scott interview Adam Jones."
"She was in on [manager] Buck Showalter's press conference and he let her ask a question," Parker added. When time came to interview the players, Nicole said she was "a little bit nervous," but relaxed as she began the interview.
Manny Machado also surprised her with an interview at the end of the day.
"I asked him what he does when he's not practicing and he said he likes fishing, but he's not that good at it," Nicole said. "When I asked him who his favorite friend was on the team, he said, [second-baseman] 'Jonathan Schoop, hands down.'"
She was also given Mark Trumbo's bat as a parting gift after the outfielder and first baseman broke it during batting practice.
Hudak said she was impressed by Nicole's interest in sports journalism and provided some useful advice to the aspiring reporter.
"She puts a lot of effort into preparation, which allows her to ask good questions and be an active listener," Hudak said. " I encouraged her to practice writing as much as possible because it's one of the most important skills in this industry. Nicole is definitely on the right track to pursue her dream career. I hope that her experience at spring training gave her a great foundation for putting her goals into action."
Watching his daughter dive into sports journalism was "a wonderful excursion on literal and profound levels," Parker said.
"I've done a million interviews in my life and I wouldn't really get nervous, but watching Nicole do one with Manny was nuts for me. She was cool as a cucumber," he said. "The whole thing was one wonderful memory after another."