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  • Women of the Diamond: Tracy Perlman


    Sherry Cerny

    Tracy Perlman grew up in Minnesota cheering for the Twins, and now she covers the team behind-the-scenes for WCCO-TV. Get to know her and how her love for sports shows through in her job.

     

    Image courtesy of David Young, Twins Daily (graphics)

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    Recently, Tracy and I sat down during my lunch break on a Tuesday afternoon. She and I had spoken previously during a chance meeting through a mutual acquaintance, but this was the first time I really had the chance to get to know her and pick her brain. 

    When I tell you I went through a full range of emotions during our chat, that would be putting it lightly. It was the most informative, amusing, heartfelt conversation I have had with another baseball fan to this point in my life. Tracy has an infectious personality. She is passionate about baseball, and she is one smart woman. She knows the game. She gets the game. She lights up when you talk to her about not only her job but the players as well. She has created a strong relationship? with players past and present. 

    Tracy is everything that Minnesota sports encompass. From a young age, she wore number 6 after her favorite player (Tony Oliva) and today can ask the hard-hitting questions of the players because they respect her. 

    Before going to college at the University of Kansas, Tracy had her sights set on being a sports reporter. She had grown up a Minnesota sports fan and was excited at the prospect of reporting on her favorite childhood teams or any teams wherever she landed. However, that all changed when she had her mentorship with Darcy Pohland in 2009 at WCCO. During her internship, she had a chance to see how things were done behind the scenes, the creation of the story, and then bringing it to life. She fell in love instantly with the idea of creating an account of a story that the fans would love. Being a fan herself, she knew that helping the public understand their hometown favorites was vital to the sport and the community as a whole. 

    When she completed her degree, she worked a short stint in Kansas City at WDAF-TV (FOX) where she produced morning and weekend newscasts before coming back home to Minnesota. Tracy found herself back at WCCO, where her passion for producing first started. She started working with faces like Don Shelby, Amelia Santanello, Frank Vascellaro, and Mark Rosen. 

    She also met Peter Nelson. Peter ran a blog covering the Minnesota Twins. Blogging was a new idea to the sports world; giving people a different perspective of the game outside of highlights and "SportsCenter" moments. The blog was a split from regular sportscasting. The blog was more or less a relaxed version of things that happen at Target Field. Stories like "Eating our way through Target Field" - a piece where they ate every food on the concourse to give the fans their experience and what to expect and how things taste. They undoubtedly brought some laughs and probably stomach aches. 

    Tracy loved the blog. Brimming with ideas and armed with her knowledge of the sport from watching it her whole life, and her drive to bring Minnesota the unknown side of sports, Tracy soon found herself on the field, in the dugout, and in the clubhouse. She spent time creating relationships with the players that have solidified not only her spot as a producer for WCCO but also as a friend to the players. They trust her, and sometimes in a media scrum, they will ask her first over reporters if she has any questions. Because she has earned the players' respect, she has also earned the right to ask hard-hitting questions as well.  

    Tracy got to spend a whole day with the grounds crew to give fans an inside experience of what game day is like for the guys. It was one of her favorite days spent at Target field. The blog was an opportunity to not only grow in her passion for baseball but professionally as well. Tracy is now the point person for all Twins events for WCCO because she knows what a good experience is for Twins fans and doesn't shy away from an assignment or event. 

    Tracy's respect for the players is so apparent. While she understands that getting the news is important, what’s even more important is treating the players as what they are: people. It’s important for her that people see the human side of the game, the people that make the game happen, and the fun the players have off and on the field. When we sat down to talk, there was not a moment when a smile was not on her face talking about our hometown team. She told me her favorite memories, about the players that she caught on the diamond over her years as a producer. 

    One of my favorite stories was about Brian Dozier. Dozier learned Spanish in college because he knew that if he was going to play baseball, he would need to know how to not only understand the language himself but speak it for his teammates who couldn't speak or understand  English yet. She loves learning little nuances about the players because it helps her form a story for the nightly news or the blog she helps to oversee. 

    Tracy is the producer for sports segments Sunday through Thursday for WCCO. She has also won an Emmy, but I had to find that on google because, in her humility, she didn’t bring that up. She is so humble she makes me rethink my goals for my life in sports and the glory of behind-the-scenes work. She works long hours, but they don't feel long because she does what she loves. We talked about the "behind the scenes" of the stories she gets to hear on the field, see in the dugout, and bullpen. One thing I was not expecting was to hear how excited about Opening Day she was, only to not be able to enjoy it like other fans. 

    Opening Day of baseball for Tracy, one of Minnesota's biggest fans and season ticket holders is a little different these days. Instead of watching the game and seeing the guys take the field, she is in the writing room, working on getting out information, editing, and creating footage for the news that evening, making sure she gets the things that fans want. 

    As a fan, she knows what resonates with people. She knows that fans want to know: information like new foods at the field, deals for tickets, opening day information, special giveaways, events, and the little surprises that the fan only catches a glimpse of to get them excited for what is coming up next in a game or news story. In the half-hour of news that we see every night, only three minutes of that is set aside for sports. Her job is to write, edit, and organize the sports segment for all sports teams in Minnesota. 

    Of those three minutes, if there is a feature story, only one and a half minutes is dedicated to that feature. That is not a lot of time to bring you every single highlight, so she has to know … which is why it's so important to know the who, why viewers would care about the who, and what it means to the community. On TV, the audience sees a three-minute sports segment. Behind the scenes, anywhere from four hours to three days of work went into it.

    There are sometimes stories that Tracy doesn't have planned. That happened one day with Twins' favorite Tony Oliva. During a Twins event, Tony grabbed Tracy and said, "Follow me. Record this." Tracy, completely confused, followed Tony because, let's be honest, who wouldn't, and what she saw confused her even more. Tony grabbed a jersey and handed it to a lady who immediately broke down in tears, hugged Tony, and was on her way. Confused, Tracy found out later just what the story was, and the beginning of the story made the two minutes she caught worth everything. 

    It is those moments that Tracy lives for. The stolen moments and the respect of the players make them want to come to her with not only their ideas but also their appreciation. Tracy shows up. She doesn't make a scene. Tracy remembers that baseball is a "good ole boys club" and that she is in their space when at Target Field. She keeps in mind that she represents the team, WCCO, herself, young women, and Minnesota whenever she steps into her role at work. She garners respect by carrying her self-confidence, knowledge, kindness, and hard work ethic. She is intelligent, funny, and her laugh is contagious. Tracy may be behind the scenes, but she is in front of the Twins bringing us all the things we want to know as fans, a Queen of the Diamond.

    You can follow Tracy on Twitter: @partray

     

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    5 hours ago, HuskerTwinsFan said:

    Sherry, thank you for your engaging story.  I was disappointed that the link to the WCCO story didn't work.   I was interested to hear the rest of the story.  Maybe you can describe it here in the comments.  

    Just a missing colon character in the URL. Try this:

    https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2012/01/29/missing-jersey-finds-twins-player-25-years-later

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