Alex Parker has covered Super Bowls and interviewed plenty of famous athletes in his 25 years as a sports broadcaster, but none of it compared to the heartwarming moment when he witnessed an 11-year-old reporter in action last week.
Just as Parker's career has reached a crossroads after his job was eliminated in cutbacks last month, the burgeoning journalism career of his daughter, Nicole, 11, started with a bang Feb. 21 when she landed an interview with Baltimore Orioles All-Star Manny Machado.
"It's a whole different feeling,'' Parker told TODAY. "I remember doing an interview with (NFL quarterback) Robert Griffin III last year that received a lot of attention, but that felt nothing like this. I wasn't a media member that day, I was a dad. It was just incredible."
Nicole decided to start a blog on Jan. 30 about her favorite team, the Orioles, called "Diamond Diaries, By: A Daughter (and her dad)." The blog's creation came shortly after Parker learned he was out of a job as director of sports at Washington, D.C., station WJLA after 23 years.
With time on his hands and Nicole having a few days off from school, Parker decided to take her from their home in Ellicott City, Maryland, to the Orioles' spring training home in Sarasota, Florida. He emailed Kristen Hudak, the Orioles' director of public relations, saying his daughter had a blog about the team — without thinking much would come of it.
After Hudak took a look at "Diamond Diaries," she invited Nicole to be a media member for a day and interview some players during their time in Sarasota.
What used to just be a routine day for Parker at WJLA became one he will never forget, with Nicole experiencing life as a reporter for the first time, armed with a notebook and an iPad.
Nicole watched a private intrasquad scrimmage, interviewed two Orioles players and asked a question to manager Buck Showalter in a press conference. Hudak asked if she wanted to speak to one more player. Machado, one of the top young stars in Major League Baseball, then walked in the room.
The moment was captured on video by MLB.com as Nicole followed her dad's advice to treat an interview like a regular conversation with a friend.
"I was a little nervous, but mostly excited,'' Nicole told TODAY. "He's my favorite player, and I always wanted to talk to him. It was fun to talk to him and know what he thinks about being a baseball player."
"Surreal is up there,'' Parker said about the experience. "It's wonderful timing, and maybe this doesn't happen if I'm working full time."
Nicole thanked Hudak for everything and even interviewed her about her job with the team for a blog post.
Parker had occasionally brought Nicole and her 14-year-old sister, Ally, to work with him at his previous job, allowing them to see behind the scenes of a television production. Despite his current situation, he would never discourage Nicole from pursuing her interest in the industry that just eliminated his job.
"For 23 years, it rarely felt like work because it's something I love to do,'' Parker said. "I'm proud of how I've dealt with what I was dealt because I realize there are a lot worse things than losing a job, but this is fun. On any level, it's a good thing."
Nicole, who first became a baseball fan three years ago when she took up playing softball, now plans on regularly updating the blog throughout the Orioles' season.
"I really like writing and baseball, so I want to keep it going,'' she said.
And if she ever has any questions, she knows just whom to ask.
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