Volume 28 · Number 2 · Winter 2011
Take me into the ball game
Up Close with Amy G.
Amy Gutierrez interviews San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain after a game. (Martha Jane Stanton/S.F. Giants)
Many working folks get up in the morning and head off to a cozy, generic cubicle. Not Amy Gutierrez ’95. She sets up her laptop alongside batting Helmets and equipment bags in the San Francisco Giants dugout on the third-base side at AT&T Park. Now in her third season as the Giants sideline reporter for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, Amy G., as she’s known to viewers, seeks out people-oriented stories about the 2010 World Series champions and America’s favorite pastime. She shares them via her field reporting, occasional longer pieces for Comcast’s G-Mag, and now, with the advent of webcasts, “Amy G’s Giants Xclusive” on CSNBayArea.com.
Was landing a baseball fan’s dream job the culmination of Gutierrez’s lifelong ambition? “Not even close,” she laughs. In college, she wanted to be a TV news reporter. After graduating from UC Davis with a degree in rhetoric and communication and working several years as a news producer, she took a freelance job in Los Angeles, producing packages for FoxSports affiliates around the country. Back in the Bay Area, she got her first TV sports experience hosting a basketball show. That job was followed by a similar one, this time for the Oakland A’s. When Comcast SportsNet Bay Area began broadcasting the Giants games, she was tapped to take the sideline reporter role.
Gutierrez got her baseball smarts from her father and her paternal grandmother (“A huge Dodgers fan; she knows baseball like no one I’ve ever met!”). Nonetheless, Gutierrez says, she keeps in mind what she knows — and, especially, what she doesn’t know — about the sport. “I don’t really know how they’re supposed to play the right-field wall,” she says, “nor do I want to know. And everything looks like a fastball to me; it’s going 95 miles an hour!” Instead, she comments on the emotional, nontechnical side of the game — like whether players have good chemistry in the clubhouse, or the mental toll on a player who’s sidelined with an injury. “Those are the things I ‘get,’” she says, and the hope is that viewers “get” it, too.
Gutierrez generates all her own stories, wanting to engage not only the diehard fan, who will always watch, but also the occasional viewer. She tests story lines with other Giants broadcasters and often runs ideas by her husband, Paul Gutierrez, formerly a sportswriter for The Sacramento Bee and now Comcast’s SportsNet Insider reporting on the Oakland Raiders football team.
It’s not the story itself that’s difficult to do, Gutierrez says. It’s learning how to ask the questions. “My first year I said to Paul, ‘So, if I ask a question, and every reporter’s notebook drops down and they roll their eyes, is that a bad question?’ And he’s like, ‘Maybe not to you, but to everyone else, yeah.’
“So learning how you ask a pitcher who’s lost the game the questions that you need to ask . . . and doing it in a way to get an answer, those are the most difficult things to try to perfect. And I don’t know if you ever can. Learning that skill has been the hardest part of my job. You always want to walk out of that clubhouse with the players respecting what you asked for, what you needed to ask, and how you asked it.”
Gutierrez’s genuine connection with the players was apparent to her employer as the baseball season moved into September, the Giants within reach of the postseason for the first time since 2002. Comcast sent her on the Giants’ final two road trips of the regular season. Gutierrez spent a total of 10 days in Los Angeles, Phoenix and San Diego, followed by six days in Chicago and Denver. “It was a huge nod to me and to what I do,” she says, “and the team did so well that the trip was a great experience.”
Once the Giants clinched the National League West and moved into the playoffs, Major League Baseball became the media gatekeeper, deciding which reporters from which media outlets were allowed on the field. Hired by Comcast as a freelance reporter for the Giants’ postseason, Gutierrez was the only Comcast reporter granted access to the field by MLB after a Giants’ win.
After the Giants defeated the Texas Rangers four games to one for the World Series title — the team’s first since 1954 and the first ever for the city of San Francisco — she interviewed several players as they rode down Market Street during their Nov. 3 hometown victory parade. “What a year it was, right?” pitcher Tim Lincecum asked her. Gutierrez, dressed in orange, replied: “It was a fabulous year!”
For the average baseball fan, the chance to have a conversation with the likes of Giants pitcher and back-to-back Cy Young award winner Lincecum would bring on a serious case of starstruck-itis. For Amy G., who hangs with the guys every home game, the luster hasn’t necessarily worn off; it’s more like she’s settled in. Lincecum, to Gutierrez, “is just Tim. And anyway,” she says with a laugh, “I’m taller than he is, so that helps!” It’s the players she grew up watching, like Will Clark, who give her butterflies (“To me, they’re still stars”). The only time she found herself at a loss for words? When she walked up to a co-worker who was in conversation with another man and having the co-worker say, “Amy, this is Barry Bonds.”
Gutierrez says it doesn’t pay for her to get too close to any one player. The time shared is “a fast, fleeting moment in these guys’ lives and, really, in mine,” she says. “So I try to remember I’m really not friends with any of them. We’re co-workers. ‘This is where we are today. You could not be here tomorrow, and I wish you the best of luck.’” And if all has gone well in their working relationship, if Gutierrez has occasion down the road to contact the former Giant for an interview, he’ll take her call.
When Gutierrez is not at work, she’s at home in Petaluma, where she grew up, in “full bore 150 percent mom mode” for her son, 5, and daughter, 2. Her status as a freelance reporter gives her the opportunity to stay creative professionally without necessarily working five or six days a week, and she doesn’t think much about what might lie ahead, work-wise.
“This is the perfect spot for me right now,” she says. “I honestly cannot ask for a better fit. But this job is year to year, and I panic every season, wondering if I’m going to come back next season. I’ve got a couple of story ideas for 2015 . . . .”