Tuesday, May 22, 2012 12:00 AM
Alumni Feature

Zach Levine on the road

Former DP Sports Editor Zachary Levine '07 is getting a taste of what it's like living out of a suitcase. "I think I am in hotel rooms 120 nights a year," he says.

Levine is getting to see America -- or more precisely, America's baseball stadiums -- as the lead Houston Chronicle reporter covering the Astros.

"It's an exhausting job but at the same time it's a rewarding job," he says.

Levine, 27, first worked for the Chronicle as a summer intern after his sophomore year at Penn. He was assigned to the Chronicle's website, working for the sports department.

The Chronicle, like most newspapers, had little sports content online beyond the stories that were in the Chronicle's print edition. That changed by the time the Chronicle hired Levine in 2007 after his graduation. He was a website producer, a job that allowed him to do a bit of everything, from posting breaking news to editing the sports blogs.

Eventually, Levine got a blog of his own. "I was a math major, so they gave me a blog where I could write about statistics … supplementing the coverage by the beat writers to use statistics to take an analytical look at things."     

Because statistics are such an integral part of baseball, Levine found himself writing more about baseball than any other sport. His editors began sending him to the ballpark to write stories for the print edition, and last year, he was named the Astros beat reporter.

On a typical day, Levine arrives at Minute Maid Park in Houston by 2:30 p.m. to set up in the press box. Then it's down to the Astros clubhouse, which opens to reporters at 3:30 p.m. for 45 minutes of access to the players and the manager. Levine might go down to the field for batting practice, before heading back to the press box to write his daily notes column and maybe a sidebar.

Levine returns to the clubhouse after the game for more interviews before he sits down to break down the game for his readers. "My story is due by about 11:00 or 11:10. So I usually have a half-hour to 45 minutes to write my story," he says.

If the game is a blow-out, Levine usually has a head start on his story. "But those late lead changes or extra-inning games can really mess with a writer."

Covering a baseball team from spring training to October, all over the country, is a feat of endurance.

"It definitely can be a lonely life. The good thing is that there are a lot of people in the same position. The Astros writer for MLB.com, the team's broadcasters -- we're all in the same position," Levine says.

"But the fraternity of beat writers is a good thing. When we travel, we take each other out for lunch in each other's cities. The home writer will name the place, but the road writer (who is on an expense account) will pay."

Levine grew up outside of Albany, N.Y., but the transition to life in Houston "was not as shocking as it could have been. You get a bit of weather shock. But the ballpark has a roof and the Jewish community here has been great to be involved with and eased the transition here. I don't love the fact that you have to be in your car all the time, but you get used to it."

-- Joel Siegel

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