Rob Parker has been a baseball fan his entire life.
His dream as a child was to play first base for the New York Mets. However, once visions of becoming the next Ed Kranepool ended, Parker decided being a sportswriter was the next best way to stay close to the game.
Parker is currently a columnist for the Deadspin site and co-hosts one of Fox Sports Radio’s most popular talk radio programs, “Odd Couple,” with former NBA writer Chris Broussard. The name of the program stems from the 1970s sitcom starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall.
The premise: Two divorced men, polar opposites, live together in New York. Randall’s character, Felix Unger, was the Type A neat freak, while Klugman’s character, Oscar Madison, was a sloppy, but successful sportswriter. Parker was influenced by the Madison character and saw the allure of pursuing the same profession.
“I thought, what a cool job that would be to cover sports one day and make a living,” Parker said.
Parker is one of the few African-American sports journalists to become a Major League Baseball beat writer — and one of the loudest voices trumpeting the game. With his latest business venture, he hopes to increase interest in America’s national pastime on the field, in the press box and in the Hall of Fame voting pool.
Parker, who is also an adjunct professor of journalism at the University of Southern California, is combining his reporting chops with business acumen, as he debuts MLBbro.com. It’s the first site to cover the journey, culture and the “swag” of what it describes as “Black and brown Major Leaguers.”
MLBbro.com debuted April 1 — but isn’t trying to compete with pro baseball’s official website, MLB.com. Rather, Parker hopes baseball fans, especially African-American ones, learn about players beyond their stats, on a more personal level. Like Slam Magazine, an American basketball magazine in circulation since 1994, MLBbro.com strives to push baseball back into African- American mainstream culture.
“Baseball has always been important in the African-American community,” Parker said. “Anybody who knows me knows baseball is my passion. This is truly a labor of love.”
Parker chose to launch the site on baseball’s return to opening day because it has become a personal family holiday. When he was growing up in the Jamaica section of Queens, N.Y., the first day of a new season was more than just a regular day. His mother would give him a day pass from school in order to visit the old Shea Stadium to see his beloved Mets. (Shea was demolished in October 2008 to make room for the new Citi Field, which opened in March 2009.)
He emphasizes this initiative is not meant to exclude players but to celebrate black athletes — and encouraging young black sportswriters to follow their passion. As a mentor and member of Baseball Writers’ Association of America, Parker wants to make MLBbro.com an outlet for young, black writers to learn how to cover the game. He hopes the next generation of contemporary writers replenish the association’s ranks and continue its passion for the sport.
“What I want people to understand: We’re here to celebrate the guys who are already playing and those who are coming up,” Parker said.
During his two decades as a reporter, columnist and broadcaster in Detroit, Parker became one of the most popular media personalities in that city. Away from the press box, radio and the TV studios, he has become an award-winning journalist. He is a former National Association of Black Journalists Sportswriter of the Year and successful businessman.
Parker launched two successful enterprises before his career path took him to Los Angeles for his opportunity with Fox Sports. His Sporty Cutz barber shop remains a popular Motor City hangout. He also ran a successful hot dog franchise before exiting that business.
His spirit of entrepreneurship began when high school, when Parker tried to start an all-sports newspaper. At 16, Parker wrote letters to companies hoping they would sponsor his fledgling endeavor. However, after being shunned by nearly everyone he solicited, he got one positive response and an unexpected investment from a future employer. It proved to be a jump-start to his media career.
“Rupert Murdoch, the publisher of the New York Post, sent me $50 to start a newspaper called SportsLine, and that’s when I caught the bug, and now I work for him,” said Parker.
Parker says MLBbro.com will incorporate several [educational] components through series and segments such as “A Bro You Need to Know” and “Homeboi Highlights.”
These segments hope to capture great players past and present, as well as their impact in the sports world. These segments will include video clips, history capsules and simple shout-outs to celebrate black successes in the league.
(Edited by Matthew B. Hall and Fern Siegel)