This morning on WDHA’s Jersey Magazine, Jim Monaghan welcomes Bill Pinkney who, in his role as Billy the Batboy, has been a fixture on the New Jersey baseball scene for more than a decade.
Billy has a new book he’s just published, and he got together with Jim Monaghan to talk about growing up inside the game of baseball, and some of the lessons he learned.
JIM MONAGHAN – In certain circles, he’s known as Billy the Batboy. It’s my pleasure to welcome Bill Pinkney to the Jersey magazine here at 105.5 WDHA. Billy, good morning.
BILL PINKNEY – Good morning. I appreciate you having me on.
JM – So for DHA and MTR listeners not familiar with you, tell them your story because it’s very interesting.
BP – It’s an interesting story, one a little bit unorthodox. I began my career as a batboy for the New Jersey Jackals at eleven years old, I’m currently 21, so for ten years I was involved in professional baseball, just learning the game, trying to be around the professionals, and that’s something that I really appreciated as a young kid. As a young baseball fan, I think everyone wants to try to get closer to the game, whether that’s by meeting the players, getting autographs, trying to find a way to talk to them. And luckily, I had that ability as a young kid, given the opportunity to work in pro ball and learn from a lot of those guys. So I’m from Little Falls, New Jersey. The New Jersey Jackals were ten minutes away from me on the other side of my town, pretty much, and I go to Montclair State University right now. I’m a senior, and that happened to be where they played for 25 seasons. And after a few years of being a batboy, I decided that there has to be some way to learn more about them. I had the access there, so what best way can I do that? And that was to probably interview them. So I brought my phone there, I got a little microphone, a little mini tripod, and I began to interview the players. And it was really one of the best decisions I’ve made, because I was able to talk to former big leaguers guys who were in AA, one swho were great college players and weren’t drafted, and were now provided an opportunity at the pro level. And it really just evolved from there. The Jackals ended up installing a video board. They needed somebody to create some content for it, and I was there ready to go. I was interested in that and ultimately became the Director of Digital Content and then the Player Procurement Assistant, where I helped manager find some players for the team as well. So it’s an interesting story, and it ultimately led to the book that I published with so much advice and wisdom from these professionals.
JM – You packed an awful lot into a short amount of time, Bill. You really did.
BP – Yep, gotta love it.
JM – The book is called Passion Prevails – Baseball’s Top Performers Advise Youth Players On Maximizing Their Experience. So let me start with you first, because I know you played in high school and you’re playing club ball at Montclair State. What did you learn from the game of baseball?
BP – I learned a lot, a lot of life lessons that you wouldn’t really experience until later in life, probably. I was thankful to have so many professionals right here in my backyard who are pretty much older brother figures to me during the summers. And really, just to be a good person, how to be a professional, how to do things the right way. And I think a lot of us get wrapped up in the small things that really don’t matter as much in youth sports and some coaches who really have their egos as the main thing that they’re concerned about. I’m just thankful to have had that opportunity and just have a mature outlook on the game of baseball and on life through all these experiences.
JM – There was an article on you and your book in USA Today the other day, and you talked about when you got to high school and you ran into THAT coach. And I think in some way, shape, or form, whether it’s in an athletic setting or in a business setting, we’re all going to run into THAT coach. The question I wanted to ask you is, how was what you experienced with THAT coach different from being just held accountable for what you did on and in some cases perhaps off the field?
BP – Right. Well, accountability is extremely important, respect and all that. And there’s a difference between tough coaching and being accountable and all that compared to making somebody feel a different type of way in a way where you don’t want to play the game anymore. So there is a line there, and I feel like the way you’re communicated with is a major factor. How you’re treated. Do you feel like there’s a respect factor there? I believe that the coaches who do the best job are able to be stern with you and say, hey, this is how we do things, this is how we don’t do things. But at the same time, you have that respect where you feel comfortable going up to them and asking them questions. You know, that, hey, he’s got my back if something goes wrong, but I know that I have to have a conversation with him and sit down, and we have that comfortable relationship. There’s definitely a line there. And that’s what I experienced, where you have coaches who really don’t know how to communicate the right way, maybe care about their own record more than the players themselves, care more about how they look to parents and the administration instead of really forming a great relationship with the players. That’s what I experienced, and it really is a matter of truly caring about the players. And I think if you truly care about them, you know that you’re putting forth the right way to do things and in a way where you’re creating a lifelong relationship with somebody, that’s really where it all begins.
JM – I feel you mentioned you considered quitting. Why did you not quit? What kept you going?
BP – Well, I honestly just look back to the relationships I made in pro ball. Those guys had such a different outlook on life and on baseball. They kept me going, essentially. I had such a passion for the game. I was around it all the time willingly. I didn’t have to be at the ballpark all the time at the professional level, but I truly want to be there, and I loved being around it. And I didn’t want to quit because of one person or two people in high school. Like, who were they? I wasn’t going to listen to people who were trying to put us down. Meanwhile, I had guys who have been at some of the highest levels in this game giving me so many words of encouragement. And that’s something that some young players lack right now. They lack that direction and that encouragement, whether that’s from a parent, a coach, their own teammates, sometimes putting them down. It’s really unfortunate. I was lucky to be in an environment where, yes, I dealt with some of that adversity at a younger level, but then I also had older guys who got me going and encouraged me. And I learned a lot from but that’s what my content I’m trying to do with it is put those messages out from those big leaguers and be the person who can really push it to those younger kids. And maybe those messages and that advice, just like I got, will be something that can keep them going.
JM – Billy the Batboy is my guest this morning. Bill Pinkney here at 105.5 WDHA. He’s just published a book, Passion Prevails – Baseball’s Top Performers Advise Youth Players On Maximizing Their Experience. I’m trying to remember back, Bill, to the first time that I saw one of your social media posts. I know you were very young, and I remember thinking, boy, for a kid this young, he’s pretty polished. And I’m watching you do some of these interviews, and one of the quotes that comes to mind – you mentioned Yogi Berra Stadium – came from Yogi Berra, where he says “You can observe a lot by watching.” And I think that speaks to the heart of your book, because observing means that you’re really taking everything in. You can see something, you can look at it, but you’re not necessarily really observing what’s going on. And that’s one of the takeaways I got from your book.
BP – Yeah, absolutely. And I was a young kid sitting in the corner of a dugout, watching these professionals as they communicate with each other, how they carry out these conversations, communicate with the umpires and their own teammates. I didn’t do a whole lot of talking. I was kind of a shy little kid at eleven years old, and I would really only speak when I was spoken to. But I observed so much that I was able to understand what they were doing, what kind of decisions they were making in game, why they went to that pitcher in that situation, why they stole a base there. And I was really able to analyze it at a young age and realize what it was that kept this game moving and the different intricacies of the game. And you really can learn a lot by just listening, using your ears and watching with your eyes. There’s so much that happens in this game, and then there are so many other lessons that you can take away from that as well, that I was able to just think about and then see how I can apply it to my know.
JM – You just mentioned learning life lessons through baseball, and one of the questions that came up in that USA Today interview was the need to separate sport and life. But yet they’re so intertwined, I almost wonder if it’s impossible to do that, Bill.
BP – It’s really difficult, and that’s something that big leaguers still don’t really know how to do sometimes. And I spoke with Michael Chavis, who’s with the Washington Nationals right now, back in spring training, and he said that’s something he’s still trying to work on. It’s difficult. He tries to take walks in the offseason, go on hikes, or do different things, I believe he said he likes working with wood. And finding that other passion outside of the game of baseball is crucial, because no matter what age you are, your career will eventually end at some point. You may be in 8th grade after that season, it may be after high school, college, or if you’re lucky enough to play till your mid-30’s. The big leaguers retire as well, and they sometimes struggle with trying to find that identity outside of the game. And that’s something that everyone will have to deal with. So it’s really a matter of understanding that this is a game, you want to enjoy it, you want to be able to learn a lot from it and create great relationships from it, but at the same time find some other things outside of it that you really enjoy in your life.
JM – One of the topics that frequently comes up with youth sports is, you know, you hear about THAT parent all the time. A few years ago, I was the middle school coach at Columbia Middle School in Berkeley Heights as part of the Governor Livingston High School baseball program. And when I got the players together, I didn’t know any of them. I’d never met them. I knew the father of one because I had seen that dad as a little kid roaming around a college summer league here in New Jersey, but I didn’t know any of them. So I gathered them all together, and there’s about 16 or 18 of them, and I said to them, what’s the worst part of youth sports? And three of them simultaneously said, “The parents.” So I said, “I agree with you. So here’s what we’re going to do. You guys are going to go play baseball for three days.” And I broke them up into different groups, and I said, “I’m just going to sit in this dugout. You go play baseball. You pick the teams, put kids in positions wherever you want, just go play baseball.” And Bill, watching the joy that they had, and I got to see so much because, again, this observing thing, I’m watching how they get along with each other. Who are the leaders here? How do the leaders lead? What roles do the kids who aren’t leaders, how do they accept it? It was an amazing experience and one that I’ve tried to share with just about anybody who I’ve ever run into who’s a coach. Like, step back and let them go play baseball for a while, or let them go play whatever sport it happens to be.
BP – Right. Absolutely. It’s a matter of just letting them go out there and play and let them enjoy it. The parents like to interject their thoughts and their opinions and make it about them sometimes. And there are so many qualified professionals, big leaguers, who were All-Stars and Hall-of-Famers who don’t want to even get involved with that because they see how the parents act, how they treat the umpires. It’s unbelievable. I interviewed David Wells earlier this year, and he said, just tell the parents to shut up now if they’re bothering you like that, you know, it’s typical. He’s a funny guy, but it’s just a shame. It really is and so many parents, so many coaches who are great ones, who would be doing a fantastic job, are turned off by that.
JM – Todd Frazier, who everybody here in New Jersey knows from whether it’s his Little League experience up to playing for both the Mets and the Yankees. He’s now coaching his kid team…his kid’s team. So he’s really had been on both sides of this whole thing.
BP – Absolutely. I spoke to him, too, and sometimes it’s tough when you got kids around and you have that competitive drive inside of you that you’ve had your whole life. You want to win, and you want to say, hey, just do it this way, but sometimes you just have to take a step back and realize, hey, these are kids here you’re dealing with and they don’t have the same skill set as you did. It’ll be hard to find a skill set in somebody at a young age when you compare yourself to a guy like Todd Frazier, who’s a guy who’s been an All-Star, won the Home Run Derby, longtime big leaguer, you really have to have a lot of patience.
JM – Bill Pinkney, aka Billy the Batboy, my guest this morning here at 105.5 WDHA on Jersey Magazine. Tell our listeners about Batboy Productions. That’s a very cool venture that you’ve started.
BP – Yeah, I’d like to create some videos for some youth players who are looking for recruitment videos and even some local businesses trying to expand my passion with video production past baseball or sports. So it’s something I created in 2020 and it’s been nice. I’ve been able to connect to some people who are on that journey as well, who are trying to get sought out by colleges and earn opportunities somewhere else, and then for the local businesses trying to get involved with the community a little bit more.
JM – You’re graduating from Montclair State this coming spring, if I’m not mistaken. What’s your degree going to be in?
BP – Sports Communication.
JM – And where do you think this is going to take you?
BP – I’d like to create something with a network, a segment, create content at the big league level, the affiliated level. Really just continue what I’m doing. I think the book is a fantastic step in that direction and in just formulating more connections and opportunities in the industry. It’s really just a matter of day-by-day seeing what comes up. And it’s really fun when you’re able to go out to different ballparks, meet different people and connect with people who have accomplished a lot, whether they’re players, coaches or content creators like myself.
JM – The book is called Passion Prevails – Baseball’s Top Performers Advise Youth Players On Maximizing Their Experience. I love that you use passion in the title because having watched you as a batboy and going through your social media career and what have you, the word “passionate” comes up a lot when I think of you, Bill.
BP – Absolutely. Thank you very much. Passion is huge. Passion is really what keeps things going, and obviously other factors come into play with that, like drive and motivation and that discipline and everything. But if you have passion for something, it’s going to be difficult to take that away from you.
JM – Billythebatboyscorner.com is where you can find all things about Billy the Batboy and Bill Pinkney and the book as well. It’s Billythebatboyscorner.com. Bill, thank you so much for your time this morning here on WDHA, and best of luck with the book and your career. Absolutely.
BP – Thank you very much for having me.