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Baseball is back and nobody is more excited than NAHJ Chicago member Andy Martinez. This winter he was hired by Marquee Sports Network, the recently launched Chicago Cubs TV network as a Cubs contributor reporter and working on social media for the new TV home of the Cubbies. It’s a dream job of sorts for Martinez who grew up a Chicago sports-crazed kid in the southwest suburbs. I spoke to Andy about his career as a young journalist and being Latino in sports media in Chicago.

Sinhue Mendoza had a conversation with Andy, here’s his story.

Tell us about your background: 

Andy: I was born and raised in Cicero. My father and mother were both born in a small town in Mexico: Venado, San Luis Potosí. My father moved to the States at the age of eight and would return to Mexico, eventually marrying my mother. They had my older sister in Mexico, then my older brother, myself and my younger sister were born here in the U.S. I’m very appreciative of both of my parents because they left their lives in Mexico, not just to chase their American dream, but to allow my siblings and I to chase our American dreams. I know I’m biased, but I’d say they made the right choice; my older sister is a medical librarian with three handsome boys, my older brother is a successful engineer with the city I’m living and working a dream job and my little sister will attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in the fall. My parents raised the four of us, sending us all to private schools to try and maximize our potential and seeing — hopefully in 4 to 5 years — all of us as college graduates.

As for me personally, I attended Quincy University in western Illinois, majoring in journalism. I began my career in newspapers, spending time at the Quincy Herald-Whig, the suburban Daily Herald and the Times of Northwest Indiana.

It’s hard to break into the competitive Chicago sports media market and often tougher for Latinos, tell us about your career: 

Andy: My parents always called me terco – stubborn – growing up. I’ll preface it by saying they’re right, but I definitely get it from them. My first job out of college was as a copy editor in Quincy, Illinois. Unsurprisingly, I was the only Latino in the newsroom. I loved that job and the people I worked with, many whom I still consider strong friends and professional colleagues. But, I knew in my heart of hearts, I always wanted to be in Chicago. I didn’t have the patience to stick it out in smaller or medium-sized markets working my way up there. So, I took a job, which even at the time, I knew wasn’t necessarily for me. I took a job working at the Times in Northwest Indiana as a page designer and copy editor, knowing that it brought me — somewhat — back home. I made it an effort to network and branch out, which then helped me make connections that helped me get where I am now. None of it was ever easy. There were definitely days where you think, “should I just change careers?” I knew what I was capable of and worked my tail off to get to where I knew I deserved and could be.

Tell us about Marquee Sports Network and what you do there:

Andy: I’m so excited about Marquee Sports Network. I’m so excited for baseball fans, not just Cubs fans, to see what we have in store with Marquee Sports Network. I think Cubs fans are going to be thrilled to watch their team on a network that’s fully dedicated to them. The connection between the Cubs and their fans is like no one else in baseball. I think this network is something that is long overdue for Cubs fans. We really are all Cubs, all the time. We have such a dedicated team. It’s crazy how one Kris Bryant post can be sent in our group chat 20 seconds after it’s posted and we just respond something like, “yeah, just saw it.” While others might think about the Cubs and other teams, we’re solely focused on the Cubs and highlighting them. This season is going to be special for Cubs fans — and not just because it’s only 60 games!

As for my role, I’m a jack-of-all-trades; on our awesome social team, I help in social strategy and execution, and on our digital team I help in content ideation for our website and content execution in the form of written articles. I’m excited to tell Cubs stories, especially ones that might not have been told in the past.

NAHJ’s mission is to have more Latinos in newsrooms. How do you hope to be a voice for Latinos in the press box?

Andy: I know how crucial other Latinos in newsrooms were to me in my career. I know without other Latinos who looked out for me and who helped me get to where I am, I wouldn’t be here. It’d be a massive disservice for me not to help the next generation. I also hope to always tell the Latino story. In a sport like baseball, that’s crucial. Roughly 30-percent of major leaguers are Latino, so making sure — even if I’m the only one — I talk to them and tell their story is crucial. It’s my mission to make sure our voices are heard, in good times and in bad.

When did you know you wanted to be a journalist…and how?

Andy: It’s so cliché, I know, but I’ve known that this is what I’ve wanted to do since I was a little kid. I remember as a little kid in my parents’ living room and backyard I’d run around with a football, a baseball, a soccer ball — you name it — and I’d pretend I was playing in the Super Bowl or the World Series or the World Cup, whatever season it was. One day, my parents asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I told them I wanted to be a professional baseball, soccer, and football player. They told me that wasn’t realistic (well, they didn’t tell about Deion Sanders or Bo Jackson, but I digress) and I was crushed. A few minutes later I remember picking up the newspaper, like I did every day as a little kid, and reading the sports pages. I saw either Jay Mariotti or Rick Telander’s faces on one of their columns and thought, “Hey, those guys get to go to all those games and for free! That’s what I want to do.” There were definitely doubts, though. I remember I fell in love with ESPN’s Around the Horn and dreamt of being on there, but that dream seemed so far-fetched. Then, one day I saw Israel Gutierrez and I was like “Oh my God, there’s another guy who has a Spanish last name!” I remember always rooting for him in the show and being mad at Tony Reali whenever he didn’t win. I think that really gave me the belief that maybe, just maybe, I could do it. Fast-forward 18 or so years and voila, I’ve covered every major Chicago sports team in some capacity, except the Bulls. I wonder if little, 8-year-old Andy would believe those crazy dreams come true.

You can follow Andy Martinez on Twitter for all his Cubs coverage @AMartinez_11

Sinhue Mendoza is a sports media consultant based in Chicago. A former member of the Chicago NAHJ Board he’s worked professionally for the Chicago Cubs, U.S. Soccer, Notre Dame Football, and Major League Baseball. Follow him on Twitter at @SinhueMendoza