As you’ve probably heard by now, the Nationals MASN broadcasts are set to look quite different for the 2019 season. On-field reporter Dan Kolko has been promoted to the host of pre- and post-game coverage (you go, Kolko), and is being joined by former Nats third base coach Bo Porter. Replacing Dan for on-field duties is DC native Alex Chappell, and she is excited about this new opportunity.
As the daughter of minor league left-handed pitcher Phil Corddry (he played in the Red Sox farm system from 1969-1972), Alex grew up a baseball fan in the D.C. suburbs in Bethesda, Maryland, and she’s been a Nats fan from the beginning.
“I’ll never forget going to a game with my dad in 2004 when the O’s were playing the Expos [in Spring Training], and he said ‘hey, that’s the team that’s going to come to DC,’” she said. “And I just became a big Nats fan. It was so great that we finally had baseball back in DC.”
She attended the University of Alabama, where she jumped head first into covering sports almost as soon as she arrived on campus.
“I signed up for the campus radio station, and they had an opening in sports, and I started covering their football team,” she said. “I immersed myself in covering football, and fell in love with getting to cover the team on the sidelines.”
Since graduating from college in 2010, Alex has had numerous jobs in sports. She worked in Birmingham covering all sports at both Alabama and Auburn, handling all the shooting, editing, and writing involved with the gig by herself. She then moved on to Boston, where she covered all of the New England sports teams for the local NBC affiliate for three years.
“That’s where I really started my baseball coverage,” she said. The fanatical fanbase helped push her to become a better reporter. “Boston fans are die-hards, just like Nats fans. They know if you’re working hard and if you know your stuff, and there is no room for errors.”
After her time in Boston, she moved to covering college football with ESPN and the SEC Network, which is what she has been doing for the past three years. That gig provided her with her first experience as a sideline reporter. She also spent a season as the on-field reporter for the Tampa Bay Rays, and she has covered postseason baseball for TBS.
This full gamut of sports coverage has given her lots of experience, and lots of unforgettable moments. She had the opportunity to cover Alabama in the National Championship 2 years ago, and, while she tried to remain unbiased, she couldn’t help but get a little caught up in the moment when the confetti was flying after the game. A favorite baseball moment comes from Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS when the Red Sox faced the Detroit Tigers. After losing Game 1, Max Scherzer held Boston hitless through 5.2 innings, and they had a 5-1 lead in the 8th. Tigers manager Jim Leyland used 4 relief pitchers that inning, and the results were disastrous for his club. With 2 outs and the bases loaded, Jim Leyland brought in closer Joaquín Benoit to face David Ortiz. Big Papi first pitch smashed a changeup to tie the game.
“That moment was incredible,” Alex said. “They were already down a game, and it was at Fenway, and you could feel the energy. There was nothing like it, watching [Ortiz] step up to the plate and hit that home run.”
She also enjoyed getting to cover Tom Brady and the Patriots.
“Tom Brady is incredible,” she said. “Yes, he is confident, but he’s not arrogant. He’s so wonderful with the media and was so great to cover. I remember introducing myself to him, and he said ‘hi, it’s nice to meet you, I’m Tom Brady,’ and I thought ‘yes, we all know who you are.’”
After being all over the country, Alex is very excited for the chance to cover her hometown team. She has always considered the DC area home, and she follows another Montgomery County sideline reporter, Rachel Nichols, into this opportunity of a lifetime. The difference is Nichols covers football which is more network driven and you don’t have the chance to cover your home team like you can with baseball. She is thrilled to have the opportunity to be based out of this area with her new husband, who has made his home here.
“It’s so rare to get the chance to [cover your home team],” she recognized. “With the media industry, you go where the opportunity is. You never know where it’s going to take you, and I’m really fortunate the last decade of work brought me here. This is a dream come true. I can’t even believe it. It’s just a dream come true.”
She’s ready to shift gears from football sideline reporting to baseball on-field coverage, and she’s preparing for the differences in the assignment with one Spring Training game in the books.
“When it comes to preparation and knowing the teams and building a rapport with the players, those are consistent across the board,” she explained. “With football, you’re the eyes and ears on the field. Whether an injury comes up and they throw to you live, or you hear a coach yell something out, it’s a lot of in-game reporting based on what’s, as opposed to those pre-planned stories in baseball. Here, you look at the whole series and try to map out game by game what you want to focus on. The game will always dictate what happens, but it’s a lot more pre-planned ideas.”
The one wildly new experience she’ll have? Needing to duck (hopefully many) postgame Gatorade baths.
“This will be my first experience with that,” she said. “The Rays didn’t do the Gatorade baths. I’m 5’2”, I’m really short. I hope that they’re in my peripheral view or to the side of me when they’re coming in, because if they’re directly behind the player, I won’t be able to see them. I’ll definitely be put to the test, and I’ll make sure that I’ll be ready after every win and to be on guard.”
Chappell has made a small request of fans sitting near the dugout after wins – she’s hoping their cheering will get louder when they see the Gatorade coming, which she can use as a warning system to lookout for it which is a good strategy.
To get ready for working with the Nats, she spent time leading up to Spring Training learning as much as she could. She’s been studying the roster and reading as many stories as she could to try and get to know the players on the team as well as the NL East as a whole, since the Nats don’t exist in a vacuum. She’s excited about getting to cover this team for many reasons including the team’s continued success.
“I’ve heard so many great things about the organization,” she said. “I had a small taste when I met with some of the PR staff and front office people for the first time. They were the best. Everybody was so friendly, and it was such a family atmosphere. And there was the vibe of ‘we’re here to win,’ you could feel it and they have that expectation and mindset. I’m looking forward to covering an organization where I’ve heard the players are stand-up, classy people, and a place where every year they want to win. I’m excited. There are a lot of new faces on the team, and I’m looking forward to the chance to introduce fans to those new faces.”
As for joining the established crew that MASN has and stepping into Dan Kolko’s shoes, Alex feels she’s ready and has all the support she needs.
“I’m so excited to join their team,” she said. “They’ve had such great chemistry and longevity with Bob and FP and Dan.”
She’s also thrilled Dan will be sticking around with the team, and of course Kolko is also from Montgomery County in Maryland, and they have created a great rapport as you would expect.
“Dan is amazing. He was in that role for 5 years, and I can’t say enough good things about the work he’s done and the reputation he’s established,” Chappell said. “I’m looking forward to being a sponge and getting a chance to watch Dan and his interaction with the players and the organization. The biggest advice Dan said was to know your stuff, be yourself, and the rest just kind of falls into place. I’m definitely really lucky that I get a chance to work with Dan and learn the ropes from him. I can’t be Dan, but I hope that Dan will enjoy my style. We’ll team up and give you a good show.”
Alex’s addition to MASN will return a female to the broadcast team for the first time since Dan took over for Julie Alexandria after the 2013 season. She recognizes that there is still a difference in being a woman covering a sport with all male players.
“The margin for error is so small,” she said, and she feels there’s more of a spotlight on women in sports media roles. “If you ask a question that might not be the most perfect question, and three other men as that same question, it would just be glazed over for them. I feel like people don’t pay attention and hang on every word with men, whereas people listen to everything a woman says, especially in the beginning.”
Part of the process is shutting out the added pressure which you cannot show your audience plus proper preparation is always needed.
“You can’t think about that,” she said. “If you’ve done your homework and research, if you’re professional and doing your job, no one can take that away from you.”
She’s excited to see more and more women entering sports and as mentioned the D.C. area has Rachel Nichols who was one of the first sideline reporters plus the great success of Alexa Datt from Olney, Maryland who covers the MLB Network and the NHL Network, and DC’s own Lauren Shehadi who is a star on the MLB Network. Datt and Shehadi also are Nats fans.
“It’s great to see so many women now in sports,” Kelly Nash who is an MLB Network and NHL Network host said. “There’s room for all of us. It’s great to see women supporting other women and being each other’s advocates because you have so many strikes against you. It’s great to see how many fans of the game are women now, and how many women want to go into sports. I think it’s going to keep growing. People don’t always realize how brilliant and talented some of the women I’ve been around are.”
She said that her mom was a huge inspiration for her growing up.
“My mom is my biggest role model,” Chappell said. “She’s a VP at a technology company, and she’s worked with men her entire life. I think she just really taught me the importance of worth ethic and balance of enjoying what you do and having fun, and also making sure you dot all your I’s and cross your T’s.”
Chappell’s advice to girls and women who would like to follow in her footsteps?
“As a woman going into this, just make sure you have fun and enjoy every minute, but make sure you can talk the lingo and know all the news going on with the team you’re covering, and make sure you’re professional. I can’t say that enough,” she said, stressing the importance of how one carries herself around the team. “Make sure you make contacts, follow-up with those contacts, and study your butt off, but at the same time enjoy it because it’s sports and it’s fun, and there’s nothing like going to the ballpark every day or being on a football field. It’s such a unique industry.”
Personally, I’m thrilled to have a woman back as part of the TV coverage of the Nats. Best of luck this season, Alex. If the first Spring Training game was any indication, you’ll fit right in with the team and the MASN crew, and most importantly with your audience!