An excerpt from my latest for Poynter.
J. R. Moehringer spent more than 100 hours with Alex Rodriguez. He saw him in a Batman costume during a New Year’s Eve celebration with his children. He was with him on a day in New York when he met with the new Commissioner of Baseball Rob Manfred. And then he accompanied him on a visit to the surgeon who worked on his hip.
They had numerous intimate conversations that carried on into the night. At times, it got to be too much—for Moehringer.
“I told him, ‘Alex, I’m tired. I’ve got to go home,’” Moehringer said.
Yet despite almost unlimited access, Moehringer decided not to use one quote from Rodriguez in his riveting 12,000+-word piece on the disgraced star in the March 2 edition of ESPN The Magazine.
Ironically, it all began when he sought a quote from Rodriguez for an ESPN The Magazinestory he was doing on Derek Jeter, said Moehringer, a Pulitzer Prize winner. He used a Rodriguez quote on his teammate for that story and struck a relationship in the process. Eventually after several off-the-record lunches, Moehringer inquired if Rodriguez would be willing to be the subject of an extensive profile on the eve of his return to baseball this spring.
“It was up and down,” Moehringer said. “They pulled out for at least a month. His people didn’t want him to do it. But he overruled them. He liked where we were going [from their conversations].”
Moehringer embarked on the project full-time in December. He says he was “stunned” by the volume of access.
“I don’t know if I had that kind of access to [Andre Agassi],” said Moehringer, who assisted the tennis star in writing his bestselling autobiography, “Open.” “It was a gradual process. It probably never would have happened if I just said, ‘Let’s go,’ and hit [the record button].”