Growing up in New York, Julian McWilliams’ whole world was playing baseball.
“Up from the time I was six years old until I was 24, it’s all I knew,” said McWilliams (’02), who played in high school, then college at Ohio University and later Temple University, and finally professionally in his early 20s.
So, while it’s not surprising that McWilliams would now have a career in baseball, it’s not exactly the one he imagined. McWilliams is a sports reporter, working the enviable beat of covering the Boston Red Sox for The Boston Globe.
How does one go from fielding ground balls to throwing tough questions out to multimillion-dollar athletes? McWilliams credits his time at Metropolitan Montessori School, which he attended from 1992 until 2002, and instruction from his favorite teacher Bob Reveri, with helping him develop as a writer.
In particular, he recalled studying sentence structure. “You had different color coding for parts of the sentence. Circle was for the verb, and the orange circle was an adverb; the preposition was a rectangular shape. It was like this really in-depth way of teaching that forced you to understand language.” These days, he recognizes how that practice impacted his writing chops. “When you start analyzing language in a different way, particularly as a journalist, constantly trying to have to craft words and put things together, it’s like ‘Ah, I see what they were doing there.’”
McWilliams played summer collegiate baseball in small towns like Johnson City, Tennessee and Spartanburg, South Carolina, and independent baseball (teams not affiliated with the major or minor leagues) in Las Vegas, New Mexico. That period prepared him for embracing less glamorous early gigs.
“You don’t just graduate and cover the Lakers. There are steps you have to take,” said McWilliams. His first full-time job was writing about high school sports for a small paper in South Carolina. “A lot of times what I tell younger kids is, if you get a job, and it’s your first opportunity, don’t hesitate, just go. These jobs are sort of limited, and it’s always hard to get your first job.”
Through those early experiences, McWilliams learned a secret many young journalists learn quickly: covering prep sports is a lot harder than the pro game. That realization crystallized for him at a high school game in the Bronx, where he was freelancing to gain experience.
“I’m seeing these guys next to me, they have all these stats, and I said, ‘Excuse me, where are you getting these stats?’ And they said ‘We’re counting them,’” he said.
He has come a long way from those early days. “Now every stat is handed to me, so all I have to do is write,” said McWilliams. “And make sure the coach doesn’t get on the bus before I talk to him.”
But even as he’s happy to have a prestigious job with the Globe covering a sport he loves, McWilliams hasn’t nailed everything off his career bucket list yet.
“Eventually, I want to be a national writer and do some TV stuff,” said McWilliams. “I want to have a family and somewhat of a normal lifestyle. That’s always been my vision coming into journalism.”