If you’re lucky enough to have a rewarding job, there are probably more than a few people who helped you find your way in that field.
And there’s always that one person who helped you initially get in the door. For me, that person was Jeff Seidel, who died Aug. 28 at the age of 59 after a long battle with colon cancer.
Jeff was a freelance writer in the Baltimore-D.C. area for decades. He covered the Orioles, Ravens, Capitals, high school sports, college sports … any sport or team in this area, Jeff probably covered it at some point. Jeff covered high school sports for PressBox for the past three years. He wrote with care. His stories were detailed yet concise. They were always easy for a reader to follow even if they didn’t know anything about local high school sports. And most importantly, he always made the athletes the stars of his stories.
I met Jeff when I played hockey in the Harford North Stars program in the early 2000s with his son Zach, who is now a sports information director at UMBC. My father and I became friendly with Jeff and Zach, both of whom always kept things light with that trademark Seidel humor and wit … and they happened to be sports nerds just like us. It was a good match.
Even if it was an 8 a.m. faceoff at Ice World in Abingdon, I could always count on Zach to keep it light in the locker room and for Jeff to chat me up after the game. As a veteran observer of the NHL, Jeff knew the game inside and out. He always pointed out what I did well in a game, and I always looked forward to hearing from him. That’s who Jeff was — kind, courteous and insightful.
Zach and I didn’t play on the same team once I reached high school, but Jeff, Zach and I stayed in touch. One way or another, I eventually made Jeff aware that I was interested in pursuing journalism. Turns out he was exactly the right person to tell. My first freelance assignments on high school sports came my way because Jeff pointed me in the right direction. I know I wasn’t the only one lucky enough to be helped out by Jeff in that regard. Again, that’s who Jeff was.
When we talked about building a career in journalism, Jeff always offered the same advice: Be patient. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your resume will have plenty on it in time. (He was right.)
Jeff and I kept up with one another after I began attending the University of Maryland. In the fall of 2009, he was set to cover a Capitals preseason game in D.C. and asked if I wanted to come along. At the time, I was affiliated with WMUC Sports, the student sports radio station on campus, so I got approved for a credential through that. Jeff picked me up from campus on the way down to the arena. That was the first time I sat in a press box or in a media workroom. It was also the first time I was in a pro locker room.
To say it was a thrill is an understatement.
About nine years later in 2018, I became the managing editor at PressBox. One of the first people I told was Jeff. And before I formally took over the job, he again offered me just the right advice. Don’t try to overhaul the paper right away, he said. Take your time to grow into the position and things will fall into place in time. (Right again.)
Shortly after I took over, I had to find a new high school writer — and fast. We needed a high school story for the August 2018 paper in short order. I knew exactly who to call. That was Jeff. He ended up doing three years worth of high school stories for us. You can read his work here.
My personal favorite is an October 2018 story about cousins Antwain and Deonte Banks. They played football together at Edgewood High School, and Deonte is now a cornerback at Maryland.
But what I’ll remember most about working with Jeff is the conversations we’d have on a weekly basis. One of us would usually call the other to talk about a story idea or to discuss how an assignment was coming along … only to spend most of our time chatting about something else entirely.
Jeff loved talking about his wife, Nadine, and his children, Zach and Kara. He often updated me on his battle with cancer, a battle that became increasingly challenging in recent months. And he was always so genuine in his interest about what was going on in my life. Oh, and sports. We talked about sports a lot.
I’ll miss those phone calls.
Rest easy, Jeff.
Contributions in Jeff Seidel’s memory may be sent to Jewish Big Brother and Big Sister League, 5750 Park Heights Ave, Baltimore, Md. 21215.
In addition, a GoFundMe page has been set up to assist the Seidel family during this time. To make a donation, click here.
Photo courtesy of Sol Levinson & Bros.