From the eye of the whirlwind: Chris Cotillo reflects

A look back at the last month, in which my life was turned upside down.

I didn't think it was possible that typing seven words could change your life drastically. I was wrong.

Since typing that tweet just over a month ago, my life has been flipped upside down. From profiles in major newspapers to national TV appearances, the last 32 days have been a whirlwind experience beyond anything I could have ever imagined.

That whirlwind reached its peak in mid-December, when the baseball world converged in Orlando for the annual winter meetings. Because we turned the trip into a family vacation, I was one of the first to get to the Dolphin hotel--two days before the actual Meetings commenced.

Once the rest of the baseball world got there, the craziness started. Agents, executives, managers and reporters spent most of Sunday and Monday milling around the hotel lobby, re-connecting with old friends and making new contacts. I was the new kid looking for a lunch table on the first day of school, except for the fact that the other "students" in the cafeteria were baseball icons and my childhood heroes. To call that "intimidating" would be a massive understatement.

I had a big decision to make early in the week: should I stand in the corner as a non-intrusive observer, or should I make the most out of this chance and pull 19-hour days meeting with writers, agents, and executives? Easy choice, even for the new kid.

no one in baseball looks anything like their Twitter avatar

So I began my journey, first focusing on introducing myself to people who I had previously interacted with on Twitter. This was tougher than you'd think, because no one in baseball looks anything like their Twitter avatar. I guess that can be a good thing, especially if you had your avatar set to your awkward senior photo (with arms crossed and semi-smile leaning up against a tree) that a major league player once called an "eHarmony profile pic."

Once I overcame my avatar issues and got talking with people, I realized that baseball is filled with genuinely good people who are willing to make the new kid feel as welcome as possible. Media people who I have looked up to for years went out of their way to congratulate me on my recent successes, and really made me feel proud that my hard work was finally being noticed. I'd need weeks to name everyone who should be included in this category, but a few really stood out.

In addition to being the best baseball insiders in the country, Ken Rosenthal, Jon Heyman, Jeff Passan and Jon Paul Morosi are all great people who I am proud to have gotten to know a bit in Florida. It would be extremely easy for them to ignore the new kid who came along and started to break stories, but they all welcomed me as friendly competition. I can only hope to someday to be able to reach the level of professionalism and success that they have in their careers.

Peter Gammons, who I grew up idolizing on ESPN's Baseball Tonight, is a favorite among almost the entire baseball world. If you ever have the chance to listen to Peter talking about baseball, soak up as much as you can. There are very few people who are more knowledgeable than him when it comes to baseball, and his personal support has meant a lot to me as well.

Between meetings with reporters and sources, I had the privilege of being covered by what seems like every media outlet in the country. Bright and early on Monday morning, I was scheduled to go on MLB Network's Hot Stove show with Harold Reynolds and Matt Vasgerian in what would serve as my TV debut.

Here's a tip if you're planning on going on national TV: don't tell everyone you know. There are about 1,500 students at Algonquin Regional High School in Northborough, MA, and I bet I told at least 1,000 of them that I was going on. And they actually cared, because for some reason I'm getting almost as much attention as the Lip Dub video we made last year. That's a shameless plug to click the link.

As I was getting wired up to go on with Harold and Matt, all I could think about was how everyone I knew was going to be watching this. An on-air burp, a fall off my chair on-set, or technical difficulties, and I'd never hear the end of it at school. Luckily the worst moment came in the form of the most-awkward high-five in MLB Network history, between Harold and I. He was going low, I went in at the wrong angle. Ugly, ugly stuff.

The rest of the week was similarly insane. I appeared on TV (SNY, MASN, NESN), radio (MLB Network Radio, NBC Sports Radio) and in print (Washington Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, New York Times). The days were filled with source meet-ups, trying to break stories, interviews, and press conferences. It wasn't until about 9 p.m. that the work was over, and the fun could begin.

You always hear that the fun part of the meetings is late at night, when the entire baseball world is socializing near the hotel bar. This is pretty much true except for the kid who can't partake in that fun for another three years. I made my bar trips to get a glass of Sprite on an hourly basis, every time hoping that a competitor (looking at you, Passan) wouldn't be around to snap a career-ruining Cotillo-at-the-bar picture. The Sprite wasn't even good, by the way. Way too much ice.

By day 2, I had perfected my fake laugh.

Regardless, the socializing was good. Really, really good. Relationships with sources were forged in the early morning hours of those days in Orlando, as well as networking with other reporters and even managers and players. Each conversation seemed to start the same way, with either "what's in the glass, Cotillo?" or "isn't it past your bedtime?". By day 2, I had perfected my fake laugh.

I left Orlando with what seems like hundreds of new friends and connections, and truly enjoyed every moment of the experience. When I landed in Boston that Thursday night, the reality of the 60-degree temperature drop and thought of school in the morning hit hard. My dream world of baseball news and the reality of being a normal high school senior were going to have to coexist once again. I can't complain though, because I feel like the luckiest kid in the world right now. This is the time of my life, and I want to embrace it as much as possible.

I don't want to turn this into a speech at the Oscars, but I'm sick of getting all the recognition when the foundation for my success extends far beyond my efforts. My parents, David and Jeannie, and sister, Kate, have been as supportive as any three people could possibly be, and I appreciate that more than anything. I'm also lucky enough to have three grandparents (Gene, Mary and Yolanda) and many aunts, uncles and cousins who have been an amazing support system as well.

Read all of our original reports right here

My school life is not a normal one, but the support from my teachers and principal, Mr. Mead, has been beyond anything I could have ever expected. School is always going to be my top priority until I graduate college, but it means a lot to know that the adults at Algonquin know that some valuable lessons are learned outside of the classroom. In addition, I can't thank all of the other students (especially my best friends Steph, Pat, Tim and Bri) enough for being so great to me throughout all of this.

They say that everyone gets their fifteen minutes of fame, that everyone has the spotlight on them at least for a little while during their lifetime. I feel like I'm on minute 27 of my fifteen minutes, and every day seems crazier than the last.

Have I loved every minute of the last month? Of course, but that doesn't mean I've reached where I want to be in this industry. The attention and accolades are very much appreciated, but my core goal is, and will always be, to be the best journalist and person I can possibly be. The grind of the behind-the-scenes source-cultivation continues on a day-to-day basis, along with striving to be a better-rounded writer and reporter.

This sudden rise to prominence has been overwhelming, humbling, exciting, and extremely rewarding, but it's not the summit of my journey. It's just the start, and I can't wait to see what the next few decades will bring in both my career and the world of baseball.

Hopefully, my reputation as a "flash-in-the-pan teen reporter" can evolve into that of a reliable journalist who does what I believe every journalist should do: tell the truth about something in a meaningful way that people care about.

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