When coming up in the business as a young journalist, Jeff Passan knew getting recognition from the Associated Press Sports was a big deal.
So being recognized twice for his writing by the organization was something that was unexpected.
The Yahoo! Sports Major League Baseball columnist won two first-place APSE awards, one for beat writing and features.
“It felt great. It’s always good to be recognized by peers,” Passan said. “It was awfully flattering. APSE awards are a huge thing, one is great but two is unimaginable.”
Passan realized the significance of his accomplishments when he saw the names of writers who have been honored by APSE before him.
The Syracuse graduate started his career at The Fresno Bee, where he covered Fresno State men’s basketball..
“His name first came up on my radar when he was in Fresno,” said Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports national columnist. “(Jerry Tarkanian) told me Jeff Passan was a great writer. Tark really knows his writers, most coaches don’t, so that stood out to me.”
Passan left Fresno for the Kansas City Star, where he began writing about baseball.
He worked alongside of Jason Whitlock, now Foxsports.com national sports columnist, and Wright Thompson, who is now a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN the Magazine.
In Fresno, Passan worked with Adrian Wojnorowski, Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist. Passan credits working on a staff with talented writers for helping him develop his skills.
“There were so many people on the staff when I was in Fresno and Kansas City,” Passan said. “It was an environment that pushed me and when you’re in an environment like that you try to make the people around you proud.”
Passan said his work ethic is also something that has made him so successful. Passen grew up in journalism because his father, Rich, worked in the profession.
“My dad worked at The Cleveland Plain Dealer for 40 years, so I knew what I wanted to do when I was 12 years old,” Passan said. “I was very lucky. My dad has been editing my stuff for 20 years now and I can say he’s the best editor I’ve ever had.”
Passen grew up in the ways of old media when his professional career, but made the transition to new media in 2006.
“I like to say I knew the web would be preeminent, but I’m not that smart” Passan said when describing why he left the newspaper business. “It was just a really good opportunity. I was lucky Dan Wetzel asked me to come on board, and I was lucky Tim Brown turned down the job.”
Wetzel and Passan worked together on a major project, publishing a book entitled, “Death to the BCS”.
The book argues against the BCS and why it should be overturned in favor of a playoff. “I knew I could give material to him and he would be able to write it really well,” Wetzel said. “Jeff is a really smart guy and fun to work with.”
Writing a book may be difficult for some as the styles may change when writing a novel than when writing a story. But Passan said his writing for the book didn’t differ much from a normal column.
He said it was just a much longer argument but he approached it with facts like a regular story.
“He’s pretty mature, he understands what readers want and isn’t afraid of going after that,” Wetzel said. “He’s coming into his own and realizing when to push the button.”