Spring training is in full swing, with the first set of games in the books. And while players work on returning to playing form, the media report on the teams’ progress and other camp happenings.
So it may have caught some by surprise when some of those happenings included an alleged relationship between a member of the media and someone on a team that person covers. That is, unless someone said it involved the Boston Red Sox.
On Friday, Jessica Moran, a Red Sox reporter for Comcast SportsNet New England, resigned following questions over whether she was having a relationship with the team’s manager, John Farrell. The Boston Globe broke the story.
“I have stepped away from Comcast SportsNet as I thought it was in my best personal and professional interest to do so,” Moran, who had been with the network since 2009, wrote in a text to the Globe.
The Globe reports that there had been “speculation among local and national baseball reporters about Farrell’s relationship with Moran” in the days leading up to the resignation, possibly kicked off after Farrell was listed as “not married” in the Red Sox 2016 media guide released last week. Farrell confirmed that he and his wife of 30 years, Sue Farrell, are getting a divorce, but would not comment on his relationship with Moran; “My private life is private,” he said.
But the most bizarre part about all of this story may not be the alleged relationship between Moran and Farrell. It’s that a relationship between a team reporter and someone from the Boston Red Sox organization is being alleged, again. Because this isn’t the first, or second, or even third time an incident like this has been speculated on — and at least one of those turned out to be true.
So here’s a walk down memory lane, via Yawkey Way:
Hazel Mae and Terry Francona
Hazel Mae was a lead anchor for New England Sports Network’s “SportsDesk” from 2004-2008. And she left quite the impression, according to the Boston Herald:
The NESN vixen became nearly as popular as the players she covered during her four years at the station. The former Toronto sports reporter, who morphed from a dowdy-dressed outsider to a sexy local superstar at NESN, was so admired by Sox fans that a cardboard cutout of her once sold for $400 on eBay.
Hazel was frequently spotted out on the town — often with a sports star on her arm. She dated ex-Celtic Ricky Davis and ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor Steve Levy and was linked to ex-Toronto Blue Jay Kevin Barker. A radio yakker once speculated that she and married Sox skipper Terry Francona were the subject of a blind New York gossip column item — a bad assumption that cost the yakker his job.
That seems to be the beginning and end of it in terms of her rumored Red Sox love interests, although the Herald also reports she told sports blogger John Molori that NESN had no rules against dating players and that she wouldn’t work there if the network did. And that may be why the next two rumors, also involved NESN personalities, caught on.
Heidi Watney and Jason Varitek
From 2008-2011, Heidi Watney covered the Red Sox for NESN. During that period rumors surfaced that she was dating then-Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek, who played for the team from 1997 until his retirement in 2011, and Nick Green, who was with the team for the 2009 season. The former, however, seemed to carry more weight with with those in the rumor mill due to reports of “intimate conversations” between the two at a Baltimore bar in 2008, and especially after the player filed for divorce from his wife of more than 10 years in July 2008.
Varitek remarried in 2011, to Catherine Panagiotopoulos, not Watney. The allegations of the past affair between player and reporter didn’t stop there, unfortunately, and less than a year after remarrying, a Twitter user brought it back up by asking Catherine and Watney whether or not the reporter was responsible for breaking up Varitek’s first marriage. Watney responded, “Absolutely not.” Catherine added, “Idiots are everywhere today! #JustSayin.”
And that’s where the alleged relationship stands. Just alleged. No proof.
Unfortunately for the Red Sox, this wasn’t the end of rumors about media-player relationships.
Which brings us to Watney’s replacement on the Red Sox sideline: Jenny Dell.
Jenny Dell and Will Middlebrooks
Jenny Dell, a Connecticut native, began covering the team in February 2012. A little more than two years later she was engaged to Will Middlebrooks. Somewhere between those two dates, the rumors began to swirl about the pair. (But hey, at least these were true?)
The Boston Globe appears to be the first to report on the then-alleged relationship, when its Lifestyle section reported that Dell had been offered another contract by NESN, adding the interesting detail to the announcement blurb that stated that she “now lives with boyfriend (and third baseman) Will Middlebrooks.” This of course was odd because neither had confirmed that they were dating.
Barstool Sports jumped on board days later, and, as as they make clear, it wasn’t exactly a surprise to anyone:
Well it looks like the worst secret in Boston is officially out. We’ve been getting emails about this forever and pictures of them canoodling at Howl. But, we’re not in the business of rushing love so we let them move along at their own pace. However, looks like the cat is out of the bag now. The kids are finally FBO (Facebook official). I wonder if Jenny or Middlebrooks are going to cut this out and frame it? Kind of like what Michael Scott did with his HR waiver, ahem, “love contract.” After all, a write-up in the Globe might as well be a wedding announcement. Sure, it’s also a contract that says you can’t sue the company if your relationship, in your opinion or in reality, affects your work. But more importantly, it’s an announcement of love.
The couple confirmed two week later with a New Year’s Day tweet together. It was the first time either had publicly acknowledged the relationship.
Of course, reporting on your boyfriend’s professional baseball team does present a conflict, and Dell was removed from Red Sox broadcasts after the tweet was sent out. Dell left NESN in May 2014.
This rumor-turned-reality does have a happy ending, however. Dell joined CBS as an NFL sideline reporter in June 2014, and was engaged to Middlebrooks by July. The happy couple married last month on Valentine’s Day.
And while Middlebrooks and Dell appear to be the exception, not the rule, the odd timing of Moran’s resignation does make you wonder: What is in the water at Fenway Park? Love Potion No. 9?