It exists in many forms — the media jinx.
Most commonly known is the Sports Illustrated cover jinx. Put an up-and-coming athlete on the cover or in the spotlight, and the fear is that an injury or other unfortunate result will befell the subject.
The sports staff at the Tri-City Herald often jokes about the Herald jinx. I usually don’t hold much stock in crazy conspiracies like that. Sometimes, though, I do have to wonder.
One year, I covered a very good Kamiakin High School boys soccer team that was good enough to have a shot at a state title. Naturally, I did a couple features on their kids. A week after the first feature ran, their star forward broke his jaw in practice and was lost for the year.
Come playoff time, I ran a feature on their midfielder. Of course, on game day he got a pretty bad stomach flu and was barely able to play.
I’ve been pretty fortunate with the Dust Devils. Of all the features I’ve done in eight years as the beat writer, I don’t think any of them suffered any ill effects. Although, you could make a case for Jordan Ribera last year.
He was leading the league in RBIs and tied for the lead in home runs when I interviewed him for the feature. He got hurt a week later, but I hadn’t written the story yet, so I don’t think that counts.
But Jaron Shepherd’s injury definitely fits the profile of a cover jinx.
Here’s a great guy with a wonderful, humble attitude who seemed poised for a breakout season. The story came out Friday, the day of the Dust Devils’ season opening game against Everett.
Shepherd comes up for his first at-bat. Now, he’s the very first batter to step up to the plate for the Dust Devils this season. What are the chances of something bad happening?
But on the fourth pitch from Everett starter Victor Sanchez, Shepherd gets hit on the hand with an inside fastball. He heads down to first base and is met by trainer Andy Stover.
That’s standard practice, but I knew something might be amiss the longer Stover stayed out there. And when Shepherd was replaced in center field the next inning, I knew it was bad.
The next day, I found out how bad.
I walked into Stover’s office to follow up on Shepherd’s status and asked Andy, “I wanted to come in and..”
“Apologize?” Andy said.
His comic timing has always been impeccable.
He was joking, of course, but my worst fears were confirmed when he told me about Shepherd’s hand. Officially, he’s on the seven-day disabled list, but as Stover told me, that can mean anywhere from seven days to 76 days.
If that wasn’t enough bad news for the day, I also found out that Zach Osborne, who was featured prominently in my game story from the night before, had been hit in the face with a ground ball during infield practice and had to visit the emergency room.
“I’d better not talk to you this year,” said pitcher Seth Willoughby, who was sitting in Stover’s training room when I walked in.
I'm pretty sure he was joking, too.
But after this weekend, I’m not too sure.