Eight months ago, Tom Haberstroh watched LeBron James announce that he would be taking his talents to South Beach to play for the Miami Heat. Little did the 2004 Staples High School graduate know that James’ decision to play with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would change his life forever.
Just three months after the nationally televised event, the 24-year old discovered that he too would be headed down to Miami to cover the Big Three as a beat reporter for ESPN.com.
“The Decision changed my life in such a big way. Lebron James took me and his talents down to South Beach. I couldn’t believe that I was going to be a part of this experience,” Haberstroh said.
At just 24 years old, Haberstroh was named the official blogger for the Miami Heat Index on ESPN.com in November. The move by the "Worldwide Leader in Sports" was significant because it was the first time that ESPN would exclusively be covering a team. For a person who had never taken one journalism class before, Haberstoh’s journey to the sports media powerhouse ESPN is a fascinating tale.
As a student at Staples, Habestroh played basketball for the Wreckers under former head coach Jason Kirk and took several AP courses in math. Under the tutelage of AP Statistics teacher Jennifer Guidace, Haberstroh developed a love for numbers. When the time came to choose a college, Tom looked for a school that appealed to him both athletically and academically.
“My goal was to find a place where I could marry my passion for sports with my analytical mind.”
Thanks to the help of his guidance counselor Mrs. Honeycutt, Haberstroh found his perfect fit in Wake Forest University. The big time sports atmosphere coupled with an intimate learning environment of 4000 undergraduate students is just what he was looking for.
As an economics major, Haberstroh knew that he wanted to do something with numbers but was unsure of what his road would be following his graduation in 2008. That is when he reached out to a man he idolized in ESPN’s Baseball Tonight researcher Mark Simon. Haberstroh emailed the longtime stat man asking how he could become the next Mark Simon. Reflecting back on the experience today, Haberstroh explains just how happy he was to send that email.
“Simon was really taken back by the message I sent him because normally people want to be one of the people in front of the camera like Karl Ravech. The email proved to be really important because Simon asked me to have lunch with him and he helped me land an interview at ESPN.”
While Simon helped Haberstroh get his foot in the door, the process of landing a job with ESPN was quite difficult. After beginning his interview by saying that NASCAR was his least favorite sports, Haberstroh said that he underwent a 50 minute trivia test on the history of his least favorite sport. With an allotted time of hour, the Staples grad reflects on how difficult the testing was.
“I thought the interview would never end as the questions just kept on coming. In the end I guess I did well enough as I was called up to the Bristol headquarters to take another test and thankfully I passed it.”
Following the tests. Haberstoh began working at ESPN part time in the statistics department. Paid by the hour, the Westport native worked from 6 p.m.-2 a.m. looking over box scores trying to figure out if any errors had been made. The long hours proved to be beneficial in building the man that Tom has become today
“This was a really humbling experience for me because I really had to work hard to make my way up the ladder.”
In the following months after he was hired, ESPN launched a brand new analytical statistics movement called “Next Level Statistics”. Inspired by Billy Beane’s book “Moneyball” ESPN quickly jumped on this new trend in the sports world.
“ESPN wanted to be at the forefront of this initiative and I got lucky by getting in at the right time.”
The network’s fascination over statistics has allowed Haberstroh to carry out his dream of working in sports. Today the Westport resident covers the Miami Heat on a daily basis and will be courtside and in the locker room for the action throughout the NBA Playoffs. For a guy that wasn’t given the tools to be a sports journalist, Tom Haberstroh has proven that dreams can be accomplished with effort.
“If you work hard enough you can attain anything. My word of advice for people who want to work in sports is to start promoting yourself at a young age. For me it all started with my blog and because of that I am now covering the Miami Heat on ESPN.com.”