Banished to the Pen is always looking for new writers. To help convince you that this is a great place to get your work out, we’ve asked a few BTTP alumni to tell you about their experience at the site. BTTP has been a starting point for writers at Baseball Prospectus, BP Local sites, Beyond the Box Score, SB Nation team sites, and others. If you want to start writing about baseball, this is a great place to do it. Today’s story is from Julien Assouline of Beyond the Box Score.

I needed a portfolio to get into Ryerson University’s journalism program. That’s basically why I started writing at Banished to the Pen. I was a baseball fan my whole life, and I had some knowledge of advanced metrics, so I said screw it, this seems like a good place to write and if/after I get into my program I’ll stop. Writing for other sites such as BP seemed like far away dreams in far away lands. I didn’t even know some of their writers were reading the site. I just admired their writings from afar.

But, after I got into my program, I didn’t stop writing. The more I wrote the more I enjoyed it, and one day Russell Carleton commanded people to read an article I wrote. I was shocked and thrilled, I loved Russell’s work. It motivated me to keep writing and keep working hard. Then at some point that year, BP had openings for team websites. I applied to one of them, and never heard back. It didn’t feel great, but a month or so later, BP was launching another team website, BP Milwaukee. I wasn’t going to apply. But, as I was playing “MLB The Show” I thought, “screw it,” the worst thing that can happen is they don’t answer. So I applied and to my great surprise I got hired.

I’ve since written for The Hardball Times, the main site of Baseball Prospectus, and Beyond the Box Score. And while that’s cool, the most important part of my journey is the skills I’ve learned. Before I started writing at Banished to the Pen, I didn’t even know how to use Excel. Now, not only do I know my way around Excel, but I’ve taught myself how to code in R and a little bit in D3.js (D3 is hard).

I can now clean just about any database I want. I can scrape data, visualize it, and build regression models. Hell, I can even build simple apps.

I didn’t learn all of these skills while writing at BttP. But I did learn Excel, and Tableau. I fell in love with data and data visualization while writing at the site. Once I became frustrated with those tools, I learned R. Now, I’m learning D3.js (HTML, CSS, Javascript, and SVG). I still want to be a journalist, well, a “data journalist”. But, thanks to these skills, other career options have opened up.

I have made new friends, new connections. I am smarter, a better writer, a better analyst, a more empirical thinker, and a better learner than I was just a few years ago.

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