Three Bay Area News Group sports reporters honored for excellence in 2023

Three Bay Area News Group sports reporters honored for excellence in 2023

A Bay Area News Group sports reporter was named this week as one of the 10 best national beat writers of 2023 by the Associated Press Sports Editors and two more were honored for writing excellent feature stories published last year.

Jason Mastrodonato and Jerry McDonald each were among the 10 finalists in short feature storytelling for their work on matters of life and death in the realm of sports, while Jon Wilner’s reporting on the downfall of the Pac-12 gained him the distinction of being a finalist for national beat writing.

Jason Mastrodonato. (Matt Stone/Boston Herald) 

Mastrodonato’s submission was an April story about former Giants pitching coach Andrew Bailey, who blew a save at Fenway Park on April 15, 2013, delaying an exodus of fans — and the players’ wives — from the stadium to the Boston Marathon finish line, where 40 minutes after the final pitch, two bombs exploded.

“A couple weeks later I had people come up to me and say, ‘You saved my life.’ It’s happened on more occasions than you’d think,” Bailey told Mastrodonato. “It was the best blown save I ever had.”

McDonald’s entry was a September feature on 49ers senior adviser and former linebacker Keena Turner, who credits a mandate enacted by general manager John Lynch for saving his life. When Lynch and Kyle Shanahan arrived in 2017, Lynch established an annual physical for members of the personnel department. Turner’s 2022 physical showed an aortic aneurysm, which necessitated a surgery — though Turner held out for a year.

Jerry McDonald. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group) 

Turner was back at work in two months, even dropping to the ground and doing pushups at training camp.

“My mindset going in was, ‘If I wake up, I’m good to go,’” Turner told McDonald. “To be cracked is painful, but I was good with it. I didn’t waste a lot of time thinking about the road back. I just said, ‘Let’s go.’”

Wilner’s submission featured five stories, ranging from his breakdown in the immediate aftermath of the Pac-12’s dissolution to piecing together how the Pac-12 Networks ended up receiving overpayment from Comcast, and why the overpayment grew into a scandal.

Jon Wilner. (Michael Malone/Bay Area News Group) 

The other stories that earned Wilner the recognition were a report uncovering documents that changed the tenor of Washington State and Oregon State’s lawsuit against the departing schools, an analysis of the 12 biggest steps that led the conference to its bitter end and a thought experiment looking a decade into the future at how realignment may bring the Pac-12 back together again.

The winners in each category are expected to be announced in mid-April.