More than 18 months ago, ESPN reporter Gene Wojciechowski was pitching a story idea to Victor Vitarelli, senior coordinating producer in ESPN Features and overseer of SC Featured.
His idea was to tell the story of how baseball Hall of Famer Rod Carew’s life had been saved by a heart transplant – and that he received his heart from someone he had met when the future donor was a child.
The donor – former Stanford, Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets tight end Konrad Reuland – died of a brain aneurysm. As a youth, Reuland went to school with some of Carew’s children and met the baseball star at his school one day.
“We have done sports-related transplant stories in the past, but the unique twist of Carew’s story is what convinced us to do this one,” said Vitarelli. “It was really Gene who championed it.”
The persistence paid off. This week, “Rod Carew” was named to receive top honors in the 2018 National Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA). The prestigious journalism award will be presented in New York City in October and will be the 27th Murrow for ESPN, the first coming in 2001.
The SC Featured piece, which aired last August on both SportsCenter and ESPN’s Baseball Tonight, won in the Television Network Feature Reporting category, which included non-sports entries. It was produced by Zac Budman under the oversight of Vitarelli and Denny Wolfe.
“The Murrows are an important award in the industry and to be recognized by that group is significant,” said Vitarelli.
Among other winners in the 2018 Television Network categories are ABC News, CBS News, NBC News and CNN.
“We ventured outside of the world of sports and competed for an award on a bigger field and larger stage, and it’s always nice to be recognized in that situation,” said Vitarelli.
— Westminster Cable (@wcn_titanradio) June 21, 2018
First a sports Emmy, now an Edward R. Murrow Award. Congrats to @GenoEspn! He won for his @ESPN feature on @baseballhall member Rod Carew. Geno has inspired me since I read him when I was in elementary school.
— Ivan Maisel (@Ivan_Maisel) June 20, 2018
— ESPN (@espn) December 13, 2016
Sitting in my house balling my eyes out watching the Ron Carew/Konrad Reuland story @espn. No outlet in all of media tells stories better.
— Ian Meropol (@IanMeropol) August 5, 2017