2018 Judges

Chris Ballard: Sports Illustrated

 Chris Ballard is a senior writer at Sports Illustrated and the author of four books, most recently "One Shot at Forever". He's written for The New York Times Magazine and his work has been anthologized in The Best American Magazine Writing and The Best American Sports Writing. He's a National Magazine Award finalist and six of his stories have been optioned for film. He writes features, columns, and longform stories for Sports Illustrated. He attended Pomona College, received a Masters in Journalism from Columbia University, and currently teaches at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
"I was never fortunate enough to meet Jim but he was a huge inspiration when I was a young writer. I'd read and re-read his columns, noting his use of language, wit, and empathy. He was incapable of writing a boring sentence and, for so many of us, a touchstone in our writing development. Now that I'm teaching journalism, I direct students to Murray's body of work. You can prattle on about how to write a catchy lede or you can just point them to, "Gentlemen, start your coffins". It's an honor to be involved in his foundation."

Brad Free: Daily Racing Form and HRTV

Brad Free is a longtime reporter, columnist and handicapper for Daily Racing Form covering Thoroughbred racing in Southern California. Free previously worked for The Racing Times, National Sports Daily and Pasadena Star-News. Free authored the acclaimed book "Handicapping 101" and held numerous broadcast positions including his current role as analyst for Television Games Network (TVG). Free was managing news editor at Daily Racing Form and editor-in-chief at University Times, the student newspaper at Cal State University, Los Angeles. Free and his wife Maureen reside in Southern California.  Their three children are college graduates.

"Like many sports fans in Los Angeles, I revered Jim Murray. His writing style was as unique as his humility, a rarity in sports journalism. Murray's columns about horse racing were particularly captivating for an aspiring turf writer such as myself. A cherished memory - dinner with Murray following the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in 1998, a race that was the subject of Murray's final column. It is an honor to share in a competition named for one of the greatest to sit at a keyboard." -Brad Free


Peter Schmuck: Baltimore Sun

Peter Schmuck, Baltimore Sun columnist and WBAL talk show host, has been covering sports for four decades, including 28 years in Baltimore. He has served as a beat writer with the Los Angeles Dodgers, California Angels, Los Angeles Lakers, San Diego Chargers and Baltimore Orioles and has been named Maryland Sports Writer of the Year six times by the National Sports Media Association.
He also is a former president of the Baseball Writers Association of America.
Peter grew up in Southern California and began his journalistic career at The Orange County Register, the same paper he delivered as a kid. He arrived in Baltimore in 1990 to cover the Orioles and also has served as national baseball correspondent and lead columnist.
He is married with two children and two grandchildren.

"I was a rabid sports fan as a child and an avid reader of Jim Murray in the LA Times from an early age, so it was a tremendous thrill to meet Jim and work in the same press boxes with him during the early years of my career.

"He was such a superstar that I was too shy to approach him, and remember vividly how Jim actually broke the ice with me when I was about 22 years old. I was walking through the press box at the Rose Bowl and passed Jim, who was in a conversation with another well-known reporter. I certainly wasn't going to interrupt them, but when I passed, Jim noticed me going by and said, "What's the matter, Schmuck, have you gotten so big that you can't say hello to me?"
From that time on, when I saw Jim in the press box and said hello, he would often ask me to sit down and give him an update on what was up with me. He was, as we all know know, the king of sports journalists, and I was very proud to be one of his subjects for too short a time. We have all tried, but there will never be another one like him."

Roxanna Scott- USA Today

Roxanna Scott is a senior editor at USA TODAY, where she's directed coverage of six Olympic Games. She's also the editor responsible for coverage of tennis, golf and other big events such as the Kentucky Derby. She previously worked as a deputy sports editor and assistant sports editor at The Dallas Morning News. She is a graduate of the University of Iowa, where she was a sports reporter and editor at The Daily Iowan. Scott is a former president of the Association for Women in Sports Media and a 2005 graduate of the Maynard Media Academy. She resides in northern Virginia with her husband Andy, director of photo and video news gathering at USA TODAY, and their pup Rudy.
"In my first newspaper job, I was hired to answer the phone and take dictation of box scores, bowling league scores and results for every sport you can imagine at the high school level. I caught the bug at 16 and knew I wanted to cover and edit sports for a living. I imagine that's the passion Mr. Murray felt when he was just getting started as a young writer. His love of people and stories resonated in his work throughout his illustrious career. I'm deeply honored to be part of this year's essay contest and to read work from young writers who are inspired by Mr. Murray's legacy."

Ramona Shelburne: NBA Insider and Senior Writer for ESPN

A 2017 inductee into the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Ramona Shelburne is an NBA Insider and senior writer for ESPN. She contributes to the network's NBA coverage on ESPN.com, ESPN the Magazine, ESPN Radio and SportsCenter. She is also a member of ESPN's premiere long-form and investigative unit across multiple platforms.

Additionally, she is a regular contributor on shows across ESPN networks like The Jump, Around the Horn, Pardon the Interruption, Outside the Lines, SportsNation, NBA Tonight, and NBA Coast to Coast. She also writes for espn W.

Shelburne has been recognized with multiple Pro Basketball Writers Association awards for column writing and breaking news. Her work has also appeared in Sports Illustrated, Stanford Magazine and Sports Illustrated for Women.

She began her career at ESPN as a columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.  Prior to ESPN, she spent seven years at the Los Angeles Daily News as a columnist and reporter from 2002-2009.

She earned a master's degree in Communication and a bachelor's degree in American Studies from Stanford University.  During her years at Stanford, she was a three-time Academic All-American athlete in softball, started at all three outfield positions, and played on the first Stanford team to make the NCAA tournament in 1998 and Women's College World Series in 2001.

Shelburne was one of the top softball players in LA City Schools history and also one of the brightest student-athletes. Not only did she win All-City honors all four years at El Camino Real high school in Woodland Hills and was Co-LA City Player of the Year during her senior season, she also led ECR to three City Titles. Academically she was the Class Valedictorian, Student Body President and National Merit Scholarship Finalist.  She finished with a 4.21 grade point average and earned a softball scholarship to Stanford, where she was also a four-time NFCA Academic All-American.

Ramona has been married to her former Los Angeles Daily News co-worker Nevin Barich since 2009.
"I grew up in Los Angeles so from about the age of six, my days started with a bowl of cereal or instant oatmeal and Jim Murray's column on Page 1 of the LA Times. I don't write like him --no one can-- but I think his perspective on the sports world is always in my mind.  He once said, 'I cover the circus,' which is so perfect for what we do. Sports is full of characters,  with larger than life talents, who are paid to both thrill and entertain. You have to both cover them with respect and not take yourself too seriously. Jim was a master at that. I try to follow that example."