Sarah Baicker, 30, is making a name for herself as a social media guru and morning news show co-hostess.
As a teenager, Sarah Baicker never imagined she would be the focus of a story rather than the one telling it.
“At that time of my life, I could not imagine being the center of attention,’’ said the woman who says she was so driven when she was young that she now regrets she chose to do extra schoolwork in the summer in order to skip a year of math rather than become a Bat Mitzvah. “I didn’t expect to wind up here, but I’m so happy I did and so excited about it.”
It’s been just over a week since the Philadelphia-born, Newtown-raised Baicker debuted as one of four co-hosts on Breakfast on Broad, the Comcast Network’s new early-morning combination sports talk/entertainment show.
That doesn’t just mean having to get up at 3 a.m. to be on the set alongside Rob Ellis, Jillian Mele and former Eagles’ offensive lineman Barrett Brooks. It’s also a dramatic departure from her original game plan.
After seven years covering the Flyers and Phillies, first for NBC10.com, then CSNPhilly.com, the reporter known as “Hockey Girl’’ has crossed over to the other side of the media tracks.
“Some people have these career paths set out,” she said, unwinding after a recent show in a Wells Fargo Center suite outside the studio.
“This is a risk for me in a way, but the best things are the things you take a chance on,” she said, adding: “If you weren’t nervous about something like this, it wouldn’t be the right move.’’
Now the 30-year-old Baicker believes this may have been her calling all along. On “BOB,” as they call the show, Baicker handles all social media, in addition to joining the banter on the 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. show that runs weekdays on TCN then re-airs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on CSN.
She recalled that at Northwestern, where she got her master’s degree in journalism, the school required its students to learn at least a little bit about every area of journalism.
“When I was doing some on-camera stuff, I remember thinking to myself: Nobody’s gonna want to put me on camera,” Baicker said. “Then, when I was at NBC10, a friend and I started doing video interviews with bartenders, and I loved it.
“I like a challenge and started doing more and more videos. They did not come naturally to me at all. If you’d asked me even two to three months ago if I wanted to be a TV person, I would not think the answer was ‘yes.’ But it kind of was, because subconsciously I was doing it every chance I got.
“The lesson here is: Do not make assumptions about your future, because you never know.’’
Growing up in Bucks County, where her family helped found Reconstructionist Kehilat HaNahar in New Hope, Baicker attended the George School, a Quaker institution. She’d go to the Eagles’ home opener every year with her father and developed a passion for hockey.
“I think her father was the proverbial ‘hockey dad,’ ’’ said her mother, Cindy, who speaks glowingly of her daughter’s ability to play the flute and her fearlessness performing before strangers as an 8-year-old in a production of Chess at Annenberg Theatre. “If that means getting up at 4:30 to 5 in the morning and schlepping her to the games, that was Mark.
“As a little girl, Sarah starting watching sports with him, especially hockey. Then when a girls’ league opened up here, she started to play.’’
She started playing in a 19-and-under girls’ league when she was only 12 and was good enough on defense to eventually be heavily recruited by Division III schools like Trinity College and Brandeis University.
But once she visited her parents’ alma mater, Washington University in St. Louis, she was hooked. There, she began as an English literature and creative writing major before focusing on journalism.
And while she still plays hockey on Sundays in a women’s league — which, she says, includes a surprising number of Jewish women — and even against the boys, playing in pickup games over the summer, her career comes first.
It’s a career that gives her a unique insight when the camera light goes on. “I know my background is different from most people who end up in my shoes,’’ said Baicker, who says that the Passover seder is her favorite family event.
She insists her life won’t change all that much with the new show, other than having to go to bed around 9 p.m. and moving to a different part of town.
“I understand a reporter’s mentality in a way that I think helps the show,” she said. “Social media has been my forte. I’m very happy to have that as my niche. But when hockey is the subject, I’m the point person.’’
She’s also finding herself in the unusual position as role model. “I don’t think of myself as old, but I’m getting emails from all these college students and young women saying, ‘I want to do what you do,’ ” Baicker said.
“I want more women to do this. Nothing would make me happier.’’
In the meantime, she’ll continue to flourish on her new career path. “They talk about if you pick the right thing to do in your life, your work never feels like work,’’ said Baicker, who’ll still be doing some writing once things settle down. “This doesn’t feel like work to me at all.
“That’s pretty much a sign it makes sense.’’