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Kelly Nash keeps Lightning, Rays TV viewers ahead of the game

Imagine growing up in Florida around a loving, supportive family that pushed you to be the best that you could be. Envision working hard to achieve your goals and then some. Ponder watching your hobby grow into your career, and then seeing it extend beyond work to helping others in the community. • That's a snapshot of the life of reporter Kelly Nash of Fox Sports Florida and Sun Sports. With a rigorous work ethic instilled at a young age, she took school very seriously and rose up the ranks quickly. Now, she's a prominent figure in the local sports community, covering both Lightning and Rays games. • Nash, 29, spoke with Times staff writer Paul Driscoll about her aspirations when she was a child, integrating social media into her job, her two master's degrees and the volunteer work she does within the Tampa Bay community.

Did you always envision yourself working in sports?

Never. I always envisioned myself anchoring the news. Although the fact that my parents had to buy me a television for my bedroom when I was 11, so they didn't have to watch nights upon nights of Florida Marlins action, should have been a sign. Or the fact that I had Michael Jordan and Cal Ripken Jr. posters on my wall. Sports spectating was just a hobby for me, a hobby I later discovered would choose me to become something more.

What does your average workday consist of?

There are slight variations for hockey and baseball. But right now, covering the Lightning, I'm usually up by 7:30 to brainstorm ideas for our 9 a.m. conference call with producers. Then, I usually get to work by 2:30 for a night game, stopping by the production truck to meet with producers and shore up the content of my on-camera hits that night. Then I head to our studio by the ice to read about the matchups and take notes. I'm on camera in the pregame show, two or three times in the game, and then hold postgame interviews. The postgame is the highlight of my night, an area that allows me to showcase question creativity and knowledge of the sport.

Most people don't know you have two master's degrees. Talk about those and what they mean to you.

My parents always stressed the importance of a good education. I was a little extreme with it. (Laughs) My first master's degree was in youth development leadership from Clemson University, where I was given a full scholarship by the Clemson Athletic Department in exchange for covering their baseball and soccer teams for the sports information department. After that, I went to the University of Miami for a master's in TV broadcast journalism. At the end of the day, it's just another way I am different from the pack. Standing out in this business is never a negative. It's an industry where you find your niche, learn who you are, and run with it.

Talk about your relationship with your family and friends and how they've helped you get to where you are today.

To me, believing in yourself is only half the battle. Behind every success story is a team of fierce loyalty, support and love. Sure, I had a few critics who wrote me off along the way. But I always had this amazing unit of parents, grandparents and sisters to remind me the journey would be well worth the struggle. I would not be here without them. Because they told me I could do this. And I did.

You volunteer at the Children's Home in your personal time. What does it mean to give back to the community and brighten kids' days?

After months of trying my heart out to volunteer at All Children's Hospital — I never heard back from them — I was embraced by an organization who needed me more, the Children's Home. They are a safe haven for children who have suffered abuse, neglect or abandonment. For me, it's about love with these children. Showing it, promoting it, teaching it. And you better believe I feel it from them every time I leave them.

How does Tampa Bay compare with where you grew up in South Florida?

I grew up in Davie, roughly four hours southeast of Tampa. I live closer to the beach now than I did growing up, but it's still the amazing melting pot I've always loved. Laid-back and mellow Florida living is always good for the soul. I love being back in my home state near my parents and grandparents. What a treat.

You became pretty famous last year for taking a "selfie" on top of the Green Monster in Boston during batting practice and narrowly missing getting hit by a ball. What was that experience like?

I thought it was hilarious when it happened. I mean, seriously? I think the media attention it has attained since is equally comical. It was even featured in Time magazine's "The Year in Pictures" issue. What a moment, originally meant for just me and my family. I don't even take many selfies, but that one capture turned me into some kind of selfie poster child.

You use social media a lot for your job and as an avenue to interact with your fans. In what ways do you think it has given you an edge that a lot of your predecessors didn't have?

My job would not exist without sports fans. I'm here for them. I use Twitter to show my appreciation for them. Listen to their feedback. Engage them with ideas. It allows more of a mutual relationship between journalist and sports fans than my predecessors had, because I've become more accessible. It's nice for me to get to know the people I truly "work for." Just last week, a Tampa area Little League coach invited me on Twitter to come give a pep talk to his 6- to 9-year-old team, the Threshers. I sat with them on their level and talked about good sportsmanship. It's quite a unique connection between fans and myself that social media fosters.

I can't complete this interview without asking you what your predictions are for the 2014 Rays season, as well as for the remaining Lightning season.

From the mouth of an eternal optimist, we could see Tampa Bay walk away with two championships in 2014. The Lightning are a battle-tested group of brothers with blazing speed who always find a way to win behind the biggest goalie surprise in the league, and the Rays are going to be an incredible force to be reckoned with.

Sunday Conversation is edited for brevity and clarity.