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Sports writer’s farewell thoughts

There was never a moment during my childhood where I considered being a writer, not even a sports writer.

All I cared about were sports, and my goal was the NFL or Major League Baseball. There wasn’t really a Plan B, not until college hit, and flag football and slow-pitch softball were the only sports I was playing.

As a struggling sophomore in college, an English professor named Alyssa Lenhoff brought to my attention that Youngstown State University’s student newspaper, “The Jambar,” was in need of a sports editor.

I remember asking: “So, they’ll basically pay me to watch sports?”

“Yep,” she replied.

I was sold.

Nearly 20 years later, that was one of the best decisions I ever made, which is what makes this good-bye so very hard.

Today marks the end of 15-plus years at the newspaper, and it is a bittersweet day indeed. There are so many friends, colleagues, coaches, players and administrators I will miss. This place has left an indelible mark on me, and I hope I left an indelible mark on it.

It’s hard to even comprehend the paper — mainly my coworkers — not in my life, but all good things come to an end. This wasn’t a good thing, however. It was a great thing.

The experiences of covering the Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Browns were amazing, but they don’t compare to high school sports in the Mahoning Valley. The passion people have for sports in this area is what made this job so much fun. Sometimes, professionals forget that they’re playing a game, and they lose some of the passion that drove them to that point. Kids rarely, if ever, forget about either of those things.

Their love for the game shines through in how they play and how excited they are to speak to a reporter. The coaches, for the most part, were equally friendly and passionate. Talking sports is what most of them enjoy doing, and it was a pleasure to discuss with them the many facets of the games and the values they provide.

There were more heartbreakers and last-second victories than I can remember. There were more controversies than I care to remember. It wasn’t always enjoyable, but there are always parts of a job we don’t enjoy. In the end, if the good outweighs the bad, you’re doing OK.

I left once before as a young adult for what I thought were greener pastures, but after two years, I came running back because of the people at this newspaper. No job is perfect, but I’ve learned that peace of mind often outweighs any monetary figure.

The people made my time here better than ever, and thanking them is a priority.

My boss, sports editor Doug Chapin, is an incredible person and without a doubt the best, most well-respected man I have ever worked for.

That’s no disrespect to my former bosses, Dave Burcham, Ed Puskas and Dana Sulonen, who shaped me into the journalist I am today. They’re the reason I was able to win a few awards during my time as a writer. Chapin is a big reason I don’t care about awards. His mentality, like my own, is that it’s more important for a story to end up on someone’s refrigerator or in a scrapbook than on an award’s list. Readers may not always agree with the paper’s sports coverage, but I promise you, Chapin’s only concern is to put the kids first and report on as many of them as possible.

Former Tribune/Vindicator writer John Vargo was the best coworker I ever had. We spent 15 years laughing, yelling, joking and cursing together. His work ethic is well known to any track and field and/or cross country fan in the Mahoning Valley, but it’s better than they even realize. Thanks for helping keep me sane, my friend.

News editor Brenda Linert is one of the best things to ever happen to this paper. Her professionalism and understanding of journalism — and people — is unlike anyone I know. Please know that this paper is in good hands with her at the helm. Thank you, for always being honest and up front with me. I have the utmost respect for you.

To Brian Yauger and Brad Emerine, my fellow sports writers, I appreciate you guys more than you know. We work on a strict deadline at the newspaper, and the tension rises nightly, but having two people you can trust and who stay calm under pressure is a huge relief. Thanks for being reliable workers and just great guys.

To the greatest photographer the paper has ever known, Mike Semple, I will miss our conversations about sports, boats and whatever else came to mind. You are a legendary photographer who I have admired since I began in 2004. I look forward to seeing you on the lake one day soon.

To everyone in the newsroom, especially Amy, Matt, Marly, Pat, Bob, Guy and Renee, I will miss you all. Keep up the fantastic work you do.

And of course, my family, which supported me when I considered other avenues in life and reminded me that this was a dream job for a sports fanatic like myself. I owe you guys everything.

As I depart yet again, I don’t do so for financial gain but for personal prosperity. I look to make a stronger impact on the youth of this world in a couple of different ways. If it’s to be, maybe, just maybe, this isn’t good-bye, it’s see you later.

If not, thank you, Mahoning Valley, for some of the best years of my life. There was never a dull moment.

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