After spending the past two weeks watching meaningless bowl games, I?m ready to get to work.
And get to work I?shall, only at a different place than I ended the year.
With the new year comes the welcome transition of leaving the sports editor position at the Daily Union in Junction City to taking over sports here at the Free Press.
Even though I?am new to Marion County, I was born and raised a Kansas boy.
For the most part, I grew up in Eureka, and graduated in 1966 from Eureka High School, where I attended my junior and senior years. My freshman year I?attended Lawrence South Junior High and spent my sophomore year at Lawrence High School in Lawrence.
I?played basketball at Eureka during seventh and eighth grade and my junior and senior years. During my junior high days and junior year in Eureka, I played in the Cottonwood Valley League and saw Marion twice a year.
Back then, the Warriors didn?t play in quite as fancy of digs as they do now.
In eighth grade I?remember playing at the old middle school in Florence, which had fan-shaped backboards and still used a restraining line on inbound plays, the only time I?ever saw one playing or covering competitive basketball. The whole experience plays out in my mind like a scene from ?Hoosiers.?
I?have no Al Bundy stories of ?four touchdowns in one game,? as I was a role player throughout my entire ?career.? My biggest accomplishment was not getting dunked on by current Atlanta Hawk and former Wichita Collegiate star Maurice Evans in the second round of sub state my senior year at Eureka.
The Spartans trounced us in my final game, which we expected because they had at least two Division I athletes in their starting lineup with Evans and former University of Kan?sas wide receiver Harrison Hill.
Before I stop the name dropping of people I?ve never formally met, I would like to take some credit for the success of Kansas guard Tyrel Reed.
For more than a decade, Reed?s father, Stacy, was the varsity basketball coach in Eureka. While I was in high school, Tyrel was always around the practices, shoot-arounds and even played against us in pick-up games at the rec.
So when ESPN?announcers say Reed is from Burlington, Kan., every former Tornado who played for Stacy Reed shifts a little in their seat. Because we know where Tyrel first learned how to play.
After high school I did some roaming, soul searching and working. After a few years, I met my wife, married her and moved with her to her hometown of El Dorado
Shortly after, we had our first child, Rubi, and through a chance occurrence I began studying mass communications at Butler Community College.
All I?had left to get a general education associate degree at Butler were a few electives, so I took a radio class just for fun. On the first day of class, the instructor told me there were several other classes, including a hands-on television class, and a group of students that cover Butler sports live on the radio and write stories for the campus newspaper.
I quickly became involved with all of it and changed my major to mass communications. After graduating from Butler, I?attended Wichita State Univer?sity and worked for Butler Multi-Media Resources, and as a training and development intern at Frontier Refinery in El Dorado.
During my time at Butler as a student and employee I covered two football NJCAA championships, the last year of Randy Smithston?s coaching career, the rebuilding of Butler?s basketball program under coach Mike Bargen, several Division I football signings, cross country, softball, baseball and track.
In April 2009, I?landed my first ?professional? sports media job at The Daily Union newspaper in Junction City.
I arrived in Junction City the week of the KCAC baseball tournament at Rathert Stadium. The first game I covered was Tabor against Friends in the tournament?s opening game. The Bluejays beat Friends in a come-from-behind victory.
Friends opened the game with a five-run top of the first, but Tabor only allowed two more runs the rest of the ball game and grabbed the lead in the seventh with a three-run inning.
However, the Bluejays would get walloped the next day by Kansas Wesleyan. Friends would have its revenge on May 1, knocking the Bluejays out of the tournament with a 3-1 victory.
The KCAC tournament and the job in Junction City revived my love for the sport of baseball, which has become one my favorite sports to cover.
Throughout the next seven months, I covered Junction City and area high school sports, the Junction City Generals (a National Baseball Congress team), the Shrine Bowl, the Governor?s Cup fishing tournament at Milford Lake and an American Legion baseball ?scandal? that canceled, then resumed, the Class ?A? 13-17 year old Zone 4 tournament. The ?scandal? involved the use of ineligible players by Junction City and a Manhattan team and involved a solid hitter from Marion and a dominating pitcher from Abilene.
Both teams were cleared of the infractions and the tournament was solved on the diamond at Rathert Stadium with the Manhattan team finishing first and Junction City second.
I enjoyed my time in Junction City but the high cost of living, lack of employment for my wife and the desire to raise our 3-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son in a small town environment led to us to land in Marion and to me?working for the Free Press.
I?m ready to get to work.