Plenty in the books; time to turn the page
In August of 2008, I had a piece of paper with my name on it that said I went to college. I was also unemployed and living with my parents.
I took a call from Ledger publisher Jeff Wilson while sitting on my parents’ deck and agreed to make the trip to Fairfield to interview for the position of sports editor. Marcia Roe and Lisa Metcalf (a bit more boisterously) welcomed me as I stepped in the door, and although I’m certain I was far from “nailing” the interview, Jeff saw past my unimpressive college resume and gave me the opportunity.
The time has now come to move on, and I have accepted a position as a reporter at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. Onward and upward, and the chance to be on a Division I college basketball beat was too much to pass up.
I have learned more in the past three years than any other time in my life and my time in Fairfield did nothing but make this move possible.
I took a trip to Albia on my second day on the job to cover Fairfield’s season-opening football game. As a sophomore starting the first of 28 games in his career, quarterback Jordan Leazer ran for 173 yards, threw for 118, scored four touchdowns and the Trojans won 32-7.
My first game story was published in Monday’s paper, and by the time Tuesday rolled around, I had a phone call from a disgruntled reader telling me to get my “sh-- together.”
There’s a certain rush from seeing your name on a byline the first couple times, but there’s also a dark side to that, and I experienced it.
I would handle a phone call like that much better these days, but it was my fourth day in the newsroom, and it remains the worst call I have taken at the sports desk. Others may feel differently, but I actually wish I had more readers letting me know when they weren’t happy.
It’s a unique situation working at a small-town newspaper because instead of looking up into crowds at games and seeing a mass of faces, I see people I know. And people who know me.
That, and the relationships I have formed, are up there with what I will miss the most. From getting to know coaches and players to hearing Jeff’s daily moans and groans about the White Sox. Although, I have learned to keep my mouth shut when the topic of Iowa-Northwestern comes up.
I’ll miss playing pick-up basketball up at Pekin High School on Wednesday nights. Hopefully, Grant Dickey can find someone who occasionally (read: frequently) biffs lay-ups to replace my spot on the roster for the league in Bloomfield.
From the beginning, I was treated like I belonged here (except maybe for that one caller), have received an outpouring of well wishes over the last week and that kind of thing can go a long way. Lori Fry and Kathy Love have acted as if I was their own son. Literally. Like, they hosted a birthday party for me complete with cake and ice cream.
That’ll be missed, along with an opportunity to follow the teams and players I have kept track of the past few years.
I’ll be keeping an eye on the Fairfield football team and what Mike Schenck can do with the rest of this season — I’m certain there isn’t a single person on the planet who wants to be coaching that team more.
Clearly, Fairfield Activities Director Jeff Courtright is also the man for the job. At least from what I’ve seen in the past year.
I’ll be interested to see what kind of strides Tyler Miklo makes with the Trojan basketball program this winter. Mick Flattery was one of the first to come up and introduce himself when I first started covering games down here, and now I’m a little disappointed I won’t be working with him in his first year as the girls’ basketball coach.
I’ll keep an eye on the numbers Trey Sathoff is able to put up in his senior basketball season at Pekin. And whether Sydney Howard is able to win a state title on the track. And if Adam Hadenfeldt can turn around the Cardinal football program — after only speaking with him for a couple weeks, I think the right attitude is there.
The best game I recall covering was a district baseball game between Pekin and Van Buren in July of 2009. I talked up the matchup involving two of the better teams in Southeast Iowa in the paper the day before — there was a great crowd on hand and the boys came through for me.
Van Buren trailed by five runs entering the seventh inning. Sophomore Jory Heckenberg led off the inning with a solo home run.
Things got a little more interesting as Van Buren loaded the bases for senior second baseman Joe Aguirre, who wasn’t exactly known for power. Aguirre blasted a game-tying grand slam over the centerfield fence to extend the game, and as he met his teammates at home plate, Ledger photographer Julie Johnston snapped one of the better pictures I’ve put on a sports page.
Pekin then rallied in the bottom of the seventh, and Dalton Stone, the Pekin pitcher who gave up the five runs in the top half of the inning, ended up with the walk-off hit that won the game — a little bloop to left field.
Games also ranking up there include Fairfield football’s 20-0 win over Mount Pleasant in the 2009 regular season finale. Pekin’s district final basketball game against Central Lee. Fairfield volleyball’s regional final against Knoxville. I enjoyed going up to cover the state track meet every year.
The easiest interview I ever came across was with former Pekin football coach Tom Stone. I barely had to ask a question and coach Stone would spend the next 10 minutes giving me quote after quote.
MSAE tennis coach Lawrence Eyre is probably the nicest person I’ve ever met — I’ve said it before, and I’m saying it again. It’s probably just a little bit of karma being paid back when his team is playing for a state title year in and year out.
I thoroughly enjoyed covering Fairfield volleyball the last three years, and head coach Nancy Diers does more with less than any other coach out there. I wasn’t always bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for our 7:30 a.m. meetings, but she usually was.
I quickly learned I could expect her to be there as well as anticipate a call from Pekin baseball and softball coaches Jeff Eeling and Bryan Marlay every morning after a game, win or lose. The same goes for Davis Eidahl, who made my life quite easy by sending in results on time, every time. He’s been doing it a little longer than me, and I just try not to cramp his style.
And now we’re at the end of the line. Friday’s Fairfield-Mount Pleasant game will be the last I cover as sports editor of the Fairfield Ledger. I’m looking forward to it. Cheers.
Carson Tigges is Ledger sports editor.