Archive for Thursday, September 4, 2008

The eephus pitch

September 4, 2008

I grew up on a farm about 20 miles west of a small town in southeast Kansas.

It was a secluded recess that afforded my older brothers and I the right to have the run of the countryside from horizon to horizon, sun up to sundown except when we were in school.

It was this upbringing that has shaped many of the values that I carry with me today.

On top of that, and more related to this section of the paper, all of my earliest - and undoubtedly some of the most memorable - sporting accomplishments and defeats occurred on that farm with about a handful of people present.

I remember about the time I was eight, my older brother Andy, who would have been 10 and cousin Jeff, say 15, lost a football game to our other two cousins and our older brother - in front of the whole family. One of the members of the losing team laid in the ditch and cried for about 15 minutes, it meant that much.

And that same country upbringing that contributed to, among many other things, my love of sports now will take me away from them.

This is the last column I'll be writing for The De Soto Explorer. Starting next week I'll be going to work as an assistant editor for a rural lifestyle magazine, published in Topeka, that coincides with that upbringing I remember so fondly.

After careful deliberation, I know it's the right move. It suits my career interests and piques my personal interest in ways that writing sports does not.

However, I will miss certain things about this job.

I'll miss being on the sideline during football games, hearing how coach Brad Scott coaches his kids and makes in-game adjustments in response to what the opposing team is doing.

I'll miss rare athletic performances, like being there at the state track meet when Andre Linzy had a legitimate shot at winning three gold medals.

I'll miss talking to the coaches that guide the kids of this community through an important phase of their life, and there are some good ones.

My dad was a coach. I remember him talking to reporters after games and how much he disliked doing so after losses.

That said, the coaches in this community always cooperated with me and allowed me to do my job, a mark of professionalism that reflects on the coaches, the athletic department, school and community.

Baseball coach Joel Thaemert, who is from a small town like myself and enjoys talking baseball and sports as much as I do, would sit and talk with me for as long as I liked after tough defeats. We'd talk about the game - and tough losses ate at him as much as anybody else I dealt with - then talk about the Royals, athletes today, high school football and anything else either of us felt like talking about.

I'll miss that no-holds barred type of interaction you only get with coaches who love their job and all that it entails.

And I'll miss the community; the chain-gang during football games and the dads behind the plate during baseball season. As a writer, that's kind of where you learn to get a real grasp of the team before you get to know the players and coaches.

It's been enjoyable for me, De Soto, and I just hope somebody learned something along the line from me, because I learned a lot from your community and will hold it in a higher esteem from the interactions I've had during my tenure.

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