In the box score a slow, wobbling grounder that a runner beats out for a single reads the same as a smoked line drive between the outfielders.
The metaphor is apt for the start of my career at the Gettysburg Times. Fresh out of college in 2006, friends asked why I’d returned to my hometown and how long I’d stick around.
Since no one had seen the game film, I played it up like I’d lined that sucker straight to the gap.
I was the local boy coming back to do good, writing about local sports the way I’d always hoped someone would have written about my teams. I’d provide college-style coverage to local high school sports, speaking with several athletes along the way in order to find the story within the story at every opportunity, I said, manufacturing the answer I felt people wanted to hear.
The truth was, my academic career had been the equivalent of a swinging bunt. The Gettysburg Times rescued me from the ranks of the never-wills and gave me a few hacks when likely no one else would have. The pay wouldn’t be great compared to some of my college friends, but a year or two working while living at home would at least provide me an opportunity to pay off some debts and build a resume.
Most of the best stories in sports are at least partially manufactured. In the crucial moments with adrenaline pumping, players are simply reacting to acute differences within the spectrum of their senses. Sometimes the best improvisers on the field are equally gifted with the spoken word, and that’s when mythology is created.
My mythology at the Times began when I started to actually believe my own BS. After two years back in Adams County, I had begun to believe in the power of small towns, their values and their cultures. I realized the purest stories in sports were told when players who lack confidence rise up to live out their fantasies by overcoming obstacles. In most cases, that cannot be done without a coach who can visualize a kid’s full potential. With patience and encouragement, the mentor continues to provide support until the student can fit the mold.
I made it my mission to create a mythos around the local programs that best fulfilled that potential, to help provide others models to emulate and new goals to plow through.
Many of my favorite memories, albeit from the sidelines, are likely shared with athletes who experienced those same gratifying moments first hand. Chronicling the works and words of school-record holders, district and state champs and others who blissfully performed beyond their expectations filled me with a joy only coaches, parents and scribes can likely understand.
More often than not, parents are the ones who appreciate my work the most — for helping them to solidify in their minds what we all couldn’t believe happened before our eyes the night before.
As the years have gone by, my only regret is that my scope has been limited to sports. As Adams County classrooms continue to produce great works in general education, music, writing, performance art, STEM projects and in many other arenas, it seems unfair that athletics take the lion’s share of the spoils.
That’s one of the biggest reasons I’ve chosen to step aside as a full-time sports reporter to become an assistant editor at the Gettysburg Times. There will be several skills and tasks I will have to become proficient in before I can turn my attention to larger projects within the schools, but it is my intent to use any extra time in my new job as a laboratory to help dissect and promote academic and extracurricular programs that have escaped the limelight.
My job will also consist of social media promotion, work with the Living, Arts and Entertainment, Religion and Homes sections of our paper. I am already dreaming up projects, but I hope anyone with ideas for growth in those areas will come forward to speak with me about ways to develop those sections.
With the blessings of my bosses, I won’t be banished from the sports side entirely. So long as I can keep up with my work, I still plan to cover a game or two a week as my editor and fearless leader through my first 13 years, Josh Martin, assigns them.
Before my transition takes full form next week, I want to thank every player, coach, parent and fan who has taken the time to help me tell a more complete anthology of all the adventures that took place in practices and in competition. I want to thank the Times management for continuing to see the importance of local, daily coverage without drawing quick conclusions regarding how many clicks or views it might draw. I’d also thank the Times staffers who have trusted me with confidence I do not yet deserve, and especially for the aforementioned Martin who let me turn the sports section into my own little, magical playground for a while.
Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to thank my family and my girlfriend, Hannah Barber, for supporting these small-town dreams and my belief that true change comes from building a culture and starting with the little people.
Like the best coaches I’ve covered, this community and this staff have put their faith in me even at times when I didn’t have faith in myself. It’s slowly but surely allowed me to become a better writer and hopefully a better man. To finish the old metaphor, I feel like I can swing for the fences now.
With a young, new staff coming into the Times in the upcoming weeks, I hope to pay it forward by sharing some of my tricks of the trade while putting my confidence in those finding their own path.
Adams County and the Gettysburg Times are great places to work. I will do my best with what I’ve been given to make sure each only get better from here.