Back when I was a junior in high school, a small weekly newspaper published my coverage of local sports teams — primarily basketball, track and field and baseball because I was also an athlete in those programs and was obviously at all of the games and meets.
The year was 1983 and it’s been 40 years now since those first stories were published. The writing was awful, I’ll admit, with a college education, internships and experience in the profession doing wonders in later years. But it was an exciting opportunity for a youngster with dreams of becoming a reporter.
As part of my sports writing jobs, I’ve written about hundreds of teams and thousands of athletes. In the early years, I pounded out stories on a typewriter, submitted them to the newspaper and they appeared in print. When I became part of an actual newsroom, the stories were written on VDTs — video display terminals. Then came the more advanced computer age from those early Radio Shack TRS-80 portable units that I used for road assignments to the blazing-fast Apple iMac desktop and MacBook Pro laptop that I work on today.
I mention these early years of my career because it was the beginning of a way of life — covering other people’s kids in sports. And it brings me the real point of what I’m writing about here in this blog.
One of the biggest regrets that I had as a sports writer was during my oldest son’s high school years. He played soccer and I missed a lot of opportunities to see him play. In fact, I missed most of those games because my job took me elsewhere.
Brandon didn’t get on the field much with the varsity on a team that won the state soccer title in 2010 (this was in Montana). His biggest moment came during a road game when his coach rewarded him by including him in the starting lineup. He beamed when telling me about it — and of course, I wasn’t there to see it.
Having parents in the crowd to watch is important to most kids. I have personal experience with that part of it as well with my own mom and dad missing most of my games and meets. In the 1970s, I played on a Little League baseball team that won the city championship and was contending for the state title — the ultimate prize being a trip to Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The sitter that my parents hired was the only person watching me from the stands. In later years while winning medals at state track meets, they weren’t there either.
But there was the nice memory of my parents watching during my most-exciting moment in baseball — a walk-off grand slam home run to give our team a one-run victory. My teammates mobbed me at home plate in celebration. It was cool that they saw it, especially since they were in the midst of a separation at the time. It was probably one of the last things they ever did together.
These experiences as a child and parent come to mind as my two younger sons start to get into athletics and other activities. I have to do better to make sure I’m watching them. I want to enjoy the experience. I’m a borderline workaholic — my wife might say I’m a full-fledged workaholic — but in the future if there are conflicts between my job and my kids, well, I’ll have to make some tough decisions.
Last weekend, I bought my middle son’s first baseball glove and we’ve been working on catching, throwing, fielding and hitting. I signed him up for T-ball through PYAC and we’ve got a couple of months to get in shape — I’m talking primarily about me getting in shape. I’ve rediscovered muscles I haven’t used in a while trying to catch the wild throws of a 5-year-old. He seems to like baseball so far … we’ll keep it at.
By the way, others of my generation might be able to identify with this. That writing gig that I had in high school? It paid a whopping $2 per story, which equates to $5.88 in today’s dollars based on an inflation calculator that I found online. I made a whole lot more at the grain elevator — the minimum wage of $3.35 per hour to fill train cars with wheat, clean out grain bins, drive a tractor mowing grass and testing grain moisture levels during the harvest.
(Brad Fuqua is publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He can be reached at News@PhilomathNews.com).