Time to go, but stories stay with me

Tuesday, May 11, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:19 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thank you, Columbia. Thank you for being my refuge, my home, my inspiration and my audience.

Before I moved here, I had scrapped my far-fetched dream of being the next Harry Caray. The want of money led me to enroll in college as a pre-law student, despite my fantasy of sports broadcasting. Thankfully, a desire to have fun rather than succeed in school led me to Columbia, the place where I would use a change of scenery to straighten out my priorities.

It took longer than I expected; I always say I took a semester off for 3 1/2 years. When it was time to go back to school, the combination of the Missouri School of Journalism’s reputation and the excitement of the Columbia sports scene had started me down a familiar path. By then, I wasn’t sure broadcasting wasn’t for me, but sports journalism was. I knew that much.

The path led me to the Missourian, and the Missourian led me to opportunities I had only dreamed about. After spending two of the most enjoyable years of my life writing about sports in Columbia, this is the last thing I will write for the Missourian.

Much like the athletes who graduate from area high schools and colleges each year, it is time for me to move on to my next destination. I will miss Columbia. I will miss the teams and athletes I’ve come to know over the years. I will miss the perpetual buzz that permeates this sports-savvy community. I will miss all of that, but I won’t forget it.

When I was packing my belongings into boxes and loading the boxes into the moving truck, I came across countless reminders of the great times I’ve had covering sports in this community.

Everywhere I looked, media guides, programs, scorebooks and notebooks reminded me of people I had the fortune to get to know and events I had the pleasure to witness. Quickly scribbled notes brought back the details of the game or the scene of the interview.

I recalled Chris Martin’s no-hitter against Centralia in the American Legion district tournament. I thought of the Hickman girls’ basketball team’s run to the state finals in March.

I remembered Travon Bryant’s buzzer-beater against Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Conference Tournament and Rickey Paulding’s winning free throws against Southern Illinois a week later in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

I thought back to the Missouri football team’s improbable win against Nebraska, ending a 25-year span of losing to the Cornhuskers, and the Tigers’ trip to the Independence Bowl, a crowning achievement for a group of seniors who stuck it out during hard times.

I remembered seeing President George W. Bush throw out the first pitch on Opening Day at Busch Stadium in St. Louis and watching the Kansas City Chiefs open a promising season with a romp against the San Diego Chargers.

I got to see them all firsthand, and that’s only the short list.

Don’t take for granted the incredible sporting landscape you have here. Enjoy it.

I know I have.

Many people aren’t fortunate enough to find a career they enjoy. With a little help and inspiration from Columbia and its vibrant sports scene, I chose such a path.

In two years, I’ve written about a lot of things in Columbia’s sports scene, and I’ve loved every minute of it. I’ve met great people, on the sidelines and in the stands. I’ve enjoyed telling you the stories of the many events I was fortunate enough to cover.

My only regrets are the events I didn’t get to cover, the people I didn’t get to meet and the stories I didn’t get to tell.

I didn’t get to cover a Mid-Missouri Mavericks game, taking in the ultimate combination of sports and entertainment, minor league baseball.

I never got to meet Hickman soccer coach Jon Strodtman, who continues to do what he loves even in the face of cancer.

I never got to tell the story of Carl Edwards’ victory at Daytona this spring and the bond Edwards formed with a young fan.

Now, my time in Columbia is almost finished, and more opportunities await me. A new sports scene in a different town, with different coaches and players, different parents, different stories.

Thank you, Columbia, for the inspiration. In two years, I never ran out of stories I wanted to tell.

I only ran out of time to tell them.

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