Writing an “Off The Record” has never been my favorite assignment at The Beverly Review.
I’d usually scramble to muster up enough info for 500 words or so. However, I have broken the record for word count in this column!
While I’ve always thought about what I’d write if this time ever came, it’s certainly one I was hoping wouldn’t happen. As some of you may know, on July 1 I will be leaving The Beverly Review, a place I’ve called home for 17 years.
I’m not leaving because I want to or was forced out; my wife, Teresa, earned a job promotion, one she’s worked extremely hard to attain, and it requires us to relocate to the St. Louis area.
It’s a daunting task for many reasons, especially for someone who hates moving and loves all things Chicago, but it’s an opportunity that’s too good to pass up for our family.
For the last 17 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to come to the office of The Beverly Review, 10546 S. Western Ave., and spend days working with my second family. And when I wasn’t in the office, I was covering games or events and spending time with coaches, administrators and students who always made me feel welcome at their respective schools.
For me, this column isn’t goodbye, but rather a thank you to everyone I’ve had the pleasure of working with throughout the years.
First off, thanks to the readers and those who sent comments or e-mails, whether positive or negative, and story ideas.
I’m bound to leave someone off this list by accident because there are so many coaches, athletic directors and others affiliated with the athletic programs I’ve covered throughout the years who have made a lasting impact on me during my tenure here. I have spent much time, since the decision to relocate became official, thinking about those moments and interactions, which is what I will miss the most.
I’ve cried several times thinking about the memories of games—the jubilation and heartbreak—that these fine people have been a part of. Some of the people I will mention I’ve known for the duration of my time here, and others have come or gone throughout the process. Without their cooperation, even after challenging losses, none of this would be possible.
Special thanks go to, in no particular order, Brian Hurry, Mike Zunica, Jen DeJarld, Tom Wazio, Erik Eastman, Anna Marassa, Mike Feminis, Karen Van Assen, Tim Lyons, Pat Dunne, Tom Drahozal, Brian Coleman, Tony Harris, Ernest Radcliffe, Dan LaCount, Laurie Jakubczak, Mike Swanson, Paul Ickes, Phil Segroves, Jim McKenna, Dalyn Drown, Nick Markulin, Kate Galley, Rob Huizenga, Mike Cashman, Ann Plejko, Natalie Holder, Bob Hallberg, Luis Martinez, Tom White, Frank Lenti, Jim Jucinski, Dennis Foley, Dan McGrath, Todd Kuska, Brian Badke, Pete Lotus, Matt Haffner, Francie Kozacik, John Kading, Erin Luby, Derrick Calhoun, Julie Popp-Hopkins, John McCarthy, Ken Bringe, John Nee, Anne Malone, J.J. Standring, Tim Daniher, Nick Irvin, John O’Connor, Paul Weber, Lynda Pariso, Pat Higgins, Jordan Vidovic, Susan Markvart, Dan Peters, Craig Ferguson, Bob Kellam, Tim McCarthy, Gene Nolan, Sean O’Connor, Meg Gardner, Tim O’Connell, Dan O’Keefe, Sean Maxwell, Adam Lotus, Terry Atkins, Tom Schergen, Pat Richardson, Lexie Spurlock, Dave Mattio, Billy Poole-Harris, Bill Nolan, Dave Stephens, George Shimko, Myra Minuskin, Mike Swanson, Tina Grunauer, Steve Nye, Erica Cahill, Mike Boehm, Mike Corbett, Jim Prunty, Erin Johnson, Rick Mundo, Larry Tucker, the Rev. Tom McCarthy, Ashley Clanton, Pat McGovern, June VerSchave, the Rev. Tony Mazurkiewicz, Mark Murphy and Michael Holmes.
There are times when I think I’ve enjoyed the success of victories and felt the misery of tough losses just as much as the coaches and administrators have. There’s no cheering in the press box? Well, sometimes, that was a rule that had to be bent a little. I loved covering these schools and loved the journey of each season.
I’ve seen multiple schools go co-ed in the last 17 years, and sadly, I’ve seen three schools close.
I’ve covered games at more than 100 high schools in all parts of the state, including football playoff games at Lena-Winslow and Edwardsville. I’ve been to state series events in Charleston, Champaign, Naperville, Normal, Bloomington, Rockford, DeKalb, Rock Island, Joliet, East Peoria, Evanston, Geneva, Moline, Peoria, Lincolnshire, Winnetka, Hoffman Estates and many other northwest suburbs. If a team qualified for state, I was there.
I’ve become friends with writers and photographers from other newspapers, including Tim O’Brien, Steve Millar, Logan Malloy, Tony Baranek, Jeff Vorva, Randy Whalen, Mike Clark, Pat Disabato, Drake Skleba, Mike Helfgot, Michael O’Brien, Bob Narang, Chris Kuchta, Gary Middendorf, Chris Murphy and Patrick Gleason. The conversations with these gentlemen have helped the time spent at events fly by.
In addition, I’ll miss the great folks at the Southside Catholic Conference for their constant hard work and dedication to youth sports throughout the years, most notably Tim Bush and Hank Lenzen. There’s nothing better than watching a young athlete learn the sport under great coaches and then see that same athlete excel at the high school level and beyond.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the summers covering the Ridge-Beverly, Kennedy Park, Merrionette Park, Mt. Greenwood and Jackie Robinson West Little League baseball teams. I’ll always remember the 2002 Ridge-Beverly 10-year-old-all-star team rolling to a runner-up finish at state—great families and wonderful memories from that week in Utica, Ill.
I’ve watched the Mustang Wrestling Club shine in recent years, young hockey players learn the beautiful game as members of the St. Jude Hockey Club and Mt. Greenwood Learn to Skate programs, and local martial arts students enjoy the tutelage of Sen Sei John Pukala at Southside Karate.
And who could forget the many great moments in the tiny gym at Graver Park, watching future volleyball stars in boys and girls leagues run perfectly by Laura Casey?
Following the rise of women’s track-and-field star Shamier Little from Lindblom High School to Texas A&M to a potential berth in the Olympics in the future has also been memorable.
I pride myself in giving my all in every aspect of life, family, work and competition. I’ve tried to be fair and balance the coverage as much as I could, as difficult as it is with so many talented teams, sports and premier games. I hope that’s been the case. Although I am leaving the area, there is no doubt that I will continue to keep close tabs on the teams I’ve enjoyed covering so much and maybe, hopefully, get a chance to see them play some day down the road.
During my time here, I’ve taken pictures with the Stanley Cup twice and Calder Cup (thanks to the LoVerde Family), George Foreman, Ray Guy, Jim McMahon, interviewed Brian Urlacher at Bears training camp in Bourbonnais and Cal Ripken Jr. at Beverly Park and been in the same room with Muhammad Ali at the Celtic Boxing Club.
I’ve seen my beloved White Sox win a World Series. I watched my Redbirds football team play for a national championship.
I coached high school basketball at Morgan Park Academy for eight years and baseball for three. Where else could you work and get that much flexibility to pursue a dream?
I concluded my Major League Baseball ballpark tour last summer and have attended games at 38 current and former parks. I married my best friend, who has an amazing daughter from a previous marriage, and we have a son, who shares my passion for sports, thanks to my job.
Oh, who am I kidding? This isn’t a job. I, and anyone else, should be so lucky to come to a place they call work that offers as much enjoyment as The Beverly Review has for me.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank co-workers, past and present, including Jerry Moore, Andy Dunning, Pat Thomas, Caroline Connors, Marge Smagur, Joan Brown, Daria Whalen, Ericka Swanson, Julie Miller Stewart-Meindl, Kyle Garmes, Teresa Davis, Katie Robbins and last, but certainly not least, Bob Olszewski and Sue Olszewski-Kinard.
It was those two who took a chance on a Redbird from Illinois State University fresh out of Normal, Ill., after graduation in 1999 and stuck with me since. I’ve come a long way since the first day I sat in this chair and at this desk, and words can’t express how much I’ve appreciated their wisdom, words and support throughout the last two decades. If I ever needed an ear, everyone at the office was always willing to listen.
I would also like to wish the aforementioned Tim O’Brien success as he takes over the position I’ve enjoyed so much. He will do a fantastic job, and I hope you will welcome him with open arms like everyone has to me.
It’s been one hell of a ride!