I’m hitting the snooze button to pursue my next dream.


Above: Just another day in the office interviewing Rose Bowl MVP Andy Dalton.

I don’t know if my career in journalism has come to an end. What I do know is I’m getting off this amazing roller coaster ride I’ve been on for nearly 12 years. It’s time to get in line for the next ride.

Today is my last day at the Pasadena Star-News, and I leave a dream job as a sportswriter in pursuit of my childhood dream of one day going to law school. The road there is long and filled with challenges, but I overcame a similar path when I started my career in journalism at 17.

The dream started in high school, and it wouldn’t have been realized without the help of a lot of people I’m thankful to this very day.

I was 15 when my math teacher, Dr. Roz Collier at Alhambra High, asked why I always asked for her L.A. Times. I told her I loved reading the sports section and that I one day wanted to be a sportswriter. From that day forward until my senior year she saved the sports section for me every day.

I was 16 when TJ Simers at the L.A. Times replied to my email seeking advice, and he did more than send back a short message. He offered his home phone number and a plan on how best to break into the business. It was his advice that led to an interview with Art Wilson, my first editor who I can’t thank enough for hiring me fresh out of high school.

Doug Spoon, my first sports editor at the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, was encouraging as I learned the ropes and was always up front with me, a quality I always admired. Like the time I was offered a plush freelance gig at the L.A. Times. He said he couldn’t pay me as much as The Times but would do everything he could to give me more writing assignments and more shifts on the sports desk to help make up the difference.

It was that mix of experience that undoubtedly helped me land my first big boy job at The Orange County Register where David Bean hired me at 20, and I knew how lucky I was when my colleagues there were surprised to hear how young I was to be a staff writer at what was then the 34th largest newspaper in the nation. Greg Gibson and Todd Harmonson became two of the best editors any writer could ask for. They partnered me with seasoned writers at the Register to polish my writing and ultimately fulfilled my dream of helping cover the Angels and Lakers, among other plush assignments they threw my way.

In March when I informed Steve Hunt, my managing editor, about my plan to leave in June he presented a couple options for me to stay. I was moved by the appreciation shown towards me, and it proved what I knew all along: that I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by great people who cared and found a way to show it.

My life in one word?

Lucky.

In what world would an 11-year-old kid have his favorite watch stolen at knife point while on his way to a corner market in Lincoln Heights also have the chance to one day cover a press conference for The Boston Globe.That’s my claim to fame, when I camped out Scott Boras’ office in Newport Beach as negotiations intensified between the Red Sox brass and Boras’ new client,Daisuke Matsuzaka. I was transcribing a long press conference with a tight East Coast deadline. I wasn’t sure how to spell Daisuke, so to save time I spelled it “Dice-K”. I filed the story forgetting to change Dice-K to Daisuke.The next day, there was a poll on the Boston Globe’s website asking readers to weigh in on what Daisuke Matsuzaka’s nickname should be, and “Dice-K” was one of options. Sure enough, that’s how Matsuzaka was referred to on ESPN, too.

You’re welcome, Boston.

When I came here in 2008 I was excited to be back where it all started. I’ve known and worked with Fred J. Robledo, Aram Tolegian, Steve Ramirez and Keith Lair since I was 17. Believe me when I say this group is passionate about covering preps. They continue to bring you the best coverage despite uncertainty and challenges along the way.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with great high school coaches, athletic directors, players, parents and teachers.

The best part about covering high school sports is seeing kids you’ve covered succeed at the next level.

I covered Matt Barkley as a freshman quarterback at Mater Dei High back in my Register days, and now he might be leading USC to a preseason No. 1 ranking.

I covered Steve Johnson as a talented freshman tennis player at Orange High. He’s now a two-time NCAA singles national champion at USC.

There are some seniors I’ve covered here at the Star-News since their freshman year, and I’m excited to see how they’ll do in college, maybe even the pro’s.I’m talking to Bowdien Derby and Ellis McCarthy, among others.

When I look back at my career and tell my friends about the places I’ve visited and teams I’ve covered they wonder why on earth I would leave a dream job. The answer is simple, I’m selfish and want to chase another dream.

If my path somehow takes a detour ahead and merges with journalism I hope I still recognize this industry I love and owe so much to. A lot has changed in 12 years. I’ve seen my friends fall victims to layoffs and buyouts, many of whom continue to work outside of journalism.

That being said,this decision is my own, and I leave with a bank full of fond memories and experiences I could only dream about as a homeless kid.

That I came to this decision ina seemingly bed-ridden economy, well, you can see now why I feel so lucky.

I don’t know what I’ll do Monday when I wake up and have nowhere to go, no phone calls to make and no interviews to conduct. I’m not scared about the uncertainty that lies in the short-term. In junior high I was held at gun point for simply witnessing a car theft.

That was scary.

This is exciting.

miguelmelendez83@gmail.com

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  • 6power

    Miguel

    A couple words from Goldenarm

    Amazing that years have blown past since you first joined PSN. You took plenty of heat back in the day as a newbie on the local football prep scene…and you managed to push through, and get more things right than wrong.
    Back then the blog was on fire with a core of regulars, some of who still are around and some not.

    Your coverage and reporting on the Backus dismissal at TC was by far the best in the Valley. You managed to get the quotes that after some time, showed the true “new direction” of back stabbing and mistruths that layed the foundation for the sad decline of one of the areas finest football programs. You managed to record the nuts and bolts of how a high school administration can quickly unravel an established and succesful football program, and leave disarray and mediocrity behind them…without regret.
    This destruction was bolstered and highlighted by an incredible blueprint for success being carved out over at Monrovia High School. There, a vision was unfolding in the changing of the guard from Garrison to Maddox and you captured much of those early goings on as well. Those who were around there at that time, know that the smell of glory and what could be was slowing thickening in the air, and seeing Coach Maddox working one and one and as team leader – all doubt of failure disappeared in the M-town kids. The result eventually became the athletes fleeing out of Monrovia had head on collisions with athletes in greater numbers INBOUND for Monrovia. You did a fine job documenting some of this – and getting nailed again and again for your strong allegiance and support of Nick Bueno, which you did not hide from.
    Your personal and human interest stories were always better than your reporting. All the best to you man –
    GA

  • Kennedy Bryant

    Best of luck to you Miggie and the Wildcat faithful thank you for your time and effort covering MHS.

  • Rebecca Fleming

    Thank you so much for your coverage of girl’s soccer over the years – and thank you for the piece that you did on my daughter Sinead Fleming. She will be starting her senior year at UNM and you are starting your new career…. best of luck to you and I hope that you continue to pursue your dreams.

    Time flies so quickly …

    Tell your mom hi for me and let her know that she did and continues to do an amazing job of raising you.

    All the best to you and your future endeavors!

    Rebecca Fleming

  • maddog56

    hey buddy! its ur friend that u keep bumping into in old town pasadena,, remember? lol, those were good times eyy. i hope everything is smooth sailing from here on out for you, good luck pursuing that dream. dont forget about us down here in the san gabriel valley!!

  • Desert Rat

    Sad to see you leave, but wishing you all the best on your next endeavor. Thank you for everything you have done!

  • Bob Anon

    Miguel,

    Thank you for your coverage of LC, the RHL, and the west Valley these past years. Sad to see you go. Good luck in school.

  • http://www.facebook.com/RegsEdge Reginald Miller

    Miguel,
    It’s been great getting to know you over the past years and I’ve always enjoyed your coverage of prep sports and then some. You are a class act and leave big shoes to fill. Best of luck in your future endeavors. God speed ‘Miggy!’
    -Big Reg

  • Observantcat

    Miguel, you were always the guy in the middle. I liked your cool laid back demeanor. You had absolutely no biased as far as I could tell, your writing on the human interest stories were fantastic and your sincere interest to some of the underdogs teams in this area were bar-none the best in the Tribune/Star news family. I believe that you will do well in anything you choose to challenge. Good Luck in your future and the good o’l Monrovia faithful will truly miss you.

    Signed, Observantcat………

  • http://www.pasadenasportshalloffame.org PASHOFPAL

    Say it ain’t so!

    Good luck, Miguel. Having worked in the legal/law profession for over 20 years, I’m confident that you’ll be a great addition to our profession.

    Who’s your replacement, if any?

    Again, good luck – job well done. Note: There is a big difference between “should” “may” and “must.” You’ll know what I’m talking about during your first year.

    Laurence Todd
    President
    http://www.pasadenasportshalloffame.org

  • http://www.pasadenasportshalloffame.org PASHOFPAL

    Say it ain’t so!

    Good luck, Miguel. Having worked in the legal/law profession for over 20 years, I’m confident that you’ll be a great addition to our profession.

    Who’s your replacement, if any?

    Again, good luck – job well done. Note: There is a big difference between “should” “may” and “must.” You’ll know what I’m talking about during your first year.

    Laurence Todd
    President
    http://www.pasadenasportshalloffame.org

  • John Golper

    Miguel,

    Thanks for a job well done. We wish you the best in all your endeavors. You are a very talented writer , and that will benefit you as a lawyer, journalist or whatever field you end up in. Goldenarm is correct that the coverage of the Backus situation was truly excellent but you have had many stories that were also great. Your ability to capture the persona of your subjects in the human interest stories has always stuck out for me. I am certain you have a portfolio of work that few people your age can point to on their resume. You have made friends with a lot of your readers and local sports people . I hope wherever you end up you don’t forget us.

    Good luck, my friend. Stay in touch.

    John Golper

  • SJC

    Miguel,

    You will be missed! Thanks for level headed approach in all of your writings.

    Wishing you the best in School and the future! Stay in touch…

    SJC

  • reality

    Thanks Miguel. Your straight forward but even reporting has been your hallmark in my opinion. Something that is missing in the media today. From Fox to MSNBC to the SGV sports pages, it is often the sensational, biased and dare I say rumor that gets reported on whether its factual or not. It has been noticed by many that you most often resisted that type of so called journalism. That is what I shall miss the most from your blog. Such fairness you display will be hard tested in the area of modern day law but it is certainly needed. Take care.

  • Tom S

    Miguel:
    Best wishes to you in your new endeavor. Its been a fun ride and thanks for all the coverage of Maranathas sport teams. Ive enjoyed talking to you many times whether it was on the sidelines of a football game, during a basketball game or in the press box at Blair field during the CIF championship baseball game. I think I still owe you a Double-Double so youll have stop by at a football game sometime

  • StangNation01

    Miguel,
    Best of wishes and to be honest you were always fair and impartial when reporting west SGV sports. I know you’ll make an awesome Lawyer.

  • StangNation01

    Miguel,
    Best of wishes and to be honest you were always fair and impartial when reporting west SGV sports. I know you’ll make an awesome Lawyer.

  • viking_fan

    Well good luck with your future endeavors. i enjoyed your articles on here and seeing you at games, whether for Blair or PHS.

  • bigfatfan

    Miguel, good luck in your next career. thanks for all your great coverage of the RHL. BFF

  • SGaletti

    Miguel, great job. I’ve followed you, Fred and Steve from afar. Best of luck in your next endeavor.

  • 6power

    Thanks to Fred and his crew for showing up and hitting the “on ” switch on the blog. Only fitting that MM got a chance to see some of the farewell posts before he disappeared into some unknown sunset.

    In the current economy,it would seem unlikely PSN would rush to hire anyone…even the sweetest of candidates. Nowadays you cross train the janitor to take still photos and proofread in between mopping out the boys restroom. Many of those “born” to journalism long ago fled the written word, seeking a regular meal that only a job can bring. Two hot dogs comped from the Arcadia snack bar at half time just is not enough on a Friday night, though much appreciated. Like coaching – you gotta love it, because if money is your motivator, you have already reserved a seat on the Train of Depression.

  • Pete Kutzer

    Miguel,
    Thank you very much for all the time and effort you have put in to covering preps in the SGV. It’s been great – especially when readers disagree, and the back-and-forth is spirited and good-natured. However, it really means a lot to the many student-athletes who work so hard for their school teams. Thanks for bringing your talent to writing about their dreams, and recording what will become lifetime memories of their high school years.
    Pete Kutzer