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?
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.