Thursday, June 05, 2008

Just a Quick Note of Thanks

I attended the Greenwich baseball dinner tonight in Port Chester, and that alone is enough to be thankful for. It is one of the perks of covering games and getting close to a team. I know some who aren't fans of it; they're burnt out by the time dinners come around. I'm happy to attend for the free meal (I'm not going to lie!) but also for the chance to talk with the families, players and coaches. In a lot of ways, it's a chance for me to say thanks, and also network just a little (which I'm awful at).

I was privileged to sit at the coach's table with varsity head man Mike Mora and fellow coaches Frank Carbino, Paul Meyfohrt, and "Exit 55" loyal readers TJ Ostruzka (fellow Steelers fan!), Kerry Gavin and Phil Tarantino (well he'll become a loyal reader again if he can find the link here from Tim Parry). We were missing Tom Healy and Jarod Smith, but we were thinking of them as well.

The 2008 Cardinals finished at 8-13. They made the state playoffs and lost to Farmington. Don't let the record fool you - they were a good team made up of great people with great character. Following the introductions of the teams, co-captains Ricky Riscica and Jeff DeVico made some presentations and, to my surprise, one of them was to me. They gave a me a gift for my serving as statistician and being at every game.

The owe me nothing. They gave me more than I could ask for.

I took a moment and spoke to the assembled crowd, and I could feel my emotions building. The moment Coach Mora said "You're a part of the team" and invited me to be in the dugout with the team was one of the best things to happen. It was almost like a dream come true. You see, deep down, sports broadcasters and reporters do what we do because of our love of sports. In our souls, we're still fans; albeit jaded at times. I don't think I'm like that though. I still have a deep passion for the sports that I cover, yet I'm a professional on the air.

So when Rich Riscica (Ricky's father) gave me a team polo, I wondered if I was crossing a line. I questioned a fellow media person who put his faith in me that I would straddle that line well. Could I report and still criticize, if necessary? The answer was "yes", though to be fair, we cautiously criticize at this level. So I rolled with it and had a blast. I made sure never to coach the players, and to always know my role. I talked baseball, listened when they wanted to talk, talked about scorekeeping and broadcasting, told stories, and made myself feel like one of the team.

When Adam Franchella whipped the team into a frenzy at Ridgefield, I laughed like I've never laughed with a team before. Ryan Fazio and James Dillard found out that I had a Facebook page and became contacts. Matt Berdoff said he wanted his picture taken with me on Senior Day, after I served as their master-of-ceremonies. I can't name every player but I had a funny moment with each member of the team.

I even stood with a catchers glove on after a game and helped Coach Carbino as he hit grounders to Jonny Rogers and Andrew Coffey. I was still dressed business casual, having come from the office, but there was nothing I wanted to do more at that moment. I carried equipment or rearranged the helmets. Whatever they wanted me to do, I did. It allowed me to feel like I was a coach - something I'm finding that I really enjoy.

Yet I didn't cross the line. When it was time to do my radio job, I did it. Game over? Interview a player. It was all part of the gig.

Tonight, I admitted that the 2007-2008 school year was one in which life threw some big obstacles at me. I didn't do that to be self-serving. I did it as a way to thank the '08 Cardinals for welcoming me, and for giving me a few hours of relief and fun. That's what sports is supposed to be.

And I admitted that, for once, I decided to be a fan. For one game. Yes I did my reports with the same professionalism that I always display, but once off the phone, I was a fan.

This was my release. Don't judge me as some hack just because I let my guard down. I worked for the Cardinals and WGCH. The listener couldn't tell the difference, and that matters a lot.

By the end of the night, I had stronger bonds with the people of Greenwich than ever before. I've been asked to be the MC for the baseball golf tournament in August, and this closeness will translate into football season, which I think will make our broadcasts better.

What I'm trying to say is thanks again. Perhaps my words tonight indicated how much the team meant to me. I hope so, because I can never thank you enough.

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