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42 Years Have Flown By Very Quickly

WHEELING – Time flies when you are having fun. Living your dream.

Both sayings have served me well.

My dream job growing up was to be a sports writer. That came to fruition in July of 1978 when legendary sports editor Cal Pokas hired me full-time at The Times Leader.

Cal was tough, demanding, a gifted writer and a Hall of Famer. He made everyone who worked for him much better. I learned more about our business from Cal in one week than I did in four years at Bethany College, a highly regarded communications program. I am indebted to him.

It’s hard to fathom that 42 years have elapsed since I first cut my sports writing teeth at the Times Leader. The Ohio Valley is a special place to cover sports, especially those at the prep level. The Ohio Valley is sports-crazed.

With that said, this will be my final column. It is time to retire. I never dreamt I would author a newspaper career spanning more than four decades.

The best things about our business is that no two days are the same, you meet all types of neat people and you get to cover some really special events.

It has been a fulfilling career, one that I am proud of. When you cover sports, it’s not real work. It’s a labor of love.

While I never worked for Bill Van Horne, Doug Huff or Nick Bedway, all three Wheeling sports editors were great mentors for me. All three offered helpful advice along the way. All three, along with Cal, compose the Mount Rushmore of Ohio Valley sports scribes.

Along those same lines, Don Clegg has been a positive influence on my career, both while he was a sportswriter in Wheeling and now as the superb sports information director at West Liberty University.

A gold mine of priceless assistance and guidance while I was Times Leader managing editor and continued during my time as executive sports editor came from Heather Ziegler. The veteran Wheeling editor/reporter is the consummate professional, possessing a wealth of helpful knowledge.

I was fortunate to work for two tremendous publishers at The Times Leader — Alex Marshall and Lori Figurski. Alex named me sports editor while Lori had the faith and confidence to name me managing editor, a role I relished for 10 years.

It was a demanding job but also a very rewarding one. It is one I left after Wheeling Newspapers General Manager Perry Nardo created a dream job for me more than five years ago – that being executive sports editor for both the Wheeling and Martins Ferry newspapers.

I thank Perry for the ultimate sports job any newspaper scribe could want.

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank many co-workers at both the Martins Ferry and Wheeling newspapers.

At the Times Leader, in addition to Figurski, who helped lead the paper to grand heights, I was surrounded and helped by countless gifted people such as sportswriters Robin Yocum, Kim North, Rick Thorp, Rick DeLuca, Mark Dierkes, Mike Hughes, Jeremy Midei, Jeff Harrison and the late Rich Gibson, as fine and witty a columnist as ever graced Ohio Valley newsprint.

I was blessed to have a tremendous supporting editorial staff at The Times Leader that included Stan Pawloski, Betty Pokas, Paula Ginther, Shaunna Hershberger, Eric Ayres, Bob Hecker, Debbie Curnes and Regina Sikora.

During my time overseeing The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register sports, the staff has been professional and prolific. Kyle Lutz and Cody Tomer are talented and hard-working young scribes while Tracy Watson has been a voluminous contributor whose work is invaluable.

Josh Strope, meanwhile, distinguished himself as an excellent sports editor. He did much of the heavy lifting for me. His adept managerial skills were matched by his incisive and entertaining writing.

My appreciation also is extended to the news editors I have worked with the last five years — Mike Myer, John McCabe and Jennifer Compston-Strough. All are excellent in carrying out their respective duties.

Last, but far from least, is Times Leader sports editor Seth Staskey. I hired him some 22 years ago while he was still a student at OUE.

During that time, he has blossomed into a major player in sports writing circles, not just on the local level but statewide. His work ethic has no equal and his rapport with coaches is exceptional, earning both their respect and trust.

Seth has already scripted a Hall of Fame journalistic career with countless quality writings yet to come. He is peerless when it comes to Ohio Valley sports media.

Finally, I want to thank our readers. Without you, we have no business.

BUBBA’S BITS

∫ Andrew Pennybacker of Wheeling was the runner-up in the Callaway Tour’s season-ending event at the Greenbrier Resort Meadows Course in the 12-under division. The Warwood Middle School seventh grader also placed second in the Callaway West Virginia state rankings for the season. He will be competing in the 13-14 year old division next year. Andrew is the son of Shawn and Vicki Pennybacker.

∫ The Wheeling University women’s golf team has been named as one of 25 teams to earn the Women’s Golf Coaches Association All-Scholar Team GPA Award. The Cardinals tied for 12th overall in Division II with a team GPA of 3.731 and were the only team from a Mountain East Conference institution to earn the honor. The Cardinals are coached by Hall of Famer Sue Vail.

∫ The Martins Ferry Chamber of Commerce is holding a fall banquet on Wednesday, Sept. 16 at the Martins Ferry Rec Center at 6 p.m. Featured speaker will be Rich Donnelly. The Steubenville native has coached at the Major League Baseball level for several teams, and owns a World Series ring while assisting Jim Leyland with the Florida Marlins. He also has authored a best-selling book – “The Chicken Runs at Midnight.” In conjunction with the banquet, the Martins Ferry Chamber is selling copies of that book at a reduced price. For more information on the banquet or the book, call the chamber office at 740-633-2565. Donnelly’s current coaching gig is manager for the New York Mets’ Class A-advanced affiliate farm team in Port St. Lucie (Fl). He coached the Pittsburgh Pirates with Leyland from 1986-96.

∫ The Sardis Volunteer Fire Department is sponsoring its Ninth Annual Golf Scramble on Saturday, Aug. 8 at the Fairway Riverside Golf Course in Sardis. There is an 8 a.m. shotgun start. The cost for a four-man team is $200. Fee includes cart rental, green fees, food and beverage. For more information, contact Kevin Winkler at 740-310-0610 or kevin–winkler@sbcglobal.net.

∫ West Liberty head baseball coach Eric Burkle has added El Camino (Calif.) College pitcher Ian Brady to the Hilltopper roster for the 2020-21 season. Brady is a 6-2, 245-pound righthander. He redshirted at El Camino during his freshman season and worked out of the bullpen for the perennial California JUCO power each of the past two springs. The newest Hilltopper starred at South Torrance (Calif.) High before heading to El Camino. He plans to pursue a criminal justice major at West Liberty.

∫ Fairmont Senior quarterbacking standout Gage Michael has accepted a scholarship offer to Kent State. Michael guided the Polar Bears to a 12-1 mark last year and a berth in the Class AA state semifinals. He amassed 49 touchdowns and 3,943 yards of total offense last season. Michael is a native of Wheeling.

∫ Wheeling University is holding its inaugural baseball/softball golf scramble on Saturday, Oct. 10 at Oglebay Park’s Crispin Golf Course with a 9 a.m. shotgun start. Price is $65 per person or $260 per team of four. Lunch-only option available for non-golfers. Price includes: cart, green fees, lunch, drinks and prizes during event. In addition to the scramble, the event will include a skins game, mulligans, 50/50 raffle, door prizes and more. There will be a cash payout to the top three teams. There is a minimum of 18 teams and a maximum of 36. Sponsorship opportunities are available. Those wishing to enter the event can register online at WUCardinals.com and by visiting the baseball or softball homepage for registration link. Those interested in being a sponsor should contact Wheeling University head baseball coach Ryan Lewicki at rlewicki@wju.edu.

∫ The West Liberty University women’s tennis and women’s track & field teams have earned national academic honors. The Intercollegiate Tennis Association recognized the Hilltoppers women’s tennis program as a national ITA All-Academic Team for the ninth consecutive year. The West Liberty women posted a cumulative 3.56 team GPA for the fall and spring semesters. Meanwhile, the WLU women’s track and field team earned the 2020 NCAA Division II All-Academic Team Award from the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. The WLU women’s 3.351 cumulative team GPA was tops among the MEC award winners.

∫ My final bit is that I am not totally disappearing from the sports arena. Managing Editor John McCabe has extended me the offer to continue to do some writing in the realm of football previews and game coverage.

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