My first-place photos

It’s quite the challenge coming up with the right words.

Honored. Excited. Relieved.

Those are just a few.

But the most important feeling — humbled.

At the Hoosier State Press Association Newsroom Seminar and Better Newspaper Contest awards luncheon today in Indianapolis, I had four photographs receive awards; three earned first place and one was second place. One of my first-place photos was selected as the Division 3 (Dailies with circulation less than 6,000) representative for photo of the year. While I did not receive that honor, it is still pretty darn cool to come away with three first-place awards and even be considered a finalist.

After winning best feature story last year, I was shut out this year as a writer. Honestly, though, that doesn’t matter.

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Column: Line Drives — Talking after defeat is difficult

[This is my column in the Oct. 15 issue of The Commercial Review.]

“This is the hard one.”

That’s what I said to Jay County High School girls soccer coach Giles Laux moments after his Patriot squad lost to Yorktown in the sectional championship Saturday afternoon.

He had no words.

Hours later, again at Yorktown Sports Park, I stood between seniors Nathan Heitkamp and Colton Compton to speak with them about their heartbreaking defeat in penalty kicks to the Tigers in their sectional final.

“What’s going through your head right now?” I asked.

They had no words.

All three of them had to fight back emotion. Laux, whose team had won back-to-back sectional championships — Abby Champ coached it to the 2013 title — was able to hide behind his sunglasses. The others were not.

They just looked away.

Laux and I had to continue the interview a few minutes later.

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Column: Line Drives — Hallowed ground just another field

[This is my column in the June 19 issue of The Commercial Review.]

To me, it was just another field.

An abandoned block in Detroit’s city limits, the fenced-in patch of overgrown grass is easy to miss.

Passersby and commuters in and out of the city may glance at the nine-acre plot and not think twice about it.

That’s what I did.

It was just a field — another remnant from when Michigan’s largest city was booming and thriving with life and culture.

To others, the field had more significance.
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Column: Line Drives — It’s hard to simply enjoy a game

[This is my column in the June 11 issue of The Commercial Review.]

I can’t do it anymore.

Sports are meant to entertain.

I can no longer watch sports for the entertainment value.

My job is to thank for that.

On his radio show Monday, Dan Patrick had Bob Costas as a guest and they chatted about a wide array of things, from American Pharoah to Caitlyn Jenner to being a sports fan. Patrick and Costas are two of my favorite sports media figures.

Patrick offered a comment that perfectly sums up what it’s like for me to watch sports.

“Instead of just sitting back, taking a deep breath and having a beer, I’m always sort of looking at what the storylines are,” he said.

He hit the nail on the head with that one.

For example, last summer I went to Major League Baseball games at Miller Park in Milwaukee and at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Both times I was fully engulfed in the games, keeping score and noticing trends.

I also had to explain to the lady next to me at Wrigley Field what was happening. As the afternoon progressed, she became more and more inebriated, and less and less aware of the flow of the game.

The Atlanta Braves scored seven runs in the first three innings before leading 10-2 after the seventh-inning stretch. The Cubs responded by scoring twice in the seventh and three times in the eighth, but the rally ended there as Atlanta won 10-7.

I went to Victory Field in Indianapolis on May 31 with my friend Eric, his girlfriend and their toddler. Eric and I are both Detroit Tigers fans, and Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander was making his first rehab start for the Toledo Mud Hens against the Indianapolis Indians.

We jumped at the opportunity to see him pitch so close to home — Eric and his family live in Carmel.

But throughout the game, it was difficult for me to be a fan.

Sure, I sat back, took some deep breaths and had a beer, but I wasn’t able to just let the game happen and watch. I had to analyze it and think of the storylines.

Verlander got torched. He had a difficult time finding the strike zone and failed to make it out of the third inning. He gave up three earned runs on six hits while walking a pair. He also struck out three and only recorded eight outs.

I want to sit back and be a fan. I can’t do it anymore.

Tuesday, I started watching game three of the NBA Finals midway through the third quarter. As I got caught up to speed, again, I couldn’t help but look at the storylines up to that point.

Matthew Dellavedova was playing the best defense I have seen in a long time from a professional basketball player. He was shutting down Steph Curry, who only had three points at halftime.

LeBron James was being his normal, freak-of-an-athlete self.

And as the Cleveland Cavaliers built a 20-point lead in the third, I couldn’t help but ask myself a few questions.

Can the Cavaliers sustain their dominance? Will Curry go the entire game shooting so poorly? Can LeBron truly carry this team to an NBA championship, proving all of his doubters wrong?

The answers to the first two questions proved to be a resounding “no.”

Golden State trailed by as little as one point in the fourth quarter before eventually losing by five, 96-91.

Curry scored 17 of his team-high 27 points in the fourth, making some of his signature 3-pointers from either deep beyond the arc or with little space in the corners.

That last question is yet to be answered.

Sometimes I find it difficult to separate work and pleasure.

But it’s a good thing, right?

It must mean “work” has no longer become “work.”

From time to time, though, I’d like to simply attend a game or watch sports on television.

I just can’t do it anymore.

Column: Line Drives — Tribe’s leader calm, relaxed

[This is my column in the June 3 issue of The Commercial Review.]

Ask anyone on the Fort Recovery High School baseball team and they will give you the same answer.

“Laid back.”

“Relaxed.”

Take one look at the guy, and it is easy to see what they mean.

Watch him in action, manning the coaching box down the third base line or nearly walking on the field to give his defense instructions, his knowledge for the game shows.

What he’s done in five years leading the Indians has earned him the respect of his peers.

“I can’t say enough about Jerry Kaup,” said St. Henry coach John Dorner following his team’s 2-0 victory May 8 against the Indians. “What he’s done with this program here, to be (then) No. 1 in the state … He has done a tremendous job with this program and I wish him luck.

“I think (Fort Recovery) can go a long way in the tournament this year.”
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Column: Line Drives — Tribe baseball making history, again

[This is my column in the May 14 issue of The Commercial Review.]

Following up a year in which multiple school records were set is a tough task.

So how does the Fort Recovery High School baseball team move on from the best squad in history?

Easily. The Tribe has simply put the 2014 team in the rearview and created a new legacy.

Here’s just a taste of the Tribe was able to do last season:
•Win the most games (20) in program history.
•Win the most Midwest Athletic Conference games (six) in history.
•Win 13 straight games after dropping its season opener to Celina.

There were some individual records broken as well in 2014:
•Mitch Stammen stole 27 bases, breaking Dale Griesinger’s mark of 25 set in 1949.
•Jackson Hobbs’ 0.76 ERA was a new record, besting Kevin Schoenherr’s 0.80 from 2006.
•Jacob Muhlenkamp set a new record for career games played with 96.
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Column: Line Drives — Changes coming for Jay sports

[This is my column in the April 30 issue of The Commercial Review.]

Change is on the horizon.

On Monday, the IHSAA will announce its new sectional alignments for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years.

While most may have hoped Jay County would drop to Class 3A in terms of boys and girls basketball, when the governing body announced enrollment numbers March 31 that was not the case.

Carmel, the largest school in the state, has an enrollment of 4,830. Jay County has 1,108 students.

Jay County is the third smallest school in 4A for boys and girls basketball. Only South Bend Washington (1,001) and Guerin Catholic (738) are smaller. Washington opted for a higher enrollment classification while Guerin Catholic, which won the Class 3A state championship in March, was bumped up to 4A because of the tournament success factor.

But change is still coming, as the Patriot baseball and softball teams dropped to 3A and will now be the biggest school in the class.

I’ve never been good at predicting the future. I’m in the wrong career if I was skillful at doing so.

I will try my best, however, to project what I think will be new sectional alignments for the Jay County baseball, softball, football and volleyball teams. I do not see the boys and girls hoops teams as well as both soccer squads changing.

The football and volleyball teams will have slight changes to their sectional opponents. The baseball and softball teams will have an entirely new lineup as they return to 3A for the first time since 2007. That is also the same year the JCHS baseball team won its last sectional championship.

So, here goes.
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