This Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has turned lives, careers and families upside down, and created some panic and uncertainty, especially in the newspaper world.
As you may know or have heard, The Dalles Chronicle and Hood River News ceased operations on March 31 due in part to the virus spread.
I have feared this moment for quite some time, and still can’t believe that these two publications will no longer be around to cover these kids and communities.
I am emotional about this situation and it brings tears to my eyes every time I think about.
That being said, I was recently faced with one of the toughest decisions of my young life – stay in journalism or start something brand new?
Never an easy choice when it comes to life, love and the pursuit of happiness.
I need to make a non-emotional decision and do what’s right for my future.
Over the course of 16 years, the first four and a half at the Argus Observer in Ontario, and the past 11.5 here in The Dalles.
In my 16 years, I have encountered many great athletes, strong families, great coaches and great administrators from the area, and all I can say is “It has been an absolute pleasure to serve you.”
As I sit here typing a heart-wrenching column on this rainy Monday morning, I remember my first game story — a TD High School football game and my battle with the butterflies in my stomach.
I still have the same butterflies before every game, because I’ve been emotionally invested.
It is a bittersweet moment because while I am leaving the door open for a return to journalism, the reality is, the industry is suffering catastrophic financial losses and dwindling ad revenue, which has forced lay-offs, demotions, pay cuts and furlough days.
Of course, I am not bitter how this journey abruptly ended, nor do I have ill feelings about how things transpired.
Former The Dalles Chronicle publisher Marilyn Roth and former editor-in-chief Kathy Ursprung gave me a shot to be an editor and become an award-winning community staple for nearly 12 years.
I will never forget them for putting their necks on the line for me.
No, I do not have a degree in journalism or a related field — just an education in the school of hard knocks.
I breezed through the first half of my life, clueless, wondering what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it and where it was going to be.
It took some tumultuous times in California before I made the move to the Pacific Northwest to start a new chapter.
And this new life has brought some good and bad times.
Thank you for trusting me and thank you for giving a poor man the opportunity to realize his dreams.
As much as I would love to have thousands picketing outside the Chronicle offices, wishing me to stay or for the paper to give me a raise, I know that life will go on.
In two weeks, many will forget I ever existed, because let’s face facts, all a reader wants is his or her kid in the paper — they don’t care who is writing the story.
It is a harsh reality, and I am comfortable knowing that.
I remember past private conversations with a couple of my coaches and how they had feelings of stepping down, moving on or retiring, but there was pull for them to stay because they did not want to leave their kids.
I feel the same way.
I have seen former stars Aldo Rivas, James Atoe, Ryan Johnston, Emily Bailey, Zoe Morelli, Kolbe Bales, Curtis Crawford, Max Martin, Stephen Larlee, turn the ordinary athletic contest into an amazing performance.
The more I saw them, and many others accomplish many feats and move on to college, I had a sense of pride — a fatherly-like feeling when I see them move on to greener pastures.
I shared tears with many of these athletes and forged many friendships that I hold dear to my heart.
You have given me a joy nothing else can replace.
This is heartbreaking, but is a step that needs to be taken.
My experiences are pleasant and great.
One nugget was my first spring here in April of 2010 when Kaity Wilson smacked a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning to lead The Dalles to a 2-1 victory over No. 2 Pendleton.
An emotional Wilson recalled hearing her mom’s voice in her head throughout the at-bat. Wilson’s mother, Shannon, passed away on Nov. 5, 2009 after a long battle with Inflammatory Breast Cancer.
Then there’s the inspiring story of Dakota Walker, who was diagnosed with Burkitt’s Leukemia in his junior year of 2012.
As a senior, Walker fought his way back to the diamond, and in the process, tossed two no-hitters, earned first-team all-league honors and played in the Reser’s Oregon All-Star Series in Corvallis later that summer.
I remember getting hit in the groin by an errant golf shot from Emily Cyphers, crying in an interview with Chelan Guischer after she tossed a perfect game and diving to save Anndria North from hitting the back wall in a hoops game.
I vaguely remember Alex McCall drilling a line drive off my head during batting practice at Wahtonka, being threatened with protests after a Dufur versus Sherman volleyball headline, sharing all the championship emotions of basketball, football and track and field, and sharing the same sidelines and dugouts with Hall of Fame coaches Jack Henderson and Steve Sugg.
Those moments are like photographs in my mind and there will be many occasions where I will sit back and remember every moment and every heart I touched in the process.
I just hope that years from now, as you boast to your children of your past athletic endeavors, you pull out a story I wrote, and it brings a smile to your face.
Crazy Ray Rod.
Life is short, and many high school freshmen will realize that in four years, real life will come at them like an avalanche.
I say to them and all, to keep dreaming, and, with a little hard work and dedication, those dreams will come true.
Nothing is out of reach.
I grew up on welfare, living in a roach-infested house and have been able to move past that.
I thank my mother for being my rock and my inspiration. There is a burning desire to make her proud.
Never once have I ever let my upbringing stop me from dreaming and dreaming big.
I hope I have been a role model to the young athletes and kids in the area.
I strived to provide you the best I could possibly bring — I killed myself trying to cover each and every one of you, and I am a proud servant to you all.
In the end, I am not the greatest writer or the best editor — there are thousands better.
But, they will never out-work me or out-desire me.
Stay hungry and treat your pursuits like there is someone gaining on you.