The date was Aug. 2, 1998 when the kid from the small town in central Massachusetts, a graduate several years earlier of the University of Massachusetts, walked into the old Boston Herald building on Harrison Avenue for his first shift as a copy editor in the sports department.
Already nearly a decade into a career in journalism – more specifically, newspapers – working for a large daily in such a sports-crazed city as Boston was a dream come true. The rush of the deadlines, walking down the long hallway after the shift as the presses clattered, seeing the result of that night’s work quickly produced in ink and newsprint. Coming back the next day to do it all again. Different stories, but the same wonderful people, the same tasks, the same thrill.
On that first day, he never could have predicted he would be at the Herald for more than 21 years. But he also never thought, or hoped, it ever would end.
That time has come, however.
Saturday – Oct. 12, 2019 – will be my last day at the Herald. A lot of daily editions, even more deadlines. Equally as many thrills. Countless terrific stories – and not just the ones that made it into layout space or cyberspace.
As a writer, I had the opportunity to dabble in some college sports, including NCAA championships in men’s and women’s hockey, as well as men’s and women’s lacrosse. While I was at the Herald for each of Boston’s 12 pro sports championships since 2002, my only foray into any of the “Big Four” was quite the memorable one. Sorry, Sox fans, but I was in Yankee Stadium as a representative of the Herald desk on that cool October night in 2003 when Aaron Boone turned Tim Wakefield’s knuckler and deposited it into the seats in left field. The stories from that night – most of them behind the scenes – I could be telling with pride and laughter for another 21 years. Probably more.
Of course, most readers probably know me as “In the Slot” or “the guy with the red winter coat.” After two years on the copy desk I had the opportunity to become the Herald’s high school sports editor in August 2000. High school sports might not get the respect they deserve in such a pro sports-crazed city, but I am happy the Herald always has believed in them and devoted the resources to them. And you want to talk about wonderful people? So many I have met along the way – athletes, coaches, administrators, fans. All of you made an impact on me in some form over the years, and I hope I was able to do justice in telling your stories – lacrosse, soccer, football, you name it.
And hockey. Even before I first set foot inside that old, grimy brick building in Boston’s South End, I was an avid reader of the Herald’s sports coverage. I would be lying if I said I didn’t often dream of seeing my name affixed to the “In The Slot” notebook each Sunday during the winter, to chronicle the Catholic Memorial dynasty and all of the coaches and rising stars in Eastern Mass. hockey. It’s a story I’ve told numerous times over the years – as someone who attended a high school that didn’t (at the time) have a hockey program, my passion extends beyond a love of the game, but also in making sure high school players in this ever-changing landscape still have the opportunities I didn’t.
What many might not know is that covering hockey, or high school sports in general, has not been my full-time role for more than a decade. With the caveat (and blessing from my bosses) that I be able to continue to cover high school hockey on a freelance basis, I made the difficult decision to return to the sports copy desk in the fall of 2006. But in reality, I never really left. My role might have changed a bit for a while, but I still was getting the same thrills of seeing the final product. And, more importantly, rubbing elbows with the same great people of the Herald desk on a nightly basis.
The readers probably don’t know the names, but they are the lifeblood behind not just the Herald, but newspapers in general. They do the editing, write the headlines, select the photos, design the pages, rarely if ever getting the credit or seeing their name in the paper. But they are just as talented, knowledgeable, devoted to the craft. As much as all of the other things I have described, they are the biggest reason why it was such a joy to come to “work” – if you could call it that – every day.
That’s why when I was told a few weeks back the Herald was eliminating its copy desk positions – my own included – my thoughts were with my future, of course. But also the other talented individuals I had the pleasure of working alongside each and every night.
As the days went on, I still thought about what might lie ahead, but just as much about the past. From Harrison Avenue to Fargo Street to Braintree’s Grossman Drive – 21-plus years of memories, and so many terrific and talented people.
I forever will be grateful to former sports editors Mark Torpey and Hank Hryniewicz, who took a chance on that UMass grad from central Mass. more than 21 years ago. I hope he made you proud. Thanks also to Joe Thomas, Mark (J.) Murphy, Sean Leahy and Rachel Fox, as well as current Herald sports editors Justin Pelletier and Bill McIlwrath.
As a desk editor, I’ve been able to work closely with so many excellent reporters and writers, those names you do see in the paper or online each day. Thanks to our current staff – Karen Guregian, Steve Bulpett, Mark (R.) Murphy, Steve Conroy (the original “In the Slot”), “Jocko” Connolly, Rich Thompson, Jason Mastrodonato, Steve Hewitt, Marisa Ingemi, Tom Keegan, Andrew Callahan. I always will be a Herald reader, but will be a better person for getting to know the people behind the names. Likewise for all of the writers who have graced the Herald’s pages during my time – Ron Borges, Rob Bradford, Howard Bryant, Steve Buckley, Gerry Callahan, Mark Cofman, Evan Drellich, Kevin Duffy, Michael Felger, Michael Gee, Joe Giuliotti, Ed Gray, Jeff Horrigan, Jeff Howe, Chad Jennings, Scott Lauber, Kevin Mannix, Gus Martins, Tony Massarotti, Michael O’Connor, Ian Rapoport, Mike Shalin, Michael Silverman, John Tomase. Many of you have gone on to become competitors, but you never will be the “enemy”. And I forever will remember the late Jim Baker, Joe Gordon, Steve Harris and George Kimball.
The toughest part will be not working each day alongside the people who have been more than just “guys from work”, to spotlight a decade-old running bit among the desk crew. Many have become lifelong friends. The desk crew back in 1998 – David Cataneo, Nate Dow, Steve Grabowski, Dave Hanson, Crystal Hubbard, Jonas Kalish, Rob Slager, Jerry Spar, John Vitti – welcomed that “New Desk Guy” with open arms, took him under their wing, put up with his unabashed desire to squeeze every ounce out of his UMass fandom as possible. Part of me still believes having a grease pencil fired centimeters over my head and off the sports TV, without flinching, during my tryout was the real test I needed to pass.
As with any workplace, the names and faces changed over the years. Equally talented, just as wonderful as people. Many more lifelong friends – Eric Beato, Ed Brennen, Tim Bresnahan, Chris Cheney, Bill Corey, Matt Doucet, Paul Gaeta, Pat Hanrahan, Chris Marcucci, George Martins, Rick Rendell. Thanks for taking part of this ride with me.
The “agate boys” (and women) also were a big part of the camaraderie of the night shifts. For some it was the start of their own journalism stories at the Herald and elsewhere, but in a time when sports often is about going “beyond the box score,” I’ll never forget those who were mostly responsible for that small type face making its way into print. Steve Flynn and Joe Raposa were among those over the years who ruled “the alley” and many a late night was spent with the likes of Mark Daniels, Dan Duggan, Adam Kurkjian, Tom Layman and Chris Mason, as well as Matt Burns, Matt Gagne, Shaun Bean, Matt Remsberg, Jon Mahoney, Rich Gallucci, Shawn Lindsey, Ramin Edmond, Paul Perillo, Phil Naslund, Bruce LaRocca, Andres Caamano, Ted Bodenrader, Jared Sharpe, Paris Cook, Jared Shafrin, Pat Maloney, Dwayne Reed and more.
Being in charge of the schools desk for six years, and in subsequent time since directing our hockey coverage, allowed me to work with a lot of up-and-coming talents who helped tell so many great stories. My original crew – Patricia Cronin, Brian Fabry, Erin Flaherty, Bill Keefe, Steve Kendall, Brian Lowe, Nicole Oliverio, Tuan Pham, Jamie Pote, Joe Reardon – eased my transition into a new role. Many more followed such as Sean Brennan, Kat Cornetta, Ned Elwell, Mike Farrell, Greg Feeley, Dave Flynn, Robyn Hayes, Matt Kalman, Lauren Malone, Brendan O’Donnell, Kristin Stead, Joe Vieira. The most recent schools crew – Bob Albright, Kevin Barrucci, Brendan Connelly, Greg Dudek, Tom Fargo, Matt Feld, Tom Mulherin, David Pollard, Kyle Prudhomme, Brian Roach, Marcello Rossetti – continue to do great work. Stephanie Tunnera paved the way before I took over as the schools editor. Of course, the one constant and one of my biggest supporters still is “The King”, Dan Ventura. There’s none better than him. And I can’t help but think a little every day about my good friend Bruce Lerch, who showed such incredible passion for girls hockey and lacrosse, but sadly left us all way too soon.
They always say to save the best for last, but what can I say about the “guys from work” with whom I shared so many good times and laughs over the last several years. On the desk, before or after work. Going to Fenway, Gillette, the Garden. Road trips to Shea Stadium, NLCS Game 1 in Philly in 2008, a memorably wild Cubs-Expos game in Montreal. You never forget these moments, or the people with whom you were lucky to share them. Mike Biglin, Jon Couture, Mike Kilduff, Jim Lazar, Mike Trainor and Karl Zerfoss left the Herald last year, but the almost-daily laughs and messages never stopped. That’s what lifelong friends do.
Finally, our smaller Braintree crew from the last several months. Paul Sullivan was one of “my” original copy desk (along with Bill McIlwrath), followed soon after by Vin Pullia and Chris Letourneau. The four of us stuck together through thick and thin for much of the last two decades – three buildings, four editors, five desk locations since last March, countless memories. I’m really going to miss coming to work every day and seeing this crew – as well as Keith Pearson and Ross Gienieczko. Thank you for putting up with my craziness. Thank you for being the best co-workers, and even better friends. I’ll never, ever forget you guys. Thanks also to the “Boulder guys”, William “Ski” Wilczewski, Doug Walp and Brandon Wilken, for being part of this crazy ride from afar for the last year.
So that’s it – almost time to log off (L-O “Execute”) for the final time. Apologies if I left anyone out, but I can’t stress enough how many people have been even a small part of this journey. And sorry for the lengthy tome – the “crusty editor” in me (ha!) probably would want to hack this by 50 percent or more, all to get it to fit nicely on the tabloid page. But we’re in the internet age now, and sometimes it’s OK to break the rules, to “let the writers write.”
As for what’s next? That story is yet to be written – beyond some ideas, conversations, notes on a pad. All I know is, if it’s half as long as my time at the Herald or anywhere near as enjoyable, I will continue to be a lucky person.
Thanks for reading!