A Buckeye says goodbye to the Bluegrass

I wasn’t going to write this, but for the first time since I’ve been here, I’m letting a little bit of ego and personal agenda come out on top.

These are the final words I will write for The Advocate-Messenger. In August, my family and I will be heading back north to Ohio for new adventures and opportunities. I have accepted an exciting position with The Toledo Blade, a Pulitzer Prize winning newspaper.

I have been in Boyle County for nearly 2 1/2 years. My family has made friends, settled into a routine and enjoyed the experience of living outside Ohio for the first time in our lives. But over the last few months, it became apparent there’s no place like home.

My time here has been exciting, difficult, rewarding and full of changes. It wasn’t always easy, but I tried to do the best I could to serve you, the readers of this paper.

When I came down here, my purpose was to refocus the coverage on the local athletes and teams. We showed up to many events where our presence was unexpected but welcome. We broke new ground, faced many challenges and came out on top.

And judging from the phone calls, emails and messages on social media I’ve received, you saw what we were doing and appreciated it. None of it could have been done, though, without the cooperation of athletic directors, coaches, athletes and families at the eight high schools in our coverage area; their support and willingness to work with me made this job easier.

We left few events uncovered, few stories untold. We started new features such as the Coach’s Corner, where coaches get a chance to tell their stories in the first person; the Athletic Trainer Time, giving trainers an opportunity to let you peek into what they’re doing; and we ramped up our presence on social media, giving you another chance to get your information from a trusted source quicker than before.

These are among the things I hope will be my legacy at The Advocate-Messenger. We produced quality preview sections for high school football and basketball, both of which were a hit according to the public. I brought back the Coach of the Year award and named it for a legendary coach at two of our schools.

Now, the mantle and responsibility falls to Matt Overing, not an uncommon face or name to you. I know he’ll do a great job, and my departure has been made easier knowing I’m leaving all of this in good hands.

From the moment I met Matt at the Jessamine Journal for lunch a few weeks after I arrived in Kentucky, I knew he was special. I started daydreaming of how amazing it would be to bring him down to Danville, and when that opportunity to replace a retiring staff member presented itself, I told former managing editor John Nelson, “My list consists of Matt Overing and only Matt Overing.”

And Matt hasn’t disappointed. You know those ideas we’ve implemented over the last couple years? Matt’s influence and ideas have been behind more than his fair share. I can’t wait to keep an eye on what he does. It’s going to be fantastic.

While there are a few things I regret during my time here, there are many other experiences I will treasure for a lifetime, not the least of which being the few meaningful friendships my family forged here. Yes, we are moving to Ohio to be closer to friends, but we leave our share of friends down here, people I hope to keep in contact with.

Not ironically, many of them were met through athletics. We met the Troy and Krystal Burdette and their sons, Kyron and Jaydon through baseball; we often joke Jaydon and my son Charlie are more like brothers than friends, two peas in a pod.

Charlie had the great opportunity to be coached in tee ball by a few outstanding men, Kruz Warner and Trae Grey. And I can’t forget about team mom Toni Ward. They’ve been outstanding role models and caring adults to my children.

And I didn’t meet the Dampiers first on the football field but in the preschool classroom when Karen was Charlie’s teacher last year. They have been a caring, supportive and loving influence for my family. Let me tell you, it’s not always easy dealing with “Awesome Charlie,” but Karen always did with a smile.

Susan Parks and her daughter Emma Steberl have been our trusted friends, watching our two youngest sons at their daycare in Perryville, Hometown Kids. They’ve been simply wonderful caring for our little ones, and their friendship has grown into a special connection.

I cannot forget our first Kentucky friends and neighbors, the Sergent family and Thelma Price. They welcomed us to a new state with open arms. I am thankful their love and support will be with us as we make this next move.

Most of all, I need to thank my family. I started this job in March 2015, and my wife, Darcey stayed back in Ohio for four months to make sure our three kids finished the school year and their athletic commitments. How she was able to juggle three kids and her own work schedule while I was five hours away is beyond my comprehension. She is simply amazing.

When Boyle County advanced to the boys basketball Sweet 16 that year, it axed my plans of returning to Ohio to visit for the weekend. It had been two weeks since we had seen each other and left another two weeks before schedules opened for a visit. So what did my wife do? She loaded the kids in the van and 10 p.m., drove to Kentucky and arrived around 3 a.m. Just to keep our family together. Again, you want amazing? A picture of Darcey Schneider accompanies that definition in the dictionary.

My wife is the only person in this world I trust. She is my sounding board, my conscience, the best thing about me. Her love and support through all of this, the move to Kentucky and back to Ohio, hasn’t gone unnoticed. She has put her personal dreams aside for my benefit. We men who have wives like that are a lucky few.

They left their home and dreams behind, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, best friends, all so daddy could chase this opportunity. They felt the ups and downs more than me; at least I had a job I loved I could turn to while they were trying to start over from scratch. It makes me sad none of them really found their role or footing here, and not from a lack of their trying.

We will take a piece of the Bluegrass back home with us. Our youngest — and guaranteed final — child was born last year. Oliver will always carry that Kentucky birth certificate with him, even as we indoctrinate him into everything Ohio State.

Before I left Ohio, an acquaintance of mine returned to his hometown after a year away. He told me it’s tough leaving home, that we’ll be back. Yes, we’re coming back to Ohio, but not with our tails between our legs or looking for solace. My family is coming back stronger, smarter, wiser and more grateful.

My final words of advice — and this may sound odd coming from a sports editor — are this: life is about more than touchdowns and test scores. In 10, 20, 30 years, all those touchdowns you scored won’t mean much, and that great score you had on the K-PREP or ACT will just be some random scores and numbers.

Life is about so much more. Reach outside your comfort zone, explore new things, and maybe welcome in that new family who feels stranded on an island far away from home.