Orfao: Farewell after a delightful decade in the newspaper business

Monitor staff
Published: 10/19/2019 10:22:36 PM

We were all asked the same question countless times: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

The younger we are, the easier it is to answer. In first grade, I wanted to be a dinosaur. Obviously.

Advancing through elementary school, my career goals became far more attainable. For example: second baseman for the Boston Red Sox or point guard for the Boston Celtics. But it turned out that I couldn’t hit a curveball or competently dribble with my left hand.

Still, the question remained the same: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” But my answer was never much of one. I would shrug my shoulders and meekly reply, “I don’t know. … Something to do with sports.”

Of all things, it was a mini refrigerator that steered my course.

That mini refrigerator – with a Wendy’s logo on the door and spacious enough to hold exactly six Keystone Lights – was a secondary prize from ESPN for a “Voice of the Fan” contest in 2005.

That miniature vote of confidence made something click: I want to be a sports writer.

Although that career path had never been a consideration, it made some sense. In grade school, I kept statistics for my team in Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball while playing Super Nintendo. In high school, I created a website to post results, top scorers and schedules for my Derry Recreation basketball league. I tallied game logs and season-long statistics for my Lamprey River Senior League baseball team. The urge to document had always been in my DNA.

Within a year of winning that mini fridge, I changed majors and made my way from Southern New Hampshire University to Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.

That life-altering move was in 2006. I graduated two years later and started as sports editor for the Titusville Herald on July 13, 2009. Prince Fielder won the MLB Home Run Derby that night, and I’ll never forget how proud I was to see my name in the corner of the sports section the next day.

And here we are 10-plus years later, still doing “something to do with sports.”

Now, it’s time to do something else.

Saturday was my last day as a full-time newspaper man.

This business is tough, but that rising degree of difficulty offers opportunity to hone a variety of skills – there’s no such thing as “sports writer” at a local newspaper anymore; we’re all reporters, copy editors, paginators, photographers and columnists, too.

Challenges aside, this business has provided the chance to soak in so many incredible moments unique to my path. There isn’t another person on Earth who witnessed Amy Clark hit a grand slam to send Titusville softball to the 2011 District 10 final; saw Tyler Kepple engineer a game-winning drive to lift the Karns City Gremlins to the 2012 District 9 football title; watched the Sunapee girls’ basketball team rally to cap an undefeated 2014-15 season; empathized as the upstart Merrimack football team fell agonizingly short of the 2016 D-I title game; and marveled in the aftermath of Riley Elliott’s walk-off single to give Bow last spring’s D-II baseball championship.

Only the twists and turns of this career – from the Titusville Herald, to the Butler Eagle, to the Eagle Times, to the Nashua Telegraph, to the Concord Monitor – could leave that odd collection of memories. It might not be glamorous, but I’m grateful.

And while the work has been rewarding, the people have been better.

Each one of those memories ended in the newsroom, often laughing while recounting play-by-play theatrics with the same frazzled brain that just managed to beat an always-too-early deadline.

I will miss that camaraderie, but at 34 years young, it’s become apparent that there is no cookie-cutter answer for “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

We assess, we adjust and we hope for the best.

It’s been a fun ride. Thanks for reading.

(Jason Orfao can be reached on Twitter @JasonOrfao.)

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