I’ve got a lot to be thankful for

Published 2:06 pm Tuesday, November 24, 2009

With Thursday being Thanksgiving Day, I recently started to think back on the many things I’ve had to be thankful for in my nearly 40 years as sports editor of this fine newspaper.

First of all I’m thankful for the many fine young athletes and young people who have allowed me to share a small portion of their lives on the courts and fields of Decatur County.

A number of those youngsters have gone on to play in college and professionally, but many others worked to the best of their abilities and also brought positive recognition to their school, their community and their county.

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While interviews with Decatur County School System and Bainbridge Leisure Services Department athletes were the ones I enjoyed most during the years, there were two outstanding professional athlete interviews that also stick out in my mind.

The first was set up by my dear late friend Mr. Max Langston, whose Bainbridge Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company was sponsoring the Pepsi Hot Shot competition for youngsters.

Mr. Max brought Oscar Robinson, the national chairman for Pepsi Hot Shot and one of the all-time great guards and a National Basketball Association (NBA) World Champion with the Milwaukee Bucks, to town to promote the competition and present the young Decatur County winners with their awards.

Mr. Max set up an interview for me with Robinson, known to basketball fans as “The Big 0“ during his days as an All-American with the University of Cincinnati Bearcats and an All-Pro in the NBA.

We sat on the Conger Gym bleachers and talked for about 45 minutes. He talked about how important he thought it was for professional athletes and other adults to be role models for young people and lead them in the right direction.

He stayed for the games that night, presenting girl and boy Hot Shot winners with their trophies between the Bainbridge High School Lady Cats and Bearcats games while giving them each words of encouragement.

The second outstanding professional athlete interview that sticks out in my mind came one night at what is now the former Yankee Stadium in New York City.

I was going to New Jersey to visit my cousins and my dear friend and former boss, Sam Griffin, called and got me press credentials for a game between the Yankees and Milwaukee Brewers who were then in the American League.

The Brewers featured rookie shortstop and third baseman Earnie Riles, a former Bainbridge High School Bearcat who would go on to earn USA Today American League rookie of the year honors.

My cousins, Bill and Tom Collins, and I drove into Yankee Stadium and, I had a great interview with Earnie, and we enjoyed the game.

That night at Yankee Stadium, I had credentials to the field, the press box and the locker rooms. Needless to say, I was like a kid in a candy store.

I wish all my readers a very Happy Thanksgiving and a wonderful holiday season.