Kroner: My job has the 'it' factor

Kroner: My job has the 'it' factor

This is it.

Three words. Eight letters. Multiple meanings.

That phrase could represent a feeling of finality. I suspect when my friend Brad Stipp retired from teaching in the Mahomet-Seymour district at the end of the school year, he said words to that effect — if not exactly those words — his last day in the building.

Another interpretation is a sense of where a person finds himself at a particular time. For 29 consecutive years, when I’ve arrived at work, I’ve walked into the building at the same entrance, made my way to the same desk, located in the same spot, and sat in the same location until my workday ended or it was time to go to a ballgame.

I know automatically, “this is it,” as I make my way to that familiar and comfortable place.

***
There is also a more nebulous meaning, one that is much harder to define but easy to recognize.

In one small way, sports writers are similar to doctors or roofers or teachers or virtually any other profession that could be highlighted.

We want to feel like we’ve made a difference. That doesn’t happen, of course, by saving lives or preventing leaks or enabling the learning process, but by chronicling events or moments that years later can keep a memory alive or return a smile to the face of someone who might be in need of one.

Unlike many sports fanatics or trivia buffs, I don’t recall many final scores or records, though the names of those who played the games are clearly etched in my mind.

An ex-wife once told me I spent more time watching other people’s children play than I did my own. There’s more truth to that than I cared to admit.

Athletes who participate in three sports, and are good enough to start as freshmen, are ones I see sporadically for parts of 10 months, during four consecutive years.

***
Unless they wind up playing a game professionally, or returning to the area to coach, it’s easy to lose track of these athletes after their high school graduations.

Occasionally, special moments arrive in your life, the ones that make you understand your efforts were worthwhile and appreciated.

In 2011, former Argenta-Oreana athlete Karen Bloch — who has been to consecutive Olympic Games as an athletic trainer for USA water polo teams — asked me to be her presenter when she was enshrined into the Danville Area Community College Hall of Fame. It was hard to know who was more honored.

When Andrew Cotner was living in San Diego, my office phone would ring at unexpected times. “There’s a gentleman here to see you,” the office receptionist would say. Andrew would offer a simple greeting: “I just wanted to stop by and say hi,” the former Centennial athlete said.

In the last month, my wife and I received invitations to two weddings. Jennifer Jones, from Villa Grove, and Maggie Hauser, from Unity, wanted us to share their special day. Since their ceremonies were in different parts of the state, it wasn’t possible to be in two places on the same day.

***
Before Jeff Butler retired as cross-country coach at Monticello, there was one thing as certain as knowing that the Cubs wouldn’t win the World Series the next year. An envelope would arrive in the mail. On separate pieces of paper would be handwritten messages from various varsity runners offering thanks for the coverage the program received.

A letter put me back in touch with former All-Area volleyball setter Shannon Garrelts about five years ago, which was more than 10 years after I’d last seen her excel for Milford. She expressed gratefulness for the recognition that she earned, and she has continued to provide me updates on her life’s journey.

These are my game-winning, buzzer-beating three-pointers, my grand slam in the bottom of the ninth to pull out a one-run victory and my overtime touchdown pass to clinch a playoff triumph.

They are moments that are not planned but are forever pleasing. They are unexpected but never forgotten. They are the nicest kinds of gifts: from the thoughtfulness of the heart.

My career highlights aren’t centered around writing awards or the state champions whose exploits I’ve documented. The true highlights can be summarized in one brief sentence that is obvious after reading these paragraphs: This is it.

Fred Kroner is The News-Gazette’s prep sports coordinator. He writes a high school-related column throughout the school year and turned in this
one with the message, “This is it ... until August.” He can be reached by phone at 217-351-5232, by fax at 217-373-7401 or at fkroner@news-gazette.com. Follow him on Twitter @fredkroner.

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