Call to hall leaves honored writer humbled, grateful
Rockland — The names jump out like a who's who of the Midcoast sporting elite.
Decade after decade of accomplishments.
Iconic coaches, tremendous all-around athletes, unbelievable sports contributors at all levels and even a handful of people who provided the voice — the medium, if you will — between the athletes and fans.
They all have accomplished so much on so many levels in so many sports over the years and, for their impressive work, they are members of the Midcoast Sports Hall of Fame.
And now — please do not pinch me because I might wake up — I am one of them.
I am humbled and grateful to be one of the new members of an organization that shines the light on the high-level sports accomplishments of those from our little piece of the world.
It is utterly amazing that a boy who developed a passion for all things sports on lower Rankin Street in Rockland would, half a century later, be inducted into the Midcoast Sports Hall of Fame in a building situated on the upper part of that same road.
That is unbelievable and pretty darn cool.
This is an honor for which I am truly thankful and one that leaves a lasting smile on my face. It essentially means, all the hard work, dedication, sacrifices, attention to detail and desire to do my best, every day, has paid off with recognition at a high level.
While I certainly enjoyed my share of individual and team athletic success over the years, it has been my ability to tell the stories of generations of area athletes, coaches and teams that has landed me a spot among the greats of the Midcoast great.
And that is pretty darn cool.
There had been 62 worthy people inducted into the Midcoast Sports Hall of Fame during its first nine years and eight more — which will make it an even 70 — will be added for the 10th anniversary of the organization.
And one of them will be me.
And that is pretty darn cool.
The newest members of the hall will be inducted during a ceremony on Saturday night, Oct. 15 at the Elks Club on upper Rankin Street.
It is on the lower half of that street, in the same city where, as a young boy, I developed an unwavering passion for sports. It developed with pickup baseball and basketball games from sun up to sun down. It was nurtured playing one-on-one anything — including tackle football — with my brother, Scott. It blossomed in peewees, Little League, Babe Ruth, peewees, middle school, high school and even college.
There were plenty of baseball, basketball and football championships and all-star appearances for me in many sports along the way, four years of playing Class A baseball for coach Bob Morrill (also a hall-of-famer) at Rockland District High School, summer basketball camps with Bob Brown (and youth basketball with his son, Brett) and even a cherished experience running high school cross country for beloved coach Gary Davis.
The fire to compete and strive to be the best in sports continued into college and adulthood, on the men's softball field and basketball court, on the golf course and in the weight room. It continued through 40 straight years of family tackle football games on Thanksgiving, until, at age 54, I decided tackling sturdy young family men and falling on frozen ground was not as much fun as it used to be.
My passion for sports, and to compete, continued through billiards, ping pong, tennis and so many other activities over the years.
Sports, or competition, in a phrase, has been my life. In essence, they are the very fabric of my being. Sports is who I am and how I will forever being remembered. As one person, years ago, would say when I approached, "Here comes Mr. Sports."
And that is pretty darn cool.
But I am not being inducted into the Midcoast Sports Hall of Fame, based in Waldoboro, because my Ted Save Mor youth basketball or Kiwanis Little League baseball squads won league titles, or the fact that I was a four-year starter for the Tiger baseball team or two-year captain of my college baseball squad or even that I received the most improved golfer award at the Rockland Golf Club when, at age 28, I lowered my handicap from 36 to 18 in my first year playing the sport.
It certainly is not because I coached Little League baseball teams to championships or led baseball all-star teams.
No, I am being inducted because, for 35 years, I have had the honor and privilege of telling the stories — through words, photographs and videos — of generations of Midcoast athletes and teams.
And I must underscore the word privilege. Because that is what it has been for me to be a small part of the lives of so many over the decades. To chronicle their achievements and sometimes disappointments. To share, just a little bit, as an outsider looking in, in their joys and often life-changing accomplishments.
I have covered countless "big" games and "big" moments. In fact, I have, at different points, written about the sports achievements of 90 percent of those in the Midcoast Sports Hall of Fame.
And now I am one of them.
And that is pretty cool.
To now be able to put my name in the same sentence as some of the best athletes who have called the Midcoast home, people who made a difference, people who were pioneers, people who accomplished unbelievable things, leaves me with heartfelt appreciation.
A gold medalist. Professional baseball players. A scout who helped sign Jackie Robinson. Coaches with hundreds of wins and plenty of championships on their resumes.
The members of the Midcoast Hall of Fame are too many to list, but, suffice to say, I will be a member of an organization with the likes of Clyde Sukeforth (the most interesting person I have written about); Bob Hillgrove (the area's most accomplished distance runner); Ricky Jones (the area's most successful amateur golfer); Sam Pendleton, Bob Brown, Jeff Hart, Doug Libby, John Kelly and Art Dyer, all legendary coaches; Raymond Alley (the best high school basketball player I ever covered), Christina Strong D'Appolonia (the best all-around female athlete I ever covered); legendary area athletes Terry Kennistion, Dean Erickson and Scott Johnson, to name a few, and just incredible all-around, salt-of-the-earth people such as Charlie Wootton, Charlie Crockett, Dan Flanagan, Dana Verge and George Gould, to name a few.
And, of course, gold medalist Anna Goodale and professional pitcher Mike MacDonald.
And all of that is pretty cool.
As a youngster, when not playing sports, I watched sports. I listened to sports on the radio. I read about sports. I devoured the pages of The Boston Globe (Ray Fitzgerald was my inspiration) every day and had subscriptions to Sports Illustrated, The Sporting News, Baseball Digest, Basketball Digest and any other sports magazine I could get my hands on.
I once dreamed of being the athlete who appeared in those magazine and then I wanted to be the guy who wrote about the achievements of the best athletes.
I got my second wish, albeit much closer to home.
Sports has allowed me to make an amazing journey, from youth, to adulthood to older age. And the competitive juices still flow and the fire inside still burns. I love the games, the competition, the thrill of victory and even the agony of defeat.
I have told the stories of thousands of Midcoast athletes and generations of people. I have covered countless state championship events and driven thousands of miles around the state (I have visited perhaps 80 percent of the high schools in Maine) chasing stories and, for a time, wore out a path in the asphalt on Route 1 and Route 17 for the countless trips I made to the Bangor Auditorium and Augusta Civic Center. And countless ferry boat rides to the islands to cover events to boot.
My job has never been boring. Time consuming, yes, but never boring. The diversity of the things I have covered would amaze. From canoe racing to bass fishing, from archery to pistol shooting, from bull riding to dodgeball, and, of course, every traditional sport known to man. Variety certainly has been the spice of life — in my business, at least.
If it was a competition on land or water, I have covered it at one time or another.
I always knew a lot about most sports, but now I am an "expert," in many regards, for the sports, leagues and classes I have covered for more than three decades. For the recent sports history of the area.
Hard to believe nearly 35 years have passed since my first story. Hard to believe I started my career on a manual typewriter (I know, what is that?) and once had a newspaper deadline every other day and now everything is instant worldwide information and communication with a click of the button. And the news cycle now is 24-7, if that is even possible. I also have gone from film to digital photography.
In my career, I have written thousands of stories and taken 10s of thousands of photos.
My world, journalism, and mainstream media in general, has changed, evolved — and continues to evolve — and I must evolve with it.
However, more important than all the stories I have written is the opportunity I have had to build relationships with so many wonderful, hard-working, dedicated, interesting people.
And each time we met they had a remarkable, personal story to tell. And they trusted me to tell it.
The things I hang my hat on — and, of course, some may disagree — is that I have tried to be fair, consistent, informative and accurate. And if I have entertained in the process, all the better.
But, as with any who have realized a level of success, I have not accomplished it alone. I have been taught and helped by many over the years and have worked with some of most dedicated and most talented in my business. Their assistance and guidance has been appreciated.
I have had the pleasure to work with dozens of athletic directors, hundreds of coaches and perhaps thousands of athletes over the years, all of whom were gracious, understanding, patient and extremely helpful in shaping who I am and who, in the end, allowed me to do my job to the best of my ability.
I have been supported, and given the work mediums, to forge my long career, to be in a position to earn more than 300 press association awards, thanks to the owners and publishers at Courier Publications and VillageSoup. And for that I am grateful.
It is so much fun to be a sports writer and photographer, but with that means working long hours (events never seem to stop), nights, weekends and holidays.
And all that time away from home has, at points, taken a toll on my personal life. Thus, that is why I have so much gratitude, respect and love for my wife, Sarah, who has spent a lot of lonely nights and weekends without me. She has been understanding and supportive of my career. I could not have done it without her.
Ultimately, I hope I have played a small, positive role in the lives of the people I have come in contact with. The ones who trusted me to tell their stories.
That is an important responsibility, one I have taken seriously.
As long as I continue to do this job — one that I love — I will give every ounce of energy to provide the audience with fair, consistent and accurate information. This career has been my heart and soul and my wish is that I have done it justice.
Hopefully, if all goes as planned, I still have a few more stories to tell.
594-4401, extension 114
Ken Waltz has been member of the media 30 years and has received hundreds of Maine Press Association and New England Press Association awards for his writing, photography and page design. He studied journalism at the University of Maine in Orono. He lives in South Thomaston with his wife, Sarah. The couple has an adult son, Brandon.
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