New sports writer is no stranger to the paper, or the community

To my knowledge, my picture first graced the pages of the Manistee News Advocate when I was around 11 years old.

My grandpa took me and my sister to the park so we could take turns hitting the softball he tirelessly lobbed to us. A reporter stopped and asked if he could take our picture for the paper, and we eagerly agreed.

To my delight, it was my picture that made the cut — made it into the newspaper for all the world to see — and not a picture of my sister. It was a point scored for me in the sibling rivalry that was waged for well over a decade.

I still have the photo today. I put it in my scrapbook just as soon as I finished flaunting it in my sister’s face.

I don’t know the photo’s publication date, or even the name of the gentleman who took it. I’m estimating my age based on my size and the absence of a bowl haircut. My self-centered fingers cut away the date and — apologies to the photographer — the photo credit. All that remains is the only thing that mattered to me at the time: my picture.

In it, I’m clumsily gripping my Louisville Slugger, adorned in a winter coat and yellow sweatpants with white vertical stripes. The photo is black and white, but I remember those pants well. They haunt my dreams to this day. My grandpa is in the background holding the follow-through on what was possibly his 100th pitch thrown that day.

As other bits and pieces of my life found their way into my scrapbook, the novelty of having my picture in the newspaper wore off. Eventually, I lost interest in my scrapbook altogether, tucking it away in a little-used drawer and all but forgetting about it.

One day when I was in my early 20s I decided take a trip down memory lane with a quick flip through my scrapbook. When I happened upon that old photograph I realized something strange had happened to it — aside from the wrinkles, tears, stains and other signs of aging. It was no longer a picture of me.

It was a picture of Grandpa.

It was a picture of the man who taught me how to fish. Who taught me how to shoot a basketball, though he probably wouldn’t want the credit — or blame — for my jump shot. The man who would take my sister and I to the park on a fall afternoon to hit a softball. It was a picture of the man who fostered my love of sports.

When I look at that timeworn picture these days, I get more pleasure from it than I did when it hot off the press. My grandpa died when I was a freshman in college, so I won’t be stepping into the batter’s box to face him any time soon, but I feel lucky to have a memento from that day at the park.

As I step into the role of sports writer for the Manistee News Advocate, I don’t take for granted the possibility that something I write, or a photo I take, could become someone’s cherished keepsake. It could be tacked to a wall, placed in a scrapbook or maybe even framed.

And sure, there’s the possibility something I write could be used to line the bottom of someone’s birdcage, but I try not to think about that.

As athletes throughout the community work hard and push through adversity to find success on the field, I look forward to chronicling their efforts, triumphs and even defeats.

Sometimes a track meet is just a track meet. Sometimes a picture of a kid at the park with his grandpa is just a picture of a kid at the park with his grandpa. But sometimes it ends up being much more than that.

Maybe 30 or 40 years down the line someone will crack open a dusty old scrapbook and find an article of mine. Perhaps it will mean as much to them as that photo of my grandpa means to me, but that’s asking a lot.

If someone ends up turning an article of mine into a newspaper clipping to be held dear for decades, all I can really hope for is that he or she isn’t as heavy-handed with the scissors as I was and doesn’t cut out my name.

Kyle Kotecki is the new Sports Writer for the Manistee News Advocate. Kyle can be reached at 231-398-3110 or via email at kkotecki@pioneergroup.com

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