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Always tough to say goodbye

July 14, 2002|by MARK KELLER

In my three years as sports editor of The Herald-Mail, I've been very lucky to have had the same four guys - Bob Parasiliti, Dan Spears, Al Ditzel and Dan Kauffman - on my staff.

The familiarity that is gained by working week after week with the same group of people is invaluable. Each knows the others' strengths and weaknesses, and each knows what they must do to help make the others better.

Like Major League Baseball in the last 25 years, it's a rarity when a good team stays together for a very long time. Sooner or later, the star players test the free agent market, get better offers from other teams and they eventually move on.

Much like baseball, the same has happened on our staff. Dan Spears, our chief high school reporter, has accepted a position as assistant sports editor in Augusta, Ga. Saturday was his last day of work at The Herald-Mail.

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Now, as much as I would have liked to throw enough money his way to keep him here (I considered spending hundreds in Mega Millions tickets), I know for sure that Dan is making the right career move.

After all, you can only tick off Orioles and Terrapins fans so many times before the schtick just gets old.

But seriously ... Dan will be sorely missed, both here at The Herald and within the local sports community.

Dan came to us four years ago from Anderson, S.C., a complete stranger to the Tri-State area. He leaves knowing the sports scene here as well as, if not better than, any of us.

He's gotten numerous phone calls and e-mails in the last 10 days from current and former coaches who just wanted to say goodbye, good luck and thank you ... for the way you've treated me and my program.

He's received enough handshakes, pats on the back and hugs from co-workers to last him at least half a lifetime.

Sports just isn't about the games. It's also about relationships and it's about people.

I learned that from Dan ... and he probably doesn't even know it.

His goal in coming to The Herald-Mail was to develop his writing skills. When I became editor, I thought the best way for him to do that was to put him on the high school beat.

Nine months out of the year, he would be writing nearly every day. There would be no better way for him to develop. And he did develop into an excellent sportswriter.

But there's more to the high school beat than just writing. There's compiling statistics and team records. There's selecting All-Area teams. And there's phone calls.

Lots and lots of phone calls.

Dan thrived in the position and, as his writing improved, his biggest strength - page design - never suffered.

If you ever picked up our sports section over the last four years and said, "That's a good-looking page," chances are Dan designed it.

He's won awards for his designs and for his writing. And while we will miss those things on a professional level, we'll certainly miss him on a personal level as well.

Because more than colleagues and co-workers, Dan made it easy for the five us to be friends, too. His sharp wit and sense of humor helped him fit in perfectly when he arrived here.

I find it hilarious now that Ron Somers, who preceded me as editor and hired Dan, warned us that Dan was "kind of quiet." Yeah, right.

While Dan's sometimes-brutal honesty got him into hot water with readers occasionally, I respected the fact that he had the guts to say what he felt, regardless of what the reaction might be.

I'm just thankful he was never brutally honest about my golf swing.

From the entire sports staff at The Herald-Mail, the best of luck to you, Dan. It's been our pleasure.

Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. His column appears every Sunday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131 ext. 2332 or keller@herald-mail.com

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