If you haven’t guessed from that statement, this is my final piece of writing for the East Oregonian (if you don’t count those brief baseball write-ups on Page 2B — busy to the end I guess). I’m leaving the newspaper today, one and a half years plus a day after my first assignment, heading to another gig in Missoula, Mont.
So, effectively, if you’re reading this then I am already gone.
I’d like to call the following segment, “AJ’s favorite things from a brief life as an Eastern Oregonian.”
Thank you, Oregon winter, for being so much like late autumn all winter long. I’m happy to be returning to Montana just far enough along in the year to miss another round of real winter.
Another thanks to Mexican food, which gave me and a few co-workers the chance to make weekly ritualistic treks to have excellent dinners. Also, sorry I never learned all the Spanish that I said I would (lo siento!).
And thank you McKay (creek, reservoir, elementary school, what have you) for expanding my pronunciational horizons. I know now that just because something’s spelled one way — and totally should be pronounced that way — I’m free to say it just how I want (and get sort of indignant about it).
How about a tentative thanks to the Pendleton Round-Up, which taught me I never want to spend five straight days in cowboys boots ever (ever) again in my life. I get it cowboys, you’re tough.
A more sincere thank you to the local watering holes that have given me wonderful settings to build my misadventures around. Bruce Lee would be proud — assuming he prefers a lavish, dark and tasty porter.
But seriously Eastern Oregon, it’s been a short yet fun ride.
A special thanks to Weston-McEwen football and baseball, state champions Pendleton and Heppner softball, NWAACC champion Blue Mountain Community College volleyball and area wrestling teams (especially Hermiston) for affording me multiple business trips across the state and for giving me so much to write about. In (almost) six sports season, I made four separate trips to the west side of the state to cover championships. State title games/matches gave me the chance to see more of Oregon, a state I’d never been to before dropping in for my job interview way back when.
The championship atmosphere is something that needs to be experienced to be understood — the rush of excitement, enhanced by the communal relationship of a team. Thank you for letting me inside that bubble.
And lastly, a deep thank you to the locals of the area, who accepted me as one of their own. Between the occasional accusations regarding on which side of Umatilla County I was born, (almost) all of you were quite pleasant.
From the local sport lifers who shared their sunflower seeds and wisdom with an outsider (sorry I never made it to your barbecues), to the coaches who made my job so much easier (and enjoyable), to the folks I worked and bonded with while getting paid to do something I love, to the many other friends I found along the way, thank you.
You made this Oregon adventure one worth having.
Contact former EO sports reporter AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ajmazzolini. Stay in touch Eastern Oregon!