Meridian Star


January 22, 2014

TSOUKALAS: Goodbye, I’ll miss everyone

Yesterday afternoon, it hit me.

    I was ordering my favorite french toast latte from The Daily Grind when I mumbled out that this would be my last week in Meridian. Till then, I didn’t realize how hard it is going to be to leave this city and all the great people who make it what it is.

    Tuesday will be my last day as sports editor of The Meridian Star. I am excited to say I am heading down the road to work for The Tuscaloosa News, where I will finally get the chance to work in the same city as my fiancé — the opportunity was just too good to pass up.

    It’s funny, if it wasn’t for the friendliness of this community, I would have never had the opportunity to work in Meridian.

    I came to The Star fresh out of college at the University of Alabama. I had no job and was scared to death about the possibility of having to move too far away from my girlfriend.

    While at church in Livingston, Ala., I mentioned my predicament only to have a fellow member, Wayne Waldrep, show me an ad in The Star looking for a new sports reporter. Three weeks later I was hired.

    Wayne probably had no idea how much that tip would change my life, but thank God he sent it my way.

    Without him, I wouldn’t have been able to cover Russell Christian Academy’s first state championship in 2012 or Lamar’s magical run this past season. I’d have missed out on the state’s best softball.

    I wouldn’t even know who Joe Miller is much less get a chance to watch him coach the Southeast Lauderdale girls to a fifth state championship last season. There would have been no trip to Biloxi to watch the East Mississippi Community College football team take home the first football championship held on Mississippi soil.

     If not for Wayne, I’d have missed out on it all.

    However, it was the people here who really made my time as special as it was.

    I can’t imagine never having the chance to meet Jim Farmer who told me the almost unbelievable feats of former Meridian High School great Oliver Buntin. Jim and I are now friends and still share stories over lunch at Wiedmann’s.

    I’ve never known an easier coach to work with than Russell Christian Academy football coach Nate Ballard. I’ve never met someone who cared about winning quite as much West Lauderdale baseball coach Jerry Boatner. There isn’t a funnier and more down-to-earth coach than EMCC football coach Buddy Stephens.

    Of course, I’ll never forget the people who have devoted so much time and effort to help during my time here.

    I could not have been blessed with a better first boss than former sports editor Jamie Wachter. Jamie still chips in to help The Star to this day. I won’t soon forget the help I received from copy desk editors Helen Reynolds, Chris Stewart and Josh Taylor.

    They have all saved my butt on deadline more times than I can count. I guess I’ll need to find someone in Tuscaloosa to eat Pop-Tarts with during deadline, because I’m sad to say I can’t bring friend and co-worker Clay Hamilton with me. I’m proud to say I had the opportunity to work with the best photographer in the state in Paula Merritt. I also can’t forget about executive editor Michael Stewart who not only helped me become a better sports editor but has also been there to have my back through every struggle.

    I wrote a whole column on how important guest writer Laura Hyche is to me, but a special thanks goes out to her for covering for me while I asked my future parent-in-laws permission to marry their daughter. Every one of you have made a difference in my life, and for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart. 

    I have to go now, but Meridian will always be a special place for me. The Meridian Star is hard at work searching for a new sports editor. If y’all are half as great to them as you were to me, they will be one lucky person.

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