A year in, having a blast sharing ‘all sorts of stories to tell’

When I walked into the Captain Shreve gym on January 11, I knew I was in a place I hadn’t been in a long, long time. No, it wasn’t the gym itself – I’ve seen more than a few games there in the last few years.

This had nothing to do with a physical location. But I was in a professional place – if that’s what you call it – that felt both very strange and very familiar all at the same time.

It was the Captain Shreve-Byrd boys basketball game and I was there to cover it for the Shreveport-Bossier Journal. I hadn’t covered a high school basketball game in almost 30 years, but I quickly came to realize the truth about how, like riding a bicycle, you never forget.

And I knew I was back in a place that I needed much more than it needed me.

The Journal isn’t my main job – in fact, it’s not even my second job – but I grew up professionally as a sports writer. It was a part-time job for me when I was in high school and a summer internship while I was in college, so there was no doubt where I was headed once I found myself in the real world.

I did that for as long as I could (or as long as I could stand it) and moved on to something else, which I dearly love. But covering events like a Tuesday night high school basketball game never really leaves you. (I know … that sounds borderline pathetic.)

It was an otherwise forgettable game – Shreve won by 33 — and I had to explain to both coaches who I was and what I was doing there. But I knew what I was doing there and that it was about to open all sorts of stories to tell.

Such as …

I saw Jaylin Turner come off the bench, grab a bat and hit a pinch-hit, walk off home run in the 10th inning to send LSUS to the NAIA World Series and complete an improbable week-long comeback for the Pilots. (Following the game, I also didn’t see a celebratory water balloon and took one in the onions that literally knocked me to my knees.)

I wrote about the deaths of two people who never met each other and were about as opposite as you could get. Huntington’s Devin Myers, 18, and former Fair Park legend Jimmy Orton, 85, died within a few hours of each other. Their deaths were not similar but there was a bond they shared – athletics.

I was able to turn on the voice recorder and let eight retired coaches tell story after story about their experiences in high school athletics. It was a series that started by accident and one that I could still be doing because of the profound impact they have had on countless lives.

I got a chance to be at Disch-Falk Stadium, home of Texas Longhorns baseball, and witness a capacity crowd start to get a little nervous as Louisiana Tech wouldn’t go away in one of college baseball’s cathedrals.

I wrote about issues like too many players being named to post-season teams or how high school baseball had become too “nice.” Or stupid stuff, like the two-part series about my amazement of the “EAST/WEST” signs at Lee Hedges Stadium, only to see them removed days later.

I was there when things happened. I saw stuff and wrote about it. I got a chance to interact with players and coaches and let them tell me all about what was going to happen or what had happened.

So that’s what 2022 was for me. The Shreveport-Bossier Journal put me back in the sports writing game. To be able to do it with a group of writers such as the one assembled does nothing but make each edition, each group text message, each staff meeting, each staff lunch a total pleasure.

On January 11, I had a feeling that might happen. 

Contact JJ at johnjamesmarshall@yahoo.com