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Quick Read

Druley: Slowing it down before starting my transition game

Food Club brand cereals rival their big, bad General Mills cousins for magical deliciousness, whether it’s Hokus Pokus against Lucky Charms or Corn, Rice or Wheat Squares versus Corn, Rice or Wheat Chex.

Such truths surface once you buy the groceries instead of your parents, navigating a budget and a real world that suddenly seems less menacing when puffed grains can provide an avenue for leveling with people.

I aspired to a career in journalism from the time I could read the sports section and slurp Wheaties simultaneously. The cereal boxes changed in step with the publications on the table, some of which later included my byline.

This week, as I relinquish the privileged thrill of that sight and my role as Kane County Chronicle sports editor, please know one thing: I sincerely will miss you, the readers, as I begin a new profession away from newspapers.

My first newspaper job came in downstate Lincoln, where Railsplitters’ roundball reigns but football lacks the same community prominence. Lincoln football last qualified for the IHSA playoffs in 1984, which helps paint the picture.

Imagine the intrigue, then, when my first day at the KCC culminated with a Batavia at Geneva football game between two perennially playoff-bound nemeses, including a Vikings team whose lone loss came to East St. Louis in the IHSA Class 7A state title game that fall.

Oh, the ups and downs of Chronicle Country sports I have covered in the seven years and eight months since Oct. 24, 2008. Runs, hits, errors, kills, takedowns, touchdowns, fumbles, dunks, buzzer-beaters, steals, birdies, bogeys, goals, own goals, faults, double faults, personal records, disqualifications, championships.

In other words, agony and ecstasy. Or ecstasy and agony. Balanced coverage always has been the goal in this space.

In that vein, I suppose I should mention Batavia’s 2013 Class 6A football state title for equal time with Geneva. I should write about how the Marching Saints spark any athletic event on St. Charles’ East side, and how St. Charles North’s baseball and softball press boxes might be the best combo in west suburban bat-and-ball sports on spring days ill-suited for covering games from foul territory or the bleachers.

Seeing “DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK ... FEAR THE KNIGHT” always prompts a smile when I enter or exit the Kaneland campus by the softball dugout. And with apologies to weekend high school grill masters everywhere, the best hot dog around can be found at Marmion’s Fichtel Field.

The Cadets’ wrestling program can stake its own claim to supremacy, too.

The Fox Valley’s professional sports scene also enticed me upon applying for the KCC’s then-vacant sports reporter position in 2008. Longtime readers and chatty fans will know I grew up in St. Louis, land of the seamheads. I honestly can say my already fervid baseball passion expanded thanks to the Kane County Cougars.

When you grow up in a Major League city, you might be inclined to think it’s natural for Ozzie Smith to simply backflip out to his shortstop position without appreciating his early career arc. Covering Midwest League ball has fostered a fascination for those who embrace the minor leagues’ enduring challenges, living to “wake and rake” or “rise and grind” until the parent club tells them where to go next.

Sometimes, that destination regrettably can be anywhere but the ballpark.

It’s hard to believe now that I overshot Red Gate Road while taking northbound Randall Road to my second KCC assignment, a home regional final for North boys soccer. My predecessor, Jay Schwab, kindly offered a driving tour of the coverage area way back when, but I eventually found my way.

Here’s hoping our paths intersect, readers, at a Fox Valley festival, restaurant or gymnasium soon. Like Schwab before me, I plan to keep following the Chronicle and its dedication to community journalism.

My wife coaches sophomore girls basketball at Lemont, and although that may seem like a distant locale, a holiday tournament rendezvous with a familiar face from the crowd feels imminent this winter.

I’ll miss those early holiday hoops tipoffs that created occasional morning shifts, the deadline rushes and the thrill of feeling like you truly nailed a big, important story – all the better if you beat the competition.

I’ll miss talking with fans on the way to my seat and the chance, off-field encounters with coaches and athletes. The combined population of the Tri-Cities and the communities which proudly and resoundingly answer “Where is Kaneland?” might trump that of Lincoln, but both areas feature folks who’ll give a warm hello when they spot you at the gym, gas station or grocery store.

I knew little of St. Charles or the Tri-Cities when I interviewed at the Chronicle, and the fact I might be spending a good chunk of my life there led me to do some exploring that day. I still recall driving from the interview at our sister paper in DeKalb and eventually arriving in downtown St. Charles.

Everything screamed “metropolitan” during that first westbound trip over the river. Nothing changed when my car headed back east across Main Street. If the landscape appeared friendly before I landed the job, the people were even more neighborly afterward.

Thank you for your letters, calls, emails, voicemails and face-to-face feedback through the years. It’s tremendous currency for a journalist, and I hope you continue to offer it to my successor, Jason Rossi, and the rest of our diligent staff.

Keep reading and keep in touch. You truly have made my KCC tenure a bowl of cherries, if not Cheerios.

Or Toasted Oats.

Same difference.

Kevin Druley is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or kdruley@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @KevinDruley.

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