When the U-haul was packed up and pulled out of town in November 2008, I never imagined to be sitting here again.
But there I was Thursday afternoon, turning off Highway 19 onto Smith Avenue and taking a trip seemingly in a time machine. While more than four years have passed and much has changed, there were enough familiar sights that it was like I had never left. That feeling definitely remained once I arrived back here at the Times-Enterprise office, greeted by my former, and now once again current, editor and publisher at the door.
Hopefully, that familliarity will serve me well as I attempt to get settled and my feet back on the ground here, covering sports in South Georgia. The schools are certainly the same. From what I can tell, most of the coaches are too. Three of the four head football coaches will not be foreign to me with Tom Fallaw still at Cairo, Bill Shaver at Thomas County Central and Shane Boggs returning to Brookwood. Baseball also will be very familiar as Erik McDougald, Chad Parkerson and Ron Best all are still calling the shots at THS, Central and Cairo, respectively. Add in Mike Lee at Thomas University and the diamond is full of similar faces. There have been a few changes in basketball coaches, but Lucy Baker and Isaiah Chance are still at Cairo, Ben Tillman is still at THS and Brad Piazza has even added girls to his duties at Brookwood.
Probably what has changed more than anything is me. While at my core, not much has changed as my world still revolves mostly around sports. However, in the four-plus years spent in Meridian, Miss., there have been a pair of big additions in Lilly and Jack. Suddenly, sports could take a back seat at times. Although, granted, I am doing what I can to make sure they learn the importance of sports at an early age.
Only 3, Lilly has already helped cover press conferences. She is a pro at softball and baseball games — she even got a game ball from the Mississippi Association of Coaches All-Star softball games. She spent a soccer state championship game, practicing the art of taking pictures. Football and basketball practices are nothing new and she even got to watch the defending national champion junior college football team begins its title defense from the press box.
And there are signs that the early, and constant, exposure is paying off. While she routinely plays doctor and teacher, when I asked her a few weeks ago what she planned to be when she grew up, Lilly consistently said no. At least until I asked her if she was going to write about sports. To that, I got a resounding, yes.
And Jack, he is barely even three months old, but he, too, has already been exposed. Prior to leaving Meridian, he got to tag along on national signing day. However, he has yet to say he also plans to follow in my footsteps.
But if he does, and for that matter, if Lilly does as well, I am glad that the next portion of their indoctrination will be spent here in South Georgia, joining me as I take a trip down memory lane.