I spotted someone who looked like they worked for the Carroll County Times, and decided it was now or never.
I recognized the face from the newspaper and greeted him as he tried to get from the water tower parking lot at then-Western Maryland College down to where the Ravens were going through a steamy, summertime practice. I introduced myself and exchanged some pleasantries, then asked if the Times had any openings in the sports department.
I was on track (finally) to graduate from college with a degree in mass communications. The part-time summer security job was fun, but I wanted to put my degree to use and get into the world of journalism after writing for my college’s newspaper for a few years.
Bob Blubaugh, then sports editor, barely had time for me as he was trying to find a good spot along the sideline to watch Jim Harbaugh or Eric Zeier throw passes to Jermaine Lewis or Michael Jackson. Can’t say I blame him.
I recall his words of wisdom: “Sure, OK. Send me some clips.”
That was 23 years ago, the summer of 1998. (For reference, Ted Marchibroda was Ravens head coach, and the team went 6-10 that year.)
I guess my writing samples were received. Or maybe I was the only one available for some part-time assignments over the next several months. But that chance meeting turned into a professional relationship — and a friendly one, after a little while — that has lasted more than two decades.
It seems fitting that he and I bid the Times farewell on the same day. Friday, June 18 marked my last shift after a long, fulfilling run covering sports in Carroll County and sharing those stories with the community.
I got to pitch in with high school sports coverage in the winter of 1999. One of my first such assignments involved trailing the beat reporter to the state wrestling tournament, at WMC, and making sure the Times had results from every match. That meant me making repeated trips into the Gill Center stairwells, where the brackets were plastered on the walls, to write down the results — every result.
I enjoyed it, for some reason. Tracking the progress kept me interested and gave me a better way to follow the tournament’s weight classes into the finals. I had no idea then I’d be covering the state tourney for the next 20-plus years, at three different locations.
It’s still one of my favorite sporting events to witness. And there have been many, many others thank rank right up there, from the rec level all the way to the pros.
Becoming the high school sports reporter in 2000 was exciting. Carroll still only had five high schools (soon to be six), but it felt like 25 to me. So many athletes, coaches, teams, story ideas. I thank Bob for showing me how to handle a beat by myself, then letting me do my own thing with it for years to come.
The job also allowed me to stretch my writing legs outside of preps. Little League and American Legion. McDaniel and Mount St. Mary’s and Maryland. The Ravens and Orioles too. Here and there, I got a chance to see what else was out there besides a Westminster-South Carroll football game.
I was part of our coverage of the Terps’ men’s basketball national championship run in 2002. And a handful of Orioles playoff games in 2012 and 2014. And the Ravens’ Super Bowl 47 win over San Francisco — a minivan trip of some 17 hours each way from Westminster to New Orleans with Bob and Times photographer Dylan Slagle, with stories and adventures better suited for a book than the one we were working on for the paper at the time.
Just one small example of the fun I’ve had in this job for the last two decades.
It wasn’t always rainbows and unicorns. All-county season brought with it high stress levels each time, a battle in my brain between knowing there’s no perfect way to pick those teams, yet still wanting to get it right and give people something to remember. Each day’s work had a deadline, too, and sometimes that meant finishing paragraphs and sentences minutes before the paper had to be on the press.
But there was always a calmness that followed. A sense of accomplishment and reward. Hearing people say they’ve saved clips of your articles from years ago, the paper yellowed over time, is satisfying.
That’s all I’ve ever tried to do, tell your stories. Be the eyes and ears of those who weren’t there. I don’t have room to go through everything, but trust me when I tell you it has been a blast.
From standing alongside sports figures such as Deion Sanders and Dick Vitale in various men’s rooms, to getting cursed out by Orioles first baseman Will Clark for lingering too long in the clubhouse. From sleeping on floors and staying in flea-bitten motels to cover postseason Maryland basketball on the road, to being at Camden Yards for Cal Ripken’s final game.
And getting a chance to follow the athletic careers of so many Carroll County greats. Steve Suter and Marshall Strickland. Katie Schwarzmann and Katie Zaferes (a two-time Olympian now!). Jalen Stanton and Mackenzie DeWees. Joey Thomas and Lizzie Colson.
And coaches, too — Dave Byers and Jim Carnes, Bill Hyson and Courtney Vaughn, John Lowe and Bryan Hamper, Brad Wilson and Rose Pentz.
Of course, that’s nowhere near the entire list of memorable names. And there will be plenty more to come.
I’m grateful to have had my time with them, and to have shared their stories with you.
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Pat Stoetzer was Times sports editor from 2015-2021, and started at the Times in 1999.