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Open Mike: Farewell...Iíve enjoyed it; hope you have, too

Michael Petro (right), sports editor with Metro Group and The Sun News in Hamburg, recently won the Western New York Wrestling Coaches Association media coverage award. Petro will be leaving his position after more than seven years with The Sun in Hamburg.
Iíve repeatedly been describing it as bittersweet, to those that received early word and have asked me about my departing from this position.

Sweet because Iím advancing my journalism career with a well-respected company, and bitter because I enjoy what I do and writing sports so much that it makes this final column as sports editor with The Sun and Metro Group Inc. difficult to write.

Believe me, this wasnít an easy decision, but after seven-plus years as this paperís sports guy, including almost two as the companyís sports editor, Iím moving along to take advantage of another opportunity.

Itís been a heck of a run, and Iíve tried to do everything possible during my time here, to bring to light as many local sports programs, as many teams and as many athletes that I could fit into numerous 50- to 60-hour work weeks spent doing something for which I truly have a passion. Many of those long weeks didnít feel so long, because of what I was doing.

The past year or so has been especially eventful. After covering one of my first state champion teams in Hamburg softball last spring, while finishing the first school year of running 17 sports sections in editions across Western New York, we decided to do a little expanding.

The company opened up a pair of new products, in Orchard Park/East Aurora and West Seneca/Elma, also called The Sun. And now, we begin another new endeavor, with the start of a double section in The Sun in Hamburg, leading off with sports ó I wouldnít have it any other way.

All the while, I tried to keep providing and overseeing the best sports coverage possible in Hamburg and the surrounding areas. We may not have gotten to everything Ė some stories may have slipped through the cracks, but Iím proud as always of what we did accomplish and how far this sports section has continued to come along. I was able to take home WNY awards for football and wrestling coverage this year and for that, Iím honored, as well as thankful.

While most people might like to characterize this is a one-newspaper town, Iíd also make the case that there are many weeklies, like us, and smaller daily papers that are integral parts of each community they serve and help get the word out about the fantastic athletes and teams right in our own backyards. Iím in awe of the talent Iíve been able to watch and thatís helped make the stories easy to write.

Iíll miss not only getting to cover sporting events for a living [I contend thereís no better job out there, salary aside, of course], but also the interactions with some of the hardest working and bigger personalities in high school coaching. There are also many fans, parents and athletes that have been fun to get to know.

When you get beyond some of the coach-speak and politics involved in sports, as in anything else, Iíve enjoyed conversations pertaining to and away from the games. Whether it was an entertaining anecdote, the exuberance of a winning coach, a stern but honest assessment of a game, a well-oiled and prepared thought from a savvy coach, the quirky personalities or simply getting to know a class act, Iíll miss it all. There are too many to name, so I wonít try.

One of the first columns I wrote was about the coaching prowess and rising star of Edenís Marisa Fallacaro, who eventually led Eden to a sectional title in girls basketball and would become athletic director and softball coach, as well. She joined a team of local ADs Iíve had the pleasure of working with, also including Frontierís Rich Gray, Hamburgís Pat Cauley, Lake Shoreís Daryl Besant, St. Francisí Steve Otremba and Immaculataís Andrea Drabik. Theyíve all been easy to get along with, helpful and always looking to promote their programs in a positive manner.

Iíve been able to help get a conversations started with columns such as Eden combining forces with North Collins for football Ė which starts next fall Ė and highlighting teams that donít always get the notoriety they deserve, across WNY. Iím proud that one of my final stories was on the courageous Smythe family and an incredible wrestler Alex Smythe.

A quick note to the coaches, to continue to or start [itís never too late] being an advocate for your teams and programs. You can use your local paper and the media as a resource for your program, rather than view it as a detriment. Itís not easy to realize this Ė they donít teach classes on it or anything when you first become a high school coach. Take a few extra minutes to send in results, team and player highlights and any news to share.

This goes for everyone ó there is nothing wrong with promoting the accomplishments of your players or children. Itís usually how weíre able to find out about many of the items that make it into print.

Thanks to those faithful and even the casual readers that have picked up the paper and taken a look at what Iíve written [even if you thought it was drivel] over seven-plus years. Also, thanks to former The Sun editor Dan Meyer for hiring me, back in 2007, when I was looking for the right opportunity to get back into the industry full time, and to Metro Group, for providing me with the platform to tell your teams and athletes stories.

Until there is another sports guy hired, if you have information to submit, please do so to Editor Jessie Owen at jowen@thesunnews.net, until the end of April, when a new editor steps in. You can always contact Managing Editor Matthew Ondesko at mondesko@metrowny.com. And to message me going forward, email mjpetro516@hotmail.com.

Look for me to continue writing sports in some capacity, around Western New York, maybe right here from time to time in Hamburg, as I explore future freelancing opportunities. How much I will be able to do, Iím not sure yet. This has been a passion of mine for many years and you donít completely abandon something you feel so strongly about.

Follow Michael Petro on Twitter @MPetroWNYSports
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