Goodbye Verde Valley, thanks for the ride

Mr. J.T. Keith is moving on to a new sports-writing adventure in Wyoming. He will be missed at the Verde Independent/Camp Verde Bugle ... Dan Engler

Mr. J.T. Keith is moving on to a new sports-writing adventure in Wyoming. He will be missed at the Verde Independent/Camp Verde Bugle ... Dan Engler

Verde Valley: Let me start out by saying, is it that time already? I can remember three months ago I started out by saying: Hello. By the time you read this it will be good-bye.

My work here is done. Like a coach with aspirations to make it to the top, they never stay at one place long enough for it to feel like home. I take exception. This has become my home, and you have become my family. I cannot single anyone out without singling out everyone who has been kind enough to read my writing, game summaries and columns.

As a wordsmith, it is hard for me to express the gratitude of how much y’all mean to me and my career. I hope I have done you justice by trying to fill the shoes of “Big Mac” (Greg McAfee), who was gracious enough to show me the ropes for two weeks.

I would like to thank my publisher, Pam Miller, for giving me my first journalism job out of college. I want to thank the best editor I will probably ever work for in Dan Engler. It seemed like yesterday when he interviewed me in the conference room for two hours and kept me waiting three days before he offered me the job. Dan encouraged me to be concise in my writing (which I’m still working on), but more than anything, he let me find my writing voice and encouraged me to take chances in my sports writing. His unspoken belief in me allowed me to walk on a high wire without a net. He gave me confidence in finding my writing voice. Thanks, Dan.

To my colleagues, you are best of the best not only as reporters but as people. I’m sorry that we won’t sweep the awards next year at the annual journalism contests. However, I know that you will more than make up for me. It was great working with you, good luck and thank you for making it such a fun place to come work out; you will be missed.

Finally, to people in the Verde Valley who became like a family to me. I just loved my time here. I loved the athletes and coaches of both Mingus Union and Camp Verde.

Mingus Coach Bob Young may be the best-kept secret in all of coaching with the way he goes about his business and handles the media. Do me a favor and next year open a game up against an inferior opponent with an onside kick.

For Chelsea Chavez, take your time. Success will come, enjoy the climb. I wish you well. To coach Craig Mai, thanks for the hat and congratulations on making it to state. Coach Wolfe, continued success in the cross-country program. To coach Gretchen Wesbrock and the swim team -- what a year! It is only going to get better.

Camp Verde, I will miss the opportunity to see the football team make it to the state playoffs next year. I believe you guys are on the verge of greatness and becoming a perennial state playoff team.

For Coach Britney Armstrong, I sense that you are coaching more than volleyball and when all is said in done: this year will mark the turnaround year in Camp Verde volleyball. Coach “O” – you do have something to work with next year with Dominic Pittman and Claudia Escobedo. I look for both to make a run for the state next season.

I have so many stories to write here, and my editor keeps on me about getting rid of my pictures in my camera, but each picture to me represents a story that I’m working on in my mind. I left on the table the story of Mingus Union cheer coach Brenda Watson, her husband who is serving our country, another Mingus cheerleader whom I just ran out of time with on Senior Spotlight, which I would have done in January: forgive me.

I will miss out on doing the great story of Camp Verde basketball coach Dan Wall and his adoption of two African-American babies, that had me chomping at the bit to write. My title would have been Color blind love.

I will miss watching wrestling for both schools, coach Kirk Waddle (Mingus Union), and Tracy Tudor (Camp Verde) and their staffs, some of the nicest people I have ever met, yet probably the most tenacious. Good luck this season.

It goes without saying I will miss the wit and humor of Camp Verde girls’ basketball coach Mark Showers, and the coolness of Mingus Union boys’ coach Dave Beery, and the soulfulness of Frank Nevarez, preach.

Two different schools, Camp Verde and Mingus, something special is going on with both athletic programs. I salute you and wish you well. I have tried to entertain you with the best writing and social media I could give you. You should know that I gave you everything I had and left nothing on my laptop. I gave you my all Verde Valley. Good luck, and I will miss you Verde Valley.

Let me end this good-bye with the way I started my tenure here: “If you see a brother in the street’s holla.”

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