In the winter of 2014, my life changed forever. My mother had passed away in January and I was left at a crossroads. Three weeks later I had heard of a possible career opportunity at The Oakdale Leader as a sports journalist. I had gone to school for journalism and figured this was a sign from my mom. I applied and attended an Oakdale High School Mustangs boys basketball game. My goal that night was to take notes and turn in some photos for my upcoming interview with The Leader. Little did I know, the editor, Marg Jackson would be in attendance. We spoke that night and I was later hired on. The rest, as they say, is history.
Fast forward to 2021, I am writing this with column with mixed emotions. To get to the point, I am resigning as sports journalist. This decision was not an easy one, and even as I write this it is still difficult. I am stepping away because I have a new career opportunity, as well as a young family and need to provide for them and our future.
My time at The Leader has led to so many relationships on a personal and professional level. I honestly could not have asked to work with a better group of people than what I have been blessed to work with at The Leader. Marg has been a true friend to me. She took that chance on me in 2014 and I am very grateful that she did. She has taught me so much and kept me improving on a daily basis. When I broke my leg in 2019, she rushed to my side on the field. I mean, truly rushed. She was there before the paramedics arrived. I will forever be grateful for that. She always went to bat for me.
Michelle was the first person I met at the office. She had her punk rock hoodie on and was listening to The Beatles. That is the Michelle I will always remember. Corey and Mel have been fantastic to me and my family over the years and it is most appreciated. Teresa has been a family friend for years and working with her has been wonderful. She gets a large assist in helping me land the job with The Leader. Her courageous battle with cancer was very inspirational and taught me to stay optimistic in life.
Virginia Still has been my work neighbor for nearly a decade and from day one, she was there to help with so many assignments and laughter along the way. We built a bond that started out as co-workers and blossomed into a friendship. She and her husband visited me while I was in the hospital and I will never forget that.
To the community that I have served over the years, a heartfelt thank you. Working in Oakdale and at Oakdale High School has been a true pleasure. The staff at Oakdale High School has been very generous and welcoming. Pete Simoncini was the first person I got to know there. At that basketball game I spoke about earlier, I introduced myself to him at the announcer’s desk and he welcomed me with open arms and gave me rosters and stats for the game as well. He has been a mentor and friend. I honestly do not think I would have lasted as long as I have here without his guidance. So many coaches to thank and I do not want to leave anyone out but just know that all of you have become an important part of my life.
The families and student-athletes that I have had the honor to cover have been the best part of my journey. From the Trent, Valero, Hackbarth, Olsen, Long, Bacigalupi, Bairos, Kettering, Holt, Sapwell, Bradford, Colunga, Rodin, Waltman, Antinetti, Jablonski, Andersen, Gonzalez, Martinez, Dutra, Osmundson, Vieira, Kupper, Oliver, Jones, Theofanopoulos, Vandagriff, Rien, Vargas, Allen, Cogburn and so many more. So many of you contributed to my family when I broke my leg and have helped out my family, checked in on my when I was out. I will never forget that.
In closing, I just want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart. It has been a great chapter in my life.
Dennis D. Cruz is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.