On August 5, 2014, I walked up to the brick building on Southeast Byers Avenue that houses the East Oregonian and entered through the front double glass doors, feeling nervous and excited to begin my first day of my first post-college job as a sports reporter.
At the end of the night, I walked back to my room at the then-Howard Johnson hotel and sat on the old, lumpy mattress while watching “SportsCenter” on ESPN on an old 32-inch tube television, wondering if I had made a mistake in uprooting my life to rural Oregon. I was more than 2,000 miles away from home with no family, no friends and no fiancée by my side.
But now I know it was not a mistake.
Over the past three years I covered some of the best prep athletes this state has to offer on a regular basis. I had the opportunity to cover three state championship winners, from Heppner’s complete dominance during the 2015 football season, to Hermiston football’s historic win its OSAA Farewell Tour in 2017, to Pendleton continuing its softball dynasty this past spring. And I covered four more championship games with Stanfield’s football and boys basketball team coming up just short in 2016-17, and Pilot Rock softball and baseball making its town proud this past spring.
Sometimes I had to leave my comfort zone — and my comfortable clothes — to cover and attend rodeos for the first time. And though I was not thrilled about dressing up like a cowboy for a week of the Pendleton Round-Up or the Farm-City Pro Rodeo, I’ve actually come to enjoy rodeos — mainly because cowboys and cowgirls are some of the most interesting people you’ll ever meet, filled with some of the best stories you’ll ever hear.
I even was lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend an hour with College Football Hall of Famer, Pro Football Hall of Famer and one of the greatest Dallas Cowboys to ever play, Bob Lilly, which turned into a story that became my favorite of my tenure.
And I was blessed to work with a group of hard-working and award-winning journalists at this outstanding newspaper that has established a dynasty as the best small-town daily paper in this great state of Oregon.
Outside of the job, moving to Oregon allowed me see some of the most beautiful scenery this country has to offer. I’m still in awe of the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood every time I take trips to Portland. Wallowa Lake and the town of Joseph quickly became a favorite of mine, especially in the summertime, when a dip in the cool lake is quite refreshing. I got an up-close look at the giant Mt. Rainier, and a road trip in the summer of 2017 to Bend and Crater Lake taught me a lot about the volcanic history of in the Northwest.
All of those experiences are what made it so hard to decide to leave.
Friday marked my last day at the East Oregonian as I go home to my central Ohio roots. My wife Emily and I received wonderful news earlier this summer that we are expecting our first child on New Year’s Day and we decided that being back near our family and friends for this joyous occasion was the best thing for us. (Free babysitting, right?)
So, on Friday afternoon I walked up to that same brick building on Southeast Byers Avenue for one final time. But at the end of the day this time, I walked three blocks home to an empty apartment, thankful for all the readers who allowed me to do what I loved, thankful to the players and coaches for always answering my questions, and thankful for all the memories that my wife and I leave with.
It was truly the adventure of our lifetime.
You can stay in contact with Eric on Twitter @ByEricSinger, on Facebook or he can be reached by email at email@example.com.