Patrick Finley: Reporter's bond with Tucson will live on

2013-08-09T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T12:17:09Z Patrick Finley: Reporter's bond with Tucson will live onPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 09, 2013 12:00 am  • 

For eight years and two months, I've told other people's stories - 2,820 of them.

For my last one here at the Star, I'd like to tell you mine.

I'll start at the end: I'm moving to Chicago. My wife was offered a job at the Chicago Tribune that we couldn't say no to.

It wasn't an easy decision. Tucson is a wonderful place.

We bought our first home here. My dad and brother live in town. We've seen the sun set from Starr Pass and stayed up late dancing to mambo music, pushed together like toothpicks in a box in a sweaty Club Congress. We've marched in the All Souls Procession, dressed like skeletons, and have eaten Sonoran dogs at 2 in the morning on the side of the road. (It's more romantic than it sounds.)

You can't do that anywhere else.

It's why my favorite sporting event here, ever, came in 2006. One day after Mexico's World Baseball Classic team played the Diamondbacks in a sold-out Kino Stadium, it scrimmaged Pima College on a back field across the street.

When I arrived, there were more players than fans. There was no announcer or scoreboard operator.

By the third inning, maybe 100 or so fans had trickled in. With no room to sit - there were two sets of metal bleachers, five rows apiece - people backed their trucks up, mere feet from where almost every great Mexican baseball player, current players and graying coaches, sat on the bench.

Someone started barbecuing. Another pulled out a plastic water bottle full of tequila and told me about a man nicknamed "Pancho Ponches," a hard-throwing reliever who, for some reason, never made it in the States.

When major-leaguer Jorge Cantu homered off Pima pitcher Joey Romo, he signed the ball, "Para Mi Amigo." For my friend.

I've seen Tucson's most notorious sports moments. I heard the thump when Chase Budinger's face was stomped on by Houston's Aubrey Coleman and watched as the Wildcats rallied to win.

I was maybe 6 feet behind Jamelle Horne when he launched a three-point attempt that would have defeated Connecticut in the 2011 Elite Eight. The ball was in the air when Greg Hansen, our marvelous columnist, whispered the words "Final Four" in my ear.

We thought it was going in.

I stood behind Rich Rodriguez's bench in December when the Wildcats scored twice in the final 46 seconds to beat Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl. They were delirious. Someone hugged me, not knowing what else to do.

When the Arizona Wildcats softball team won two national titles, I was there. When the Sidewinders clinched their 2006 title, players dumped a bottle of champagne on my head. I didn't drink a drop but drove home scared to death I'd be pulled over and thrown in jail.

I've seen Lute Olson retire - twice. I've had a Diamondbacks player charge me in the clubhouse, upset at something I'd written, only to be saved by, of all people, Carlos Quentin. (We went to the same high school.)

For my job, I've dressed up like a mascot and served as a ballboy. I've written about a one-eyed horse and "jogglers," those who, inexplicably, juggle while jogging.

There are moments of incredible sadness I'll never forget. I stood in the Safeway parking lot an hour after the Jan. 8 shooting, talking to witnesses, scared and shaking and defiant.

My heart always goes back to Drew Donnellan, the Salpointe student who over-rotated on a gymnastics flip and suffered a spinal cord injury. I stood with Drew in a Denver hospital when he moved his hand to his chest for the first time. It was thrilling - and all I could do to not cry.

Journalism is the best job in the world. We're paid to uncover and to enlighten, to see and to tell.

The co-workers I'm leaving are the best in town, in any medium, at doing just that. I'll miss them dearly.

Especially one.

My twin brother and my best friend is still here. We've been working together for eight years, competing like hell, consoling each other and confusing almost everyone in town. (The week I interviewed here, Andy Lopez saw me on campus and hugged me; I had no idea who he was.)

The night Rodriguez was named the head football coach, Ryan and I ran to the office to write our stories. At 10 p.m., with his story almost done, Ryan's wife called. She was going into labor. (As RichRod says, huddling up is a waste of time.)

Ryan had me clean up his story. By dawn, his son, Luc, was born, and I was the first guest to hold him.

Before noon, I was sitting in McKale Center, bleary-eyed, doing both Ryan's and my own job by covering Rodriguez's press conference.

When I went to ask the first question, Rodriguez cut me off.

"Are you the one whose brother had a baby?" he said.

I said yes, and that mother and baby were fine. The 500 or so fans in the audience clapped.

Back at the hospital, Ryan was watching on television.

I'm thrilled, in an overly caffeinated way, to be staying in the business - one I've loved since I was a teenager - but I'll never find that relationship anywhere else.

I'll stay close to Tucson through him. I hope you'll stay in touch with me.

Keep in touch with Patrick Finley

Though he's taking his talents to Chicago, you can still say goodbye to Patrick Finley on Twitter @patrickfinley or via e-mail at patfinley@gmail.com

Contact reporter Patrick Finley at patfinley@gmail.com. On Twitter @patrickfinley

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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