GLEN DALE - Walking into the office of a coach who has been at his craft for 20-plus years as a beginner in the sports writing business can be quite unnerving. It's as if he's staring you up and down, trying to get a feel for just who the person is setting across the desk from him.
See, it's about respect and nobody can bestow that upon you. You earn it, or you don't.
That's easier said than done, particularly when your career starts at the age of 21. Those veterans are automatically skeptical of the pimple-faced kid with the earrings and a recording device in his hand.
One of my first (good) memories professionally was the initial time I walked out of the John Marshall football facility after a talk with former John Marshall coach Mike Linsky. I distinctly remember thinking 'hey, that guy liked me!'
It seems incredibly childish even typing that sentence now, but I wasn't much more than a kid in those days and I still needed approval. Looking back, it probably means as much as anything I've done in this business that Linsky accepted me for my reporting skills and found a way to get past my age and appearance. He simply didn't have to do that.
After getting to know the man even better during the years that followed, none of that seems as surprising as it did that day. That's the kind of man Mike Linsky was - no preconceived notions, and no favorites. From the first time you met him until the last time you spoke, he had a way of making you feel as though the two of you had been lifelong friends.
It will be 14 years that I have been writing for a living this in November, with all but two of those spent in this very office. Unfortunately, during that time Linsky was diagnosed with brain cancer before losing his fight in May of 2006.
Growing up in Marshall County with sports dominating my adolescent years, like most, Mike Linsky was someone I looked up to a great deal. I mean, this is the man who spent 23 years walking the John Marshall sideline and brought what is still the school's lone West Virginia Class AAA state football championship home in 1996.
Maybe it was for that reason I took it so hard when, while living and working in North Carolina, I got the call on a Monday afternoon informing me of his death at age 55. Maybe it was because he was the first coach I felt had trust in my skills as a reporter.
In truth, it's probably a combination of both.
The fact is, it wasn't just me that Mike had a profound effect on. He was beloved by many, and as proof you need to look no further than June 16, just more than 6 years since his passing, when the 3rd Annual Linsky Classic begins with a 1 p.m. tee time at Oglebay's Crispin Course. Former players and friends come from near and far to honor his memory.
Linsky's daughter, Mika (Linsky) Ward contacted me a few weeks ago to fill me in on the details of the event and I was pretty impressed with list of sponsorships for the event. Platinum sponsors are: Dr. Daniel J. Tatich, D.D.S, Eric Tucker, Herman Lantz, Mail America, Dr. Shane K. Helms, D.D.S., and Whipkey Heating and Air Conditioning. Gold Sponsors include: Dr. Gary Lewis, D.D.S., Jeff Tucker, Dr. Victor Canestraro, D.D.S, and Wood's Rehab and Fitness. Silver Sponsors are: Advantage Health and Wellness, PLLC, Altmeyer Funeral Home, Inc., Chris Butler, David Allender, David and Cindy Santonas, Doug and Barbara Pettit, Hamstead, Williams and Shook, PLLC, John Marshall Baseball, McLaughlin for Magistrate, Scott Pettit, Stub's (Ron Kittle), Taylor Family Dentistry, Tuck's Boomground and WesBanco.
Mika says she's thankful to each and every one of those folks.
That list tells me a couple things. First, if Mike were still with us, he would have the best teeth and lawyers of anyone I know. Secondly, like me, there are an awful lot of people out there who have some pretty good memories of Mike Linsky.
As you probably know, the Ohio Valley has been, and continues to be a hotbed for the sport of tennis. The Tri-State Tennis Association hopes to add to the allure locally as it has planned a Team Tennis League for this summer.
According to Tri-State Tennis president Tom Keller, the traveling league will play matches throughout the Upper Ohio Valley and the deadline to register is June 1, with action beginning sometime during the middle of that month.
If you would like to be a team captain or just join a team, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact by phone at (304) 564-3053.
For more information, check out the organization's website at www.tristatetennis.org.
Shawn Rine can be reached via e-mail at Rine@theintelligencer.net