HAMMOND | It wasn't like he had never been here before.
In fact, the Hammond Sports Hall of Fame annual induction dinner was one of his annual assignments.
"I covered around 12 of these," said Kerry Mitchell, who, as local sport journalist spanning 23 years, was a regular contributor for two local daily newspapers — mainly The Times of Northwest Indiana — as well as for Region Sports magazine and website.
"But I've got to admit, I feel a little weird for this one."
Mitchell, 63, of Hammond, was among the seven-strong 2014 class enshrined at the Hammond Civic Center on Tuesday.
Others inductees into the sports hall of fame included The late Milan "Meech" Metikosh, a consummate team basketball player for Hammond High ( Class of 1947) and the University of San Francisco under the legendary coach Pete Newell. He was inducted posthumously.
Others included Spencer M. Greer, who coached football and and basketball for 31 years at Spohn Middle School; Thomas L. Kujawa, a former Whiting and Indiana State athlete, who coached in Hammond from 1969 to 2012, including Gavit's baseball team that won two sectional titles and one regional title under his tutelage; Pat Montalbano, who served Clark High School and Middle School for 36 years as a multi-sport coach and athletic director; Paul Patterson, a 1960 Morton graduate, who compiled a 734-375 record as head basketball coach at Taylor University where he as named NAIA Coach of the Year in 1991; and 1988 Bishop Noll graduate Michael Strabavy, who was a two-time state long-jump finalist and ran on the Warriors' state champion relay team before earning five varsity letters in track and baseball at Indiana State University.
Also recognized were Hammond High's 1939 state championship track and field team (75th anniversary), Hammond's 1954 state championship swim team (60th anniversary), Bishop Noll's 1984 state championship swim team (30th anniversary), Noll's 1989 state championship football team (25th anniversary), and Noll's 2004 state championship baseball team (10th anniversary).
Cierra Charbonneau (Morton), Daniel Pobereyko (Bishop Noll) and Joe Jackson (Hammond), all 2013 graduates, were honored during the beginning of the programs as recipients of the Anderson-Peterson Family Distinguished Athlete Award.
"When I found out (in early February), you could have knocked me over with a feather," Mitchell said. "I had heard that I had been nominated, but I knew it was rare to be inducted on the first ballot."
The Civic Center was familiar stomping grounds for Mitchell.
"I have so many memories from this place," said Mitchell, who often covered pro boxing at the Civic Center.
"The Angel Manfredy-Courtney Burton fight is one that stands out," Mitchell said of Burton's 2003 stunning upset of Manfredy. "ESPN was here ... it was just an electric atmosphere."
Mitchell was forced to retire from journalism seven years ago due to neuropathy in his legs.
"I miss it very much ... especially walking the sidelines on Friday nights for football games," Mitchell said. "I still write, but mainly just for myself.
"I do a little poetry. I'm no T.S. Elliot, but I can come up with a rhyme or two."