International Baseball Challenge champioship game

The Northwest Indian Oilmen's Jake Perreira does a good job of keeping the game in perspective and that has rubbed off on his younger teammates, according to Oilmen manager Adam Enright.

Friends and strangers say it all the time.

"Boy, would I love to have your job."

This is my 49th year of writing sports in Northwest Indiana, so I must be doing something right.

You don't get rich, but you meet some great people along the way and the life experiences are priceless.

Every day is a new adventure, a new challenge.

I was reminded of this during last weekend's International Baseball Challenge at Whiting's Oil City Stadium.

On Saturday, I interviewed East Chicago native and Major League Baseball great Kenny Lofton, whom I covered in high school.

He approached me, stopped, smiled, and to paraphrase, shouted: "My God! You're still doing this after all these years? Wow!"

Lofton is 51.

We relived old times, chatted about a variety of subjects, then posed for a few fan photos.

I then met up with IBC President George Grkinich, a 1988 East Chicago Central grad who played basketball for John Todd, both of whom I had interviewed during that time.

The topper came Sunday night after Team Serbia beat Team North America (NWI Oilmen) in the championship game. As I headed down to the field to interview MVP Conner Tomasic, I congratulated his father, Jerry, whom I had covered when he played sports at Griffith.

Jerry later tweeted: "Pretty cool moment seeing you interviewing my son some 30+ years after you interviewed me after one of my Griffith HS basketball games. You’re one of the region’s best!"

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Yeah, I still love my job, which often required working nights and weekends. Luckily, my wife understood.

People have encouraged me to write a book, but given the state of newspapers today, I doubt there'd be much interest.

After all, what could I possibly say?

That I've sent deadline stories on my laptop from washroom cubicles, outdoor storage sheds and dimly-lit closets; that I covered the Bulls' six NBA titles and Michael Jordan always referred to me as "Gary, Indiana" when I wrote for the other paper; that I've covered three Super Bowls, including XX and XLI with the Bears; that I'm in the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame; that I have a reputation for telling it like it is?

That's just part of my job.

I loved doing unusual first-person features, like when I wrestled "Victor The Bear" at Southlake Mall and got pinned within seconds or when I filled in for Santa Claus one December or when I tried bungee jumping on a dare.

There have been heartbreaking moments as well.

Four of my co-workers at the Gary paper sports — writers Neal Boyer, Mark Brattain, Richard Grey and photographer Dave Bartman — all died within a few years of each other.

We've lost many great coaches and former star athletes and I was often asked to write their story because I had covered them.

Hobart football legend Don Howell — with three state titles, six runner up finishes and a 244-54-2 record — was my favorite prep coach and his sudden death in November of 1999 hit the local media hard.

The same for Roosevelt basketball coach Ron Heflin in March of 2015.

These unexpected events test a writer's skills and their ability to tell a story more than any deadline.

That's what keeps me going.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.