It’s funny the things you remember.
The first thing I think about was his attitude. Anytime Mike talked about something he was passionate about, or was responding to something you were passionate about, he’d be so damn motivating. You’d be ready to run through the wall and beat the hell out of the day, only it’s 3 a.m. on a Saturday and you’re quite drunk and shouldn’t leave your dorm room just yet. Here’s to tomorrow, though. Here’s to tomorrow.
Mike and I were both part of the sports journalism graduating class at Quinnipiac in 2010 and conversations like that were pretty common with him. Mike was always so interested in what you were doing. The things that you liked. He woke up every morning with such a zeal for life (I stole this from another one of our friends, Jeremy Schilling, because it’s really perfect) that it was infectious. You loved running into Mike randomly. It made your day.
My favorite memory about Mike was our senior year, spending another night at Aunt Chilada’s. Aunchies was the popular Friday night spot when I was in school, and sometimes they’d do penny beer night where between 9-10 beers were a penny. You could only buy one at a time, though, so the hour was really spent wading your way to the bar, getting a beer, finding a table to drink it, then trying to get back as many times as possible.
Mike loved baseball. He had a special place in his heart for it. I was never a big baseball guy, but around Mike it was hard not to be. One of those Friday nights at the bar our senior year he and I found a table together and talked some baseball. I was remarking that I had just gone to a Yankee game and re-found a love I had for baseball box scores. I have always loved keeping score at a baseball game.
Mike’s eyes lit up the way they always did when he spoke about something he loved, and he excitedly told me he had a similar love! He offered to lend me a book he had found about how sportswriters, broadcasters, or even casual fans personalized their box scores. He said he loved to personalize his, and he had even come to finding his favorite little quirk. He’d put an exclamation point next to a recording that he thought was an amazing play. So a 6-4-3 double play would turn into 6-4-3! if it was something special. It was small but something that was his own.
We kept talking and probably missed the second shot at a penny beer because it was always so easy to lose track of time with Mike. When you spoke to him it was as if you were the only two people in the world. He showed me the new business card he had gotten made (it was a baseball field and it was awesome) and had something lined up with the Evansville Otters (a minor league baseball team) for a broadcasting/PR gig. It was a dream for him. I didn’t have anything going on yet — I’d really just started putting out applications to local newspapers for sports writing openings in the area — but he told me that was OK, that when the right thing came I would know it.
Then he killed the rest of his beer, looked up at the ceiling and said: “You know, I really think we’re all going to be like that sports journalism class from Syracuse that all graduated and became famous all over the sports world.” (I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain on that one, joining the corporate world in New York, but a lot of the other guys have done their part and more.) Then he flashed me one of those famous Mike smiles and told me “It’s going to be awesome. We’ll all be connected and friends and we’ll change things.”
He and I were friends at Quinnipiac, and shared some time together on WQAQ (the local radio station at college), hockey games (of course), lacrosse games (thanks to my wife), and as a byproduct of both being part of the sports journalism group at college. After school we didn’t stay in touch daily, but he and I would catch up every few months just to see what was going on. He knew Britt was coaching after she graduated and always wanted to know how they were doing. He kept tabs on me from when this website wasn’t even bringing in a thousand people a day. He used to make me feel really good about things I didn’t think were a big deal.
He jumped from being a Media Relations/Broadcaster for the Evansville otters to being the Director of Media Relations at the University of Evansville. He parlayed that into Assistant Director of Athletic Communications at the University of South Florida.
It was preparing for the upcoming basketball season that kept him at school so late, before he died in a car accident around 1 a.m. on a Florida highway.
When he was with Evansville he coined the phrase “Rock the Planet.” He lived his life that way. Meet the day head on, do the right thing, beat the crap out of it, then go do it again. Be positive. Love someone. Make someone feel good about themselves. It was no shock that he was flying his way up the sports world, leaving a path of love and support everywhere he went.
Looking at the article that announced his untimely death I shook my head a few times and read it again. Whenever I’d see pictures of Mike on social media it was just another one of his success stories. Only this one wasn’t.
I flipped onto Twitter and was almost surprised to see the outpouring of support for him. People from all over the world — some who had only known him a few days — were devastated. That was who Mike was. Anyone he touched was better because of it. I am better because of it. If you never met him just know that you lost out on meeting someone who would have changed you — even if it was just thinking “man, how can I live like that?”
I almost didn’t write anything about this. But you know what, man? You deserve everything that would ever be written about you. You will never be forgotten, I promise you that. You’ve touched too many lives for that to happen. You can probably watch way more baseball now.
Just call this your box score.