COLUMN WIDE RIGHT: No better honor for my friend, Drake Skleba
Last updated 3/4/2021 at 4:38pm
If there is one thing we have learned in the last year is to take nothing for granted — ever.
That has been stuck in my head ever since the 2020 Prep Shootout Basketball All-Star game was cancelled because of COVID-19.
At that game, we were all set to honor freelance reporter Drake Skleba with an Ambassador Award to recognize his dedication to bringing amazing coverage to high school athletics.
We had it all planned — we were going to surprise Drake with the award in between the girls and boys games.
We had Drake’s cousin, Matt Evans shooting the game for us as a freelance photographer (he is the one that shot the photos you see in the paper today) and he was going to let people close to Drake know so they could attend.
The best thing was — Drake had no idea.
It was a great plan until we were hit by the pandemic lockdown and the whole world stopped.
No problem, we figured, we will just pick back up and do it in 2021.
Well, as we see, that is not going to happen.
But, I was not going to let this idea go.
Like I said, I had that mantra in my head of take nothing for granted, and Drake is at the top of that list.
Pre-pandemic, if I had a budget to pay Drake for three stories a week —he would send me double.
When I told him as we were waiting on advertisers to return from the shutdowns and I had no budget — he covered games anyway.
This was something I would bever ask a reporter to do. It is something that, in the beginning, I was very uncomfortable with — but Drake always insisted.
This isn’t just a job for him, it’s a calling.
Drake obviously doesn’t do this for the money, he doesn’t do it because he likes me that much, he does it for the kids.
Drake does this to get student-athletes, coaches and programs the coverage they deserve, and I will never take that for granted.
Drake is an ambassador for high school athletics and he deserves that credit just as much as the players, coaches and programs he writes about.
So, Drake is the first recipient of the Enterprise Publications Athletic Ambassador Award — which going forward will be named in his honor.
We will award it annually to anyone that goes the extra mile to champion the high school student-athletes the way Drake has.
I originally met Drake at a soccer game, the first one he ever covered if my memory serves me right.
We were expanding our freelancer staff and we talked about him doing some work for us. I had never met Drake, but his reputation was well known.
I knew he was a thorough reporter that wrote with passion and enthusiasm for the game he was covering.
After a few conversations, Drake came to do work for us and I learned that that excitement he had at the games spilled over into his writing —so much so, that I often have to edit out triple exclamation points after an action-packed sentence.
I don’t mind that at all.
And I will never tell Drake not to put those in his story.
See, I have to edit them out to comply with newspaper AP style of writing, but the last thing I ever want to do is edit Drake as a person.
What he lacks in a formal education for newspaper style, he more than makes up for in passion, and it is that passion that makes him great.
Over the years of working together, Drake and I have become friends.
It is honestly really hard not to.
We both share a love of high school sports, a love for the relationships we build with coaches and players and a love of watching those coaches and players rise through the college and professional ranks after graduation.
Drake and I can start to chat about old games, teams and athletes we covered, and after what seems like minutes hours have flown by.
So, it is with privilege that I can honor my friend with this award, that I hope lives well beyond both our life spans. He is truly an ambassador, a reporter and a friend that deserves this as much as anyone.
Thank you, Drake for all you have done to help put the spotlight away from the negativity and place it on these athletes who play for the love of the game.