Goodbye, Pueblo

I’ll never forget the day Pete Strescino called.

I was working at The Mountain Mail in Salida at the time, settling into my sixth month as a professional journalist. I was working on a preview article for FibArk. I was wearing a purple shirt.

My phone rang.

“Nick, it’s Pete Strescino at the Pueblo Chieftain,” he said with his indelible Boston twang. “We have a job for you if you want it. It’s not in sports, but it’s a way in. But you have to let me know by tomorrow.”

Now this may not sound like a big deal to a lot of people, but to me it was the biggest of deals. It was just a general assignment reporter gig, which wasn’t ideal, but like Pete said it was a way in the door. And it was the Pueblo Chieftain.

I grew up reading Judy Hildner, Joe Cervi, Larry Lopez and Jeff Letofsky. As kids, my brother and I would use the Chieftain’s baseball box scores to set our imaginary lineups while playing baseball in the backyard. I knew I wanted to work at the Pueblo Chieftain since I knew I wanted to be a sports writer. I inquired about internships there — twice — and was denied — twice — during college.

Then Pete called. My first 1A story was about uptick in mosquitoes after an especially rainy month. I had a typo in the lede.

Three years, tens of thousands of words, one “Best of Pueblo” and dozens of angry emails and phone calls later, I feel safe in saying I accomplished my dream. I covered CSU-Pueblo’s national championship win one year to the date after receiving my degree from the very same school. I rode an elevator down to the bowels of Mile High with John Elway on my way to interview Peyton Manning. I covered my dad’s first ever state wrestling championship. I built the same baseball page that I would obsess over as a kid. I annoyed players, coaches, SID’s and AD’s with my phone calls and texts — but on the way I made some lifelong friends.

But now the time has come to move on.

I recently accepted a position at Madwire, an exciting and fast-growing digital marketing agency based in Fort Collins. I’ll be working as a content creator, helping small businesses grow and strengthen their brands and relationships through my writing. It gives me a lot of creative freedom, which is an exciting challenge for me. It’s long been another dream of mine to work there, in what I consider to be the finest city in these United States, and it was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up.

But man, I am going to miss Pueblo. I’ve bounced around to a few different places since leaving my beloved hometown of Rocky Ford. I lived in the Bay Area. I had a pit stop in Alamosa. I cut my teeth in little ol’ Salida. But Pueblo is always the place I felt the most at home.

It’s a mid-sized city with a small-town feel. The people of Pueblo work hard. They’re passionate. They’re prideful. They make some of the finest damn food around. And they love their sports, which always made my job a blast.

I’ll miss telling the stories of Pueblo’s kids. They are often the most humble, and often the most overlooked. You don’t want to meet a Pueblo athlete on the mat, the gridiron, court, the soccer pitch or the diamond. I always loved covering these teams come playoff time. That’s when their true grit and passion shone through.

I’ll miss working with the sports staff at the Chieftain, some of Pueblo’s most recognizable icons. I’ll miss our photo staff, who capture every moment with expert poise. I’ll miss our designers, editors and web experts, who made my work look a lot better than it actually was. I’ll miss the thrill of a great game. I’ll miss the pre-game conversations with coaches. I’ll miss the Dutch Clark concession stand. I’ll miss looking up streaks and stats on MaxPreps. I’ll miss listing the ranks and accolades of Pueblo wrestlers.

I’ll miss watching Lainee Jones cut through the water like butter in a humid South pool. I’ll miss watching Luc Andrada zip a 40-yard pass while running to his left on a Dutch Clark Friday. I’ll miss watching JaCobi Jones put on a take down clinic under the spotlight at Massari Arena. Pueblo, there are some incredible athletes here. Support and appreciate them while you can.

Some things I won’t miss: The late hours. The overtime games on deadline. Misspelling someone’s name. Waiting for the LAST box score of the night to finish the agate page. People who can’t even format a proper email telling me how to do my job. The emails about my inaccurate reporting on Smokey Bear‘s birthday (Long story short: I called the fictional fire-preventer Smokey THE Bear, which is apparently a big no-no. You don’t call him Santa THE Claus, after all).

I’ll miss being close to my family. But Fort Collins is where my fiance Monique and I have always wanted to be. It’s where we want to plant our roots. It’s a place where the beer flows like wine.

I have so many people to thank that I would probably break the Medium servers if I tried to fit them all in this post. I have to thank my loving fiance Monique who inspires me to go after what I want. I have to thank my parents, Mike and Teri, my brother Jake and sister Jordyn for all their constant support. All of the coaches and administrators at CSU-Pueblo, D-60 and D-70. I have to thank Pete for that phone call, and Anthony Sandstrom for floating my name out there to begin with. I have to thank Steve Henson for giving me a chance, and Joe Cervi for accepting me on board when he took over the sports department. I have to thank the kids, for allowing me to tell their stories. I have to thank whoever invented Pueblo green chili. I have to thank whoever is reading this right now.

Becoming a sports writer was truly the thrill of a lifetime. I hope to still dabble in it when I get the chance. But I’m ready for a new challenge. I hope you’ll still follow along.

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