It’s been a good run, but the time has come. After 12-plus years, I’ve decided it’s time that this section needs a fresh perspective, so I’m leaving Wednesday Journal. It’s been a great dozen years, with many highlights, too many to fill this column but I’ll try to squeeze in a few:    

Kristin Heidloff’s three-pointer at the buzzer at Marshall. I nearly jumped on the celebratory pile myself. Good thing I didn’t, probably would have thwarted her college career at Georgetown.

Mike Brennan’s slap-blooper to right field to win the state championship for the OPRF baseball team in Joliet last season. There were also those state baseball games in Geneva in the early 2000s — took my wife to one on our first wedding anniversary, and, I think, she was delighted. She’s still my wife.

The Fenwick girls basketball state title runs. Those trips down to Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena were special not only because I’m a former Redbird, but the Friars were (and still are) exciting to watch.

OPRF football’s overtime game against Hinsdale Central that ended with the Red Devils quarterback intentionally fumbling the ball into the end zone where his teammate fell on it to win the game. That’s right, it was intentional. No doubt about it. That was a marathon of a game on a day where the weather gave samples of all four seasons.

For a story once, I worked out with Fenwick graduate and River Forest native Tricia Liston, who now stars for the Duke women’s basketball team. I still ache in some places because of that workout.  

Some of the unusual events that have taken place during my time have included a triple play that ended a game on a sour note for the Fenwick baseball team. (Dave Hogan’s hair became a little grayer after that). Or Mel Kolbusz’s player interference call at third base (a call that had never been made in all of his coaching years). Or how OPRF baseball coach Chris Ledbetter tried desperately to save an umpire who suffered a fatal heart attack during an away game. (A couple of years later, Ledbetter did save another man who suffered a heart attack in a restaurant in Elmhurst. His number resides in the Favorites category of my iPhone. You never know when you’re going to need a Ledbetter.)

This job has also had its perks. Who else can say they hung out with Meat Loaf in the Cubs dugout before a game, or that Greg Maddux stood next to them while watching a game on a flatscreen in the Cubs clubhouse? Because of this job (and Oak Parker Stephen Green, God love him), I shook Ron Santo’s hand in the radio booth at Wrigley while Ron Santo was on the air!

Who else can say they watched a food fight unfold between Mike Bibby and Jared Jeffries in the Knicks locker room at the United Center? Okay, I also saw Amar’e Stoudemire in his underwear that same night, but that’s an image I’d like to erase from my brain.

One non-sports assignment had me hanging out with Bruce Springsteen’s drummer, Max Weinberg, in a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home in Oak Park one evening.  

It’s been both a blast and a challenge covering local sports in the area. I was a young 28 when I started, newly married, no kids (have four now). I’m excited about the future of the section. I leave not angry or sad. I’m not happy to be leaving either. I’m just leaving. The time has come.  


Twitter: @oakparksports

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Brad Spencer

Brad Spencer has been covering sports in and around Oak Park for more than a decade, which means the young athletes he once covered in high school are now out of college and at home living with their parents...

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