A writing foundation built in Mt. Lebanon

If I had to guess, I’d say eighth-grade me would be a bit surprised to hear I’m writing a blog for my hometown magazine.

I didn’t dislike the craft while growing up on Bower Hill Road, Sylvandell Drive and finally Ella Street from 1997 to 2009 within the Lebo borders, but I certainly had a knack for typing up papers as fast as possible so I could get back to watching hockey highlights on the internet.

Over the years, I lost track of the number of times my mother, also a teacher, would read over one of those items, only to say some version of “You’re not going to turn that in, are you?”

Reluctantly, I would skim back through, use the thesaurus a few times and call it a day. Little did I know my first full-time gig after graduating Robert Morris University with a journalism degree would see me tasked with writing multiple pieces daily.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the encouragement I was receiving at home and in the classroom at Jefferson Elementary, the middle school with the same namesake, and finally Mt. Lebanon High School, was cultivating what became a love of finding a way to weave the words together on a page to enlighten readers on innerworkings of my favorite sport.

After growing up a diehard Penguins fan – and interning with them during the fall semester of my senior year at RMU – I moved to Tennessee to switch allegiances and become the team beat writer for the Nashville Predators. My main duty? Writing about hockey every day, multiple times a day – a dream job, to say the least.

Locker room journalism in action

Indeed, those English and writing classes that, at times, could seem like unnecessary chores while growing up, had paid off.

I’m no longer with the Preds after spending eight wonderful seasons with the team, but what a run it was, thanks in part to the foundation built as a teenager back home.

Teachers like Mrs. Hertzog, Mrs. Eckenrode and Ms. Ross at Jefferson Middle School, and then Mr. Minett and Mr. Caputo, among others, at the high school, taught me not only how to formulate thoughts into coherent sentences but also how to give a darn about my work.

I’m grateful to them and the lessons learned in the halls of buildings on Moffett Street and Cochran Road that showed me I wasn’t half bad in this realm – while also realizing I certainly wasn’t about to become a scientist.

They helped inspire me to pursue a line of work that gave me a sense of purpose and passion while being around the sport that I loved – a sport I also realized required far more talent than I possessed to play professionally. If I was to find a career in hockey, it would have to be off the ice. My time in grade school helped me do just that.

Taking my love for hockey to the sidelines (and red carpet)

I look back so fondly on the years spent in Lebo, and although I live in Nashville now with my wife, and my now-retired mom and soon-to-be retired stepdad also not far up the road in the Music City, I realize the older I get, the more I long for the childhood I lived inside “The Bubble.”

My wife and I were back last October to attend the first RMU hockey game in two years, but we made time for dinner uptown at Il Pizzaiolo before taking in a Lebo football game the night before. There was something unique about the nostalgia that came with reliving my four years spent as a part of the Lebo drumline that evening, realizing the beats to all those cadence sets are still rattling around in my brain as the booms and clacks bounced around the stadium.

Indeed, growing up in the municipality came with its adolescent challenges, but the good memories I made there far outweigh the disappointments. I haven’t hit my midlife crisis yet, but when I do, I can’t wait to return and stop into The Saloon to relive the glory days, if only for a night.

So, thank you, Mt. Lebanon.

One of many fond memories in Lebo

Thanks to the town and all the magnificent people I encountered there who helped shape who I am today, gave me the ability to put some of these thoughts together and help me realize just how lucky I was to grow up among the rolling hills.

After being gone for almost a decade, I’ve come to know there’s just something peaceful about driving up Cedar Boulevard during a visit. Perhaps it’s the leisurely, 25 MPH pace that causes one to simply slow down for a moment.

And, yes, I now know it’s wise to finish a first draft, step away and then go back for another proof or three on my own. I hope the edits earn me a passing grade.

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