Tap, tap, tap. Is this thing on?

Never hurts to check. It still amazes me that someone is willing to pay me to watch sports and then write about them. If it weren’t for the fact that thousands of other men and women work the same racket, I’d always be looking over my shoulder.

So, now I have a new home. It’s a place I sensed a long time ago I would like to call home. I have admired the pages of the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel from not-so afar for more than two decades. Now, I have been asked to add my byline, and I couldn’t be more excited.

First, though, it should be noted that you wouldn’t be seeing this byline if not for the retirement of Gary Hawkins. Hawk, as he was affectionately called, filled these pages with insight, integrity and humor for 38 years, and it was a true pleasure to work alongside him at countless events for the last 15 years. It is an honor to sit at his desk as I type this, and I can only aspire to serve the readers as well as he did for so long.

To that end, it doesn’t hurt that Hawk left behind a sports department that holds itself to the highest standard. One does not let an opportunity to be a part of that excellence and work for Bill Stewart slip by too often. As if appearing on the same newsprint with Matt DiFilippo and Travis Lazarczyk wouldn’t be enough.

It’s wonderful to be able to finally call those men colleagues, renew acquaintances with other section stalwarts such as Dave Dyer, and start getting to know everyone else who makes this section tick. But they’re only part of the reason I’m here.

The biggest reason I’m here is you, the reader. I am at your service, for however long as I am fortunate enough to have that honor.

I don’t take that statement lightly. I couldn’t possibly take it lightly, given how much time I’ve spent on your fields, pitches and diamonds, as well as inside your gyms and rinks.

One of the reasons I sought out this job after more than two decades at the Sun Journal in Lewiston was because I believe the passion that still burns for high school sports in central Maine is unequaled in the state. I’m eager to experience it as a diehard high school sports fan in central Maine, not just as a frequent visitor to these parts who too often felt like he was leaving something behind whenever he had to drive south on Interstate 95.

So, selfishly, I’m also here so I can spend more fall Friday nights in Fairfield and Gardiner and more Saturday afternoons in Wales and Waterville. Maybe I can return to the Ricky Gibson Field of Dreams, to watch the defending state soccer champions play and pay tribute to the caring and courageous soul who made the field possible.

I’m here so I can walk out the KJ office doors in February and practically hear the roar of the crowd at the Augusta Civic Center, a place that I have long held is Maine’s quintessential high school tournament venue, even when the Bangor Auditorium was the apple of everyone’s eye.

I’m here to marvel at Skowhegan field hockey and the juggernaut it has been since I even wrote my first box score, and chronicle the next great dynasty, wherever it may play.

I’m here to trudge through the mud at University of Maine at Augusta in October and talk to the most dedicated and articulate, yet least heralded, high school athletes — cross country runners. I hope I still get the chance to sit in the grandstand at Hippach Field and watch lefthanded batters aim in vain for the short porch in right.

Besides writing about history as it unfolds, I’m here to learn more about central Maine’s rich sports heritage and hear the stories from the people who made the history that laid the foundation for its passion.

As long as the people at these great newspapers give me the forum and as long as you, the reader, welcome me, it will be my pleasure to bring you along. It will be a whole lot of fun for both of us.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

rwhitehouse@centralmaine.com

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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