Amy Moeller is the Associate Editor for Capitol File Magazine.
Gary Adornato, founder of Varsity Sports Network in Baltimore gave me my first shot. I call it my “big break” because it was in the spring of 2008, I’d just graduated from college, and the job market was so wildly saturated that few new grads were getting jobs–the least of which, in media.
He’d probably received over 100 applicants, and I–lucky enough to get an interview–got lost on my way to the office and arrived 20 minutes late in a nervous panic. I half expected him to walk me right back out the door. He didn’t. We talked for a while, he gave me a take-home writing assignment, and two days later he offered me the position: editorial assistant of the high school sports media company.
I couldn’t imagine a better first work environment. In addition to the Godfather (as we lovingly called him) of mentors, the gig came with a whole team of them–and Gary made sure of it.
High school athletes learn a lot on the sidelines, but I’m sure no one there learned more than I did that first football, soccer, field hockey season. In between plays, in high school parking lots, outside of locker rooms, I learned each of my own teammates’ tricks and tips. How they kept and calculated their stats, how they approached athletes and coaches after a hard loss, how they dealt with issues involving uncooperative players, officials, administration, parents, fans. How they liked to craft and crank out their stories when the real work began at midnight on fall Fridays.
As a high school sports media entity’s general manager, Gary exemplified and emphasized the importance of ethics, integrity, hard work, kindness. As the home of Baltimore’s high school sports coverage, the company wasn’t in the business of negativity. Ejections and suspensions, troubles on and off the field weren’t part of the narrative-unless it was an inspiring comeback story. Traditional news and news outlets were one thing, but he strongly upheld the notion that we could find balance while positively promoting high school sports and student athletes. He refused to believe that journalistic integrity and this commitment to the interscholastic sports community were mutually exclusive. Not everyone liked it, but everyone respected it. That’s the thing about Gary. He leads and works in a way that commands respect. Those lessons–all of the lessons–go far beyond high school sports coverage.
About a year after I joined, the company began to dissolve, and my position went first. For weeks after I was laid off, different members of the team sent emails and notes of encouragement–Gary’s came regularly until I’d found another job. Even then, we stayed in touch and I continued to consult him.
I haven’t talked to Gary in a little while–although I’m sure this opportunity will change that–but I do keep in touch with (/tabs on) everyone, through social media, as you do. Occasionally when I head back to a field (I always laugh at that because it’s not “the field” but rather literally “a field”) for a freelance assignment, I’ll bump into someone from the old crew–many of them ultimately found new homes at other media outlets. It’s always as exciting as it is inspiring–Gary sure knows how to pick ’em. When I announced that I was joining the team here at Capitol File, I thanked Gary again for years ago helping me to get on this path. His response: “You have earned everything on your own. You are talented, hard working, and you treat people right.” Only Gary can sincerely compliment a person while simultaneously driving home his most sage–and that which has followed me for almost a decade–advice: embrace your talent, work hard, and treat people well.