By Scottie Bricker
Emotions flow in moving retirement ceremony
As journalists, we are told to always stay impartial, to keep our noses out of the business of the people and into the gist of the story itself. Emotions are a no-no and as Jimmy Dugan might say, "There's no cheering in sports journalism!"
Those morals were put to the test last weekend as I sat in the press box at Rita Hillenbrand Stadium watching one of the greatest programs in the history of college athletics.
Before I decided to become a sports writer, no one on this campus could top the enthusiasm I had for Arizona athletics, especially for Arizona softball, arguably the hottest ticket in town.
So this past weekend, when the Wildcats honored former pitcher Susie Parra, now an assistant coach at Cal State-Fullerton, and Julie Reitan, a left fielder who passed away last summer from hypoglycemia, I was overcome with emotion, unable to be a journalist and contain the feelings I have been told, in the early stages of my writing career, to suppress.
The games following the ceremonies seemed so very meaningless, insignificant at best.
Most memorable was Saturday's ceremony honoring Reitan, whose success in life can best be determined by the great many lives she touched.
Her trademark smile, consistently worn from ear to ear, lit up Hillenbrand Stadium like a festival of lights.
We remember not what her statistics say in the annals of the Arizona history books, but her spirit and impression that won our hearts with her every word, laugh and fleet-footed, nose-to-the-grindstone play in left field.
Her teammates, moved to tears and missing their friend, teammate and sister in life, hung their heads and gently brushed the streaming emotions from their faces, remembering the way Julie made their lives happier, more fulfilled.
Julie's father, Mark, thanked the Washington players and coaching staff, many of whom attended Julie's memorial service and honored the family with flowers Saturday.
He graciously offered his best to the Arizona players, some of whom played with Julie, others who only knew her as one of the girls, one of the most personable, loving women to set foot on campus.
He also offered his gratitude to his friend and Julie's coach and teacher, Mike Candrea.
Throughout the ceremony, players and coaches on both sides wept while the fans in the bleachers shared their emotions with those on the field.
Outside of the occasional scattered sniffle, a silence fell upon the stadium. Perhaps everyone knew Julie was listening and wanted to make sure she could hear every word.
Near the end, subtle chatter could be heard. It was Julie, thanking one and all for coming together to honor her but all the while wishing the game would start so she could cheer her mates on.
Her anxious, energetic personality would have wanted it that way.
In the press box, against everything taught to me, I stood and sobbed like a baby.
The outcome of the games mattered little; in fact, I had a hard time staying focused enough to keep score.
Washington kept the crowd quiet with a 9-0 blowout of Arizona in the first game, proof the focus of the night belonged not to the continued winning streak of the Wildcats, but to Julie, whose memory will live forever in the hearts and minds of those of us who had the good fortune to be a part of her very fulfilling 21 years.