Posted: 12:32 pm Friday, October 18th, 2013

A farewell and a thank you 

By Jeff Greer

Mosquitoes nipped at Cre’Von LeBlanc’s calves and arms as he told his story in the Belle Glade night. He was a junior defensive back at Glades Central, and he’d watched his father pass away right in front of him eight months earlier. The practice field around us was empty, save for the mosquitoes so large and hungry I’d questioned my decision to move to South Florida to cover high school sports and college recruiting for the Palm Beach Post.

We talked for almost an hour, his practice sweat dried but his eyes wet. Eventually I shook his hand and thanked him for telling his heart-wrenching story. He turned toward the Glades Central High locker room; I walked back toward the parking lot. I sat down in my car, 24 years old and a few months into my new job, and I cried.

That wasn’t the last time I got in my car with a lump in my throat during my three-plus years at the Post. The painful history laid out in Bryan Mealer’s must-read book Muck City tugs at the heart of the reader and struck home with me, a reporter new to the area but familiar with the mighty struggles of so many young high school football players. Countless other stories from Riviera Beach or Delray Beach or Palm Beach Gardens or Greenacres pulled me in.

I am honored that I could tell so many of them, that I could speak to so many people here and find the truth and describe their heartbreak or their happiness or their concern with thousands of readers. I am humbled by my experience here. I wouldn’t want to start my sports writing career any other place, any other way.

Today is my last day at the Palm Beach Post. I’ll write my final words for the Post from Glades Central’s Effie C. Grear Field tonight. At the end of the month, I’ll move north to Louisville, where I’ll cover University of Louisville athletics for the Courier-Journal. I was born in Kentucky. And though my family moved when I was only 8 months old, Kentucky’s in my blood. I am returning home.

Thanks first and foremost to our magnificent readers, who always shared their opinions whether they agreed with me or not. I have always enjoyed our give-and-take, no matter how heated it may have gotten. I hope my work, in print and online, lived up to your standards, which are high for good reason. The fans here deserve the best of the best.

There are a few specific folks I’d like to thank for making my time at the Post great.

First, to sports editor Dave Tepps for hiring me in the first place; to John Bisognano and Mark Bradley for making me a better writer and reporter; to Matt Porter for being a great partner-in-crime; to Brian Biggane, Joe Capozzi, Tom D’Angelo, Dave George, Hal Habib, Rick Ingebritson, Jason Lieser, Jorge Milian, Ethan Skolnick, Greg Stoda and Ben Volin for mentoring me; to Aisha Faquir, Joe Forzano and Jen Podis for helping Matt and me make The Playbook the best high school football video there is; and to Andrew and Sharon Abramson, Gwen Berry, Niels Heimeriks, Andrew Marra, Lawrence Mower, Allison Ross, Libby Volgyes, Fedor Zarkhin and many others for being great newspaper pals. PBGametime readers are in good hands with Anthony Chiang. He will do a magnificent job carrying the mantle.

This particular thank you deserves its own paragraph: To Samantha, who put up with my weird hours and constantly buzzing phone. It will only get worse, my dear. Thank you for being you.

Most of all I want to thank the coaches, players, parents and administrators from the 40-plus high schools we cover. Thank you for answering my questions, even the uncomfortable ones. Thank you for sharing your stories. And most of all, thank you for feeding me. I won’t soon forget the tacos in a bag at Palm Beach Gardens softball games or the barbecue out at the Glades schools.

This has been a challenging journey, full of smiles and tears and everything in between. Thank you for making it so.