July 14, 2020

The Sporting Insider: ‘A Final Farewell’

At the Student Leadership Awards dinner on Friday, April 26, Webster University President Elizabeth Stroble pulled me aside and began to shake my hand. She told me she’s enjoyed reading my stories these past four years, and one of my pieces in particular struck a chord with her.

The Sporting Insider is a biweekly column by Journal copy chief & layout editor Josh Sellmeyer.

The article was an October 2012 installment of The Sporting Insider, titled “Goodbye, Grandpa.” In that column, I wrote about how John Sellmeyer, who my two brothers and I affectionately called “Papa,” had impacted my life. Papa died in August 2012, and I decided to dedicate my Webster men’s soccer season to him.

Of the 35 Sporting Insider columns I’ve written, “Goodbye, Grandpa” is my favorite. It was one of the most difficult columns to write, but also one of the most rewarding. For President Stroble to go out of her way to tell me she enjoyed the column and was affected by it, well, that will go down as one of the most special moments of my four-year Webster career.

But the truth is, “Goodbye, Grandpa” had very little to do with sports. In fact, a vast majority of my favorite Journal sports stories aren’t really sports stories at all. They’re stories that transcend the topic of sports. They’re stories about two things, the most important two things for journalists, I’ve come to learn — people and moments.

People and moments. It’s what makes sports great, what separates sports from everything else. It’s why I’ve always loved sports and will continue to love sports. People and moments.

People like Shaheen Shabrou, who was once told by doctors he’d never be able to play baseball again due to abnormally high blood pressure. But last season, after a three-year hiatus from the sport, Shabrou proved doubters wrong by pitching for the Webster baseball team.

People like Rachel Franck, a freshman softball player who vowed to play every day for her younger brother, Danny Franck. Danny died in February 2013 of brain/spine cancer. Rachel considered not playing softball for Webster this year because of what her brother was going through, but instead, she dedicated the season to him.

Senior Josh Sellmeyer scored against No. 8-ranked Wheaton College (Ill.) in September 2012, as the men's soccer team tied the Thunder 1-1. Sellmeyer played for both the Webster soccer and tennis teams for four years and wrote about some of his favorite athletic moments in his "Sporting Insider" column. PHOTO BY VICTORIA CASWELL.

People like Cody Bradfisch, who battled through numerous injuries, including a torn lung, to play for the men’s basketball team. Or freshman Clayton Roll, who doesn’t let cystic fibrosis keep him from competing for the men’s track team.

People like Webster super fan Larry Furrer and St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference basketball diehard Scott Kirkpatrick. People like my mom, dad and younger brother, who have consistently taken time out of their hectic schedules to come watch me compete for the Gorloks.

People like soccer player Ally Nikolaus, a Division-I transfer from Ole Miss, and volleyball player Sam Kersting, a D-I transfer from Indiana State University, who have continued the legacies of the great student athletes that have come before them.

People like Tom Hart, Bill Kurich, Chris Bunch and Andrew Belsky, who always find time to do interviews with The Journal’s sports writers, regardless of how busy they are.

People like Agustin Villalba, Diego Alarcon, Wakeel Rahman, Ricky Eaves, Dustin Thode and Francisco Cortez. Not only were they my tennis teammates these past four years; they’ve become some of my best friends.

When great people are involved in great moments, that’s when the magic of sports happens. Moments like Taylor Stoulp’s walk-off single in the 2012 College World Series, which gave the Webster baseball program its first CWS win.

Moments like the women’s basketball players and coaches joining the men’s team on the Grant Gymnasium hardwood in celebration of both teams’ 2011 SLIAC tournament championships.

Moments like men’s soccer coach Marty Todt’s Webster Athletics Hall of Fame induction ceremony, or women’s soccer coach Luigi Scire’s 200th career victory.

Moments like sprinter Jenny Howard breaking track records left and right, Ahmad Smith hitting buzzer-beating jump shots or Pat McCaffrey scoring both goals in the SLIAC tournament championship.

Moments like the men’s soccer, women’s soccer and volleyball players getting to celebrate Triple Crowns together in both 2009 and 2012.

Moments like the feeling of butterflies you get in your stomach before big games. Moments like the euphoria you feel after a rim-rocking dunk, a 30-foot birdie putt, a walk-off home run or a game-winning goal. Moments like the emptiness you feel after a career-ending loss.

People and moments.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet many great people and be a part of several spectacular moments at Webster because of my career as a soccer and tennis player, as well as because of my career as a Journal editor and staff writer. I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.

Thanks for reading this column these past five semesters and for reading my sports stories these past four years. I’ve had a blast writing them and hearing your feedback. I’m sad to see my Journal career come to an end, but I’m excited to see what next year’s writers have in store. I’m sure they’ll tell plenty of stories about great people and great moments.

Yours in Sport,

Josh Sellmeyer

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