There are jobs in this world the existence of which most of us are utterly unaware.
I used to hold just such a job.
Twenty-five years ago tomorrow, I reported for my first day of work as a part-time sports agate clerk at The News-Herald, the newspaper that would, a few years later, become my full-time employer.
These clerks, which I believe the paper still employs, do the grunt work that sells papers.
In my case, that meant taking dozens of calls every night from statisticians and coaches reporting the results of their recreational, high school and occasionally college athletic events.
More important than the final scores was the opportunity these callers had to give the names of up to three players on each team who did something noteworthy.
In the case of a little league baseball game, that may have been the kid who hit two home runs. For a basketball game, it was usually the guys/girls who scored the most points.
Whatever the reason for giving these amateur athletes their 15 minutes of fame in small agate type (thus the job title), having their names collected in print every day under the Community Scoreboard was a major reason why The News-Herald was one of the largest suburban daily newspapers in Ohio.
Which you can understand. If Little Johnny got his name in the paper, you can be sure Mom and Dad would rush out and buy 5-10 copies as keepsakes. So would Grandma. And the next-door neighbor.
So the work we agate clerks did had some importance from a sales and financial point of view.
Not that I cared much about that. What my 18-year-old self cared about when he walked into that newsroom for the first time on August 22, 1988, was that he was going to get to work at a newspaper. They could have had me sweeping the floors for all it mattered.
I caught the journalism bug early in life. I read The News-Herald front to back almost every day from the age of 14. Then I joined my high school newspaper and absolutely loved it. I could picture myself making a career out of journalism. And if it could be sports journalism, all the better.
Which is why I jumped at the chance when, one afternoon during the sweltering summer of '88, I came across a blurb in the "Area Sports in Brief" section saying that The News-Herald was looking to hire two sports agate clerks.
I needed a job at the time. I was a few weeks away from starting my four-year undergraduate career at John Carroll, and if nothing else I knew the cost of gas from driving to school every day (I was a commuter student) was going to be brutal.
So I applied and, thanks largely to the fact that News-Herald prep sports writer Joe Magill had been one of my high school track coaches and was therefore a nice inside reference, got the job.
I cannot tell you the thrill of typing or writing something, and then turning around 12 hours later and seeing it in print. Even if my name wasn't attached to it. I could point to it and say, "I did that," knowing that nearly 50,000 copies of my work were floating around Northeast Ohio that day.
A few months after starting at The N-H, I was given the chance to cover high school events with a byline, which was a dream come true. Eventually, at the veteran age of 20, a column mug with my photo began running alongside some of my stuff. This was, as far as I was concerned, the pinnacle.
Later, after I graduated from Carroll, the paper offered me a full-time job as a sports writer, which I gratefully accepted. I stayed there for five wonderful years, leaving only because of the demands of my growing young family.
But the experience I picked up at the paper absolutely shaped my future career in marketing and public relations. Taking those little league and high school scores over the phone for hours on end, night after night, was a great resume-builder, believe it or not.
Nowadays I think the clerks at the paper have most of the scores emailed to them, though I can't be sure of that. I choose to believe it's true, though, because otherwise I wouldn't have the credibility to say, "BACK IN MY DAY, WE USED TO TAKE 1,000 SCORES A NIGHT OVER THE PHONE. AND WE TYPED UNTIL OUR FINGERS BLED. AND WE LOVED IT!"
And honestly, we DID love it. God bless the agate clerks of the world.