We have a front-row seat to some of the greatest sporting events our area has to offer. We are privileged to meet — and get to know — great athletes, coaches and administrators who pour their hearts and souls into their work with a passion rarely seen at a level beyond college.

And we are given this front-row seat in return for having the God-given ability of chronicling these events, places and people with words, pictures and video with quality, speed and precision.

We’ve schlepped our notebooks and pens and laptops and tablets to thousands of practices, games, matches, meets and events. We don our light shirts and shorts in the summer, our ski parkas in the winter, our rain slickers in the spring and our knit sweaters in the fall.

And we do this, for the most part, because there is a sense of pride somewhere in all of us. We are not in this game for the financial windfall. We are not here because we have nothing better to do, and we are certainly not here for praise or misplaced adoration.

Over the years, our smaller-than-most, sports-department-that-could has endured plenty of arrivals and departures — mostly the latter. For the most part, the majority of these comings and goings have been behind the scenes. Since 2002, our core group of writers has remained the same — Kalle, Randy, Kevin, Tony and I produced the majority of the stories reprinted here and online — better than 95 percent of all of our local copy in a 12-plus-year stretch. Before that, those same reporters without me were together — with others — for seven more years.

With little fanfare (because that’s how he rolls), good friend and longtime colleague Randy Whitehouse worked his last shift for us two weeks ago. He has moved on to ply his trade for another publication. The only reason anyone in our area would have any reason to be upset with the move is one borne of selfishness — we like him and didn’t want to see him go.

With one door closing, another opened. After years of losing without gaining, our department will, in fact, fill its vacant roster position. We will have a new “core” reporter on staff for the first time in 12 seasons.

Michael Kraft is cut from the same cloth. A native of western New York, he has cut his teeth as a reporter in North Dakota. The next leg of his journey brings him to central and western Maine, and to the Sun Journal. He will bring a fresh set of eyes to the region, and a fresh set of thoughts to the department. You will begin to see his work before the end of September.

Meanwhile, I have something to ask our readers, as well. Yes, you.

As with any department, particularly a department with so little turnover, it’s easy to get caught in a pattern of static productivity, to maintain the status quo.

So what can we change (within reason) to make your experience as a reader better?

We ran this exercise in a recent staff meeting, and the results were amazing. (You will see some of the changes roll out slowly over the next few weeks and months).

Ultimately, what we do as a labor of love directly reflects our readers’ interests. At least it should.

Please send any thoughts or suggestions my way via e-mail at [email protected]

To all of our readers, thank you for helping us continue a long-standing tradition of excellence in sports journalism.

And, of course, we’ll all see you on a sideline near you soon!

Justin Pelletier is the Sun Journal’s sports editor. He is a Lewiston native and has been a member of the Sun Journal team full time since 2002. Follow him on Twitter at @JPell915.

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