HSJ Headline News
A kid with the world at his feet
Green Valley News and Sun
July 23, 2011
The sports world is obsessed with potential, particularly when it's tied to youth. When a young phenom crosses a scout's path, that scout can't help but place the highest possible expectations upon the prospect's shoulders.
The Green Valley News was lucky enough to have a prospect like that these last three years.
Andrew Kneeland started working at this newspaper at the ripe old age of 15. At the time, he was a sophomore at Sahuarita High School and came highly recommended as a possible intern.
We've had some strong interns in the past, but nobody quite like Andrew. The job was mainly standard intern fare - photocopies, data entry, that sort of thing. But Andrew quickly proved that he could handle much more.
We'd spend much of his afternoons after school talking sports - enthusiastic conversations that mostly consisted of me making ridiculous jokes and him laughing (not necessarily because I was that funny, but because I was his boss). Soon enough, it became clear that this kid could write.
I turned him loose on a few baseball columns. They were good - so good, in fact, that I had him write one every issue. "The Dugout" has been one of our paper's most popular features. Most readers are stunned to find out that column is written by a teenager. I wouldn't have believed it, either.
He could handle anything we threw at him, so nobody hesitated to pile more work onto his plate.
He turned a 10-hour-per-week internship into a 25-hour-per-week job. He maintained our community calendar. He handled most of our court listings. He kept writing.
Andrew started taking his own photos, and proved to be organized enough to handle consistent beat coverage. Volleyball, wrestling, soccer, softball - you name the sport, he could cover it.
Ask the SHS coaches who dealt with Andrew over these last couple years, and they'll tell you the same thing. He's a better reporter than most seasoned professionals.
And he's still just a kid!
He somehow balanced all of this work with his studies, graduating from high school this past spring near the top of his class. He's a remarkable young man.
Friday was Andrew's last official day with us. He's heading to Minnesota next week to get himself settled before he begins college in the fall. He'll begin his undergraduate studies with more clips and newsroom experience than 90 percent of the nation's best journalism students.
You'll still see his "Dugout" column throughout the end of the baseball season, because he simply loves writing it. I don't know very many writers who share Andrew's relentless passion for baseball. We're lucky.
If people described journalism students the way they described baseball players, Andrew would be considered a five-tool superstar with a Hall-of-Fame ceiling. Journalism scouts would be comparing him to David Halberstam or Bill James. Expectations would be through the roof.
As for Andrew's future, he will continue developing at his own speed. He'll keep writing. He'll keep getting better.
And I'll get to be that scout that tells everyone else that I saw Andrew write before he hit the big time.
Copyright 2011, Green Valley News and Sun. Reprinted with permission