09/28/04 — OPINION -- Tobolski's passing leaves us short a writer and a friend

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OPINION -- Tobolski's passing leaves us short a writer and a friend

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on September 28, 2004 1:56 PM

A blessing in disguise.

I had no way of knowing it at the time, but the one hour and thirty minutes I spent with Greg Tobolski during Rosewood's Hurricane Ivan delay in Chocowinity Southside's gymnasium lobby was just that.

Our staff got word on Monday that Tobolski -- a writer for the local News Leader newspaper -- passed away this past weekend. My thoughts immediately went back to that soggy, mid-September evening in Beaufort County.

There was a sense of nervousness around the building. Rumors were spreading that a tornado spotted in Vanceboro was heading that way. Rain was falling in sheets and the wind rattled the flag pole.

None of us could see any radar, nor did we have a radio on hand. We really didn't know how long we would be waiting in that gym, or whether or not we might be making the same trip back tomorrow for a make-up game.

Trying to not worry too much about something I couldn't do anything about, I commenced to do what was natural.

Talk sports with Greg.

We've had some of the same conversations at least three dozen times on various sidelines and gyms in my two years at the News-Argus.

Which area teams looked good and should contend. Who has potential. Who needs to improve.

Amid our conversation, a Rosewood parent approached Greg and politely asked if he got a chance to take a picture of her son last week.

He didn't, but he replied courteously that he should get a chance to take one next week. I always admired the rapport he had with the community. I'm glad I got to witness it at least one more time.

With certainty, you could always trust the conversation between us would switch to national sports soon enough. More specifically -- the Philadelphia Phillies and Eagles -- Greg's two favorite pro teams.

The Phils and my favorite team, Atlanta, play in the National League East, so we knew each other's lineup and common opponents fairly well.

The Braves were really close to wrapping-up the East at the time, but I wasn't in the mood to gloat. I, like most Braves fans are used to winning the division. Maybe a little too used to it sometimes, but that's another story.

My question for Greg was, "What in the world happened to the Phillies and what do you think should be done about manager Larry Bowa?"

Greg proceeded to run down the tough-luck and injury bug that has bitten his beloved club. Before I could counter with a "yeah, but," he quickly responded with praise for Atlanta's ability to play through injuries that plagued them in the early going.

About Bowa? Well, the fiery skipper was one of Greg's favorite players growing up. He admired his tenacity, hustle and never-quit attitude. He wanted to see his favorite team win with one of his childhood heroes at the helm. I understood.

He didn't shift all the blame from Bowa, but believed Philadelphia's pitching coach should shoulder more of the burden. I hadn't thought about that.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to talk with him since the NFL got underway, but I know he was more than pleased with how his Eagles started the season. They were 2-0 going into last weekend and won convincingly over Detroit on Sunday to stay unbeaten.

He wore that Kelly green Eagles jacket with pride in the winter.

I'll miss seeing that coat from a distance and knowing I had someone to hang with during a game. I'm positive that I'm not the only one.

As the shock of hearing the news turns into sadness, I miss him and our conversations already.

Greg, may God bless your soul.