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FROM PRESS ROW: BOB BAKER WAS A TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW (2021-09-02)

“You have big shoes to fill.”

It was a phrase I heard often in the early years after taking over for Bob Baker at The Daily Review.

At first I always thought it was coaches, and parents, talking about the job Bob did covering area teams. And, it was true, he did an amazing job covering area sports. But, that’s not what people were talking about.

What was so hard to try and match, and the shoes that had to be filled, was the love that Bob had for area sports and the true warmth that each person felt when they take to him.

Bob passed away this week, leaving a huge hole in the hearts of many who love NTL sports. For me, he was someone who helped me immensely at my time at the Review, but more than that, he was a friend. That’s something you’ll probably hear a thousand times as Bob was someone who as soon as you started talking to him, he made you feel like he was talking to a lifelong friend.

For nearly 25 years, Bob Baker covered area sports as the Review’s sports editor. When I took over I was a 20 something, on my fourth job since getting out of college. I never imagined I’d be at the Review for nearly 20 years, but Bob knew that there was something special about the NTL.

One of the first times I talked with him he told me I would fall in love with covering that area. And, he was right, as he often was.

When you met Bob, you just felt like he was what you always imagined a sports editor to be. And, for me, he was everything I strived to try and become.

My first day at the paper they told me they were going to start designing the agate page on the computer. Bob had continued to do it the old style, cutting and pasting things out and putting the page together on a light board.

At first I was confused, why would he keep doing the page like that, when the computer would be so much faster? And, yes, there was something old school about the way Bob did things, but he also told me about how much he could really see the information as he pasted it on the page.

That was one of the biggest things that made Bob Baker such a great sports editor. He did such an amazing job covering sports, because he truly was a fan of high school sports.

Years after he had left the paper I’d still get calls from Bob asking about scores, and top performers. He’d still stop in and there would be plenty of discussions about sports.

He never left the paper because he didn’t love sports. He left it because he loved his wife, Tina, and his friends and family and wanted a more normal schedule so he could spend more time with them.

But, the love of sports never left. He started a second act in sports helping to broadcast games on the radio. And, he prepared for each game he broadcast the same way he prepared for each story he wrote. He brought his yellow notepad and it was full of notes. He had details about every team and player written into those note pads.

They were the same notepads that anyone lucky enough to be in fantasy baseball leagues with Bob would see on Draft day. The notepads that meant he spent 10 times longer preparing than you did for the draft.

Starting out at the Review I couldn’t have been more lost in my first weeks. I didn’t know the area, I didn’t know the schools or the coaches. I was trying to learn my way.

I had four people I really leaned on to help me in those early days in Bradford County. There was Bob and Bill Ennis, Ed Boardman and Brent Trowbridge. Ed and Brent were still at the paper at the time, Brent working as the assistant sports editor and Ed was the night editor at the time. Both always provided guidance when it was needed.

As helpful as Ed and Brent always were, I think even they would say they turned to Bob and Bill more than a time or two. The two knew everything about area sports, but more than that, they knew everyone. They could tell you more than just who the star player was, they could tell you about their family, about what kind of people they were.

It was a hard time for area sports two years ago when the league lost a great ambassador like Bill Ennis. And, it’s a sad day now as the league losses another legend.

Bob Baker was like no other when it came to covering sports. He truly loved the sports, and it showed in everything he wrote and everything he did. But, more than that, Bake truly loved the people that he covered. He made everyone feel like a friend, and I honestly believe he thought of everyone as friends.

There will be other writers of high school sports. There will be others who love the games, and others who care. But, there will never be another Bob Baker.

——————

Brian Fees is the former Sports Editor at The Daily Review in Towanda. He is currently the Managing Editor of Southern Tier Sports Report.


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