An Open Letter to The Center for Sports Communication

My story begins where every good story begins: Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

After spending one semester at Stony Brook University, I came to Marist College with the best of all worlds: the insecurity of a transfer student, the fear of a freshman, and the loneliness of a commuter.

That’s right, I’m a pocal.

But I’m not a pocal that still lives at Marist. I pack my lunches. I’ve never been to Lola’s. I’ve never been to River. It took me until junior year to go to Rossi’s, and I hadn’t even heard of the term pocal until senior year (shoutout Meaghan Roche.)

So, I packed up a couple PB&J’s and some Pringles and set off for my first 8 a.m. of the spring 2016 semester. I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived at 7:20 a.m. and received a prime spot in Beck Lot. Those 40 extra minutes gave me the time to stifle my social anxiety that had recently become debilitating as I ironically walked to Public Presentation to begin my studies at Marist.

After class, I strolled up to the ground floor of Lowell Thomas, found a couch, and layed down as I began my seven-hour and 45-minute wait for my next class. As students filed in for their classes, discussing their winter breaks and asking if the other was going out that night, I napped on that couch. Without talking to a single soul, I napped on that couch, as I did between every class throughout the entire semester.

Attending a general interest meeting for the Center for Sports Communication was one of the best decisions of my life.

Come Fall 2016, I received an email from Keith Strudler and the Center for Sports Communication, recruiting new students to join the production of their show on ESPN radio, The Classroom. I repressed my anxiety once more to attend the meeting, and it was one of the best decisions of my life.

Sitting in on that meeting and listening to Dr. Strudler may very well have been the first time I laughed on Marist’s campus. I started to learn really cool skills in broadcast and production. I started to make connections for the first time. I started to finally feel like I belonged.

Then, heartbreak.  

In a span of four months, I lost Grandpa to Alzheimer’s. I lost Nana to pneumonia. And I lost my first friend in the world in a boating accident. I found myself in a place to which I do not care to return.

From neighbors to teammates, Evin always had a smile on his face.

Dr. Strudler then announced his departure from Marist later that summer, and I really didn’t know what would happen to the progress I made. My worst fear was his interim replacement being some guy with a background in soccer and a last name I couldn’t pronounce.

Nonetheless, that’s exactly who we got, and I could not be more damn happy about it.

Leander Schaerlaeckens came on board that fall, and immediately began listening to student feedback and experiences. Before semester’s end, he came to me and Marco Schaden about starting an outlet to cover Marist Athletics — a need that had long gone unfulfilled in years prior. The working name for this project would be called “Center Field.”

Marco and I leaped at the idea, and, with Leander’s help, debuted the project earlier than expected — in Feb. 2018. Since then, we’ve accumulated over 50,000 views from all over the world, and provided dozens of students the ability to publish all kinds of content. I couldn’t be more proud of the progress we’ve made as a department, as students, as writers, and as people.

To the editorial team—Meaghan, Marco, Will, Bono, Oscar, Dan, Chris, Lily, Molly—and to the entire staff, thank you for helping a pocal find a home at Marist. May we forever pronounce Shohei “Sheiho,” and for the love of God, please, somebody avenge my water bottle next semester.

To the prior grads—Drew, Butensky, Kristin, Rudz, Hup—thank you for helping to lay the groundwork for something special for me, for the editors, for the writers, for generations to come. You left your mark on this place and I can’t thank you enough for that. No matter how famous you become, just know a kid from Poughkeepsie is grateful.

To the Marist College Center for Sports Communication—thank you for guiding me blindly through the hardest part of my life.

Author: Matt Rzodkiewicz

Matt is a senior at Marist studying Sports Communication and Public Relations with a minor in Political Science. He co-hosts the Center for Sports Communication’s Bunt & Center and previously covered the Arizona Diamondbacks for Venom Strikes. Matt has additional experience working in communications in the New York State Legislature.

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