Learning your legends, longing for more

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The first story I ever covered for The East County Californian was a boys water polo game. It was a warm evening in September of 2015 and I had never been as far east as El Capitan High School where the game was being played.

I was born and raised in the South Bay. I took ballet lessons at the civic center in Chula Vista, went to church in Bonita, attended Southwestern College for both of my associate degrees. Whatever lay east of the I-25 was largely uncharted territory for me when the then-editor of The Cal, Albert Fulcher, asked me to help cover sports in East County.

The first story I ever covered for The East County Californian was a boys water polo game. It was a warm evening in September of 2015 and I had never been as far east as El Capitan High School where the game was being played.

I was born and raised in the South Bay. I took ballet lessons at the civic center in Chula Vista, went to church in Bonita, attended Southwestern College for both of my associate degrees. Whatever lay east of the I-25 was largely uncharted territory for me when the then-editor of The Cal, Albert Fulcher, asked me to help cover sports in East County.

At halftime, one of the water polo referees asked for a picture with an elderly gentleman standing next to him.

“This guy is a local legend,” he told me as he stood at attention, grinning next to the older man, his inner hero-worshiping middle schooler visibly thrilled. I took the picture, shook both their hands and continued my coverage of the game.

What I did not realize at the time, but would discover in great depth of detail over the following two and a half years, was that the ‘local legend’ standing quietly beside the pool that evening was my dad’s old high school swim coach, Dick Draz.

Draz appeared now and again as I continued to report on East County high school and community college sports for The Cal. Every time I saw him, I learned a little more about him from people standing nearby, watching him in awe like I was. In a way, I learned a lot about the community that way as well — I learned what values they hold dear, what attributes they cherish, what things they find precious.

If you get to know the local legends, you begin to understand the communities that made them famous to begin with.

Far from East County’s only living legend, Draz is one of my favorites — and not just because he is a real charmer.

I loved discovering East County through the eyes of the people he has touched.

There are many ways to get to know a neighborhood, but I got to know East County through its fields, courts, gyms and pools, and through the families who make those places a hub of activity and purpose — from the youngest fan to the oldest grandparent, smiling through long innings on slow spring afternoons and cheering through the chill of November’s final football games.

I met East County through coaches of character, student athletes with ambition and heart, and parents whose love, support and strength are the backbone of the American family.

I met East County when I met men like Dick Draz who have dedicated their lives to passionately pursuing the cultivation of greatness in other people. And it is with that same passion that I hope to lead this newspaper into the coming years as editor, with the joyful promise of getting to know this community all the more.