By Nolan Ruth
The Community News
Writer’s Note: Ever since early December you have been seeing my name on the byline for this sports section, but for the most part I have been behind the scenes. I have been fortunate enough thus far to get to know a great number of you, mainly from the baseball and softball seasons. With that in mind, as I prepare to take on a bigger role and cover more sports for Aledo, I thought it would be best to tell my story and introduce myself. This one is for Tony.
As I look back on what transpired to allow me to have what is (for lack of a better term) my dream job, I realize how blessed I have been in just 22 years of life to allow me to be in this position. Being raised in Aledo, I have seen everything this town has to offer. I remember early mornings at Vandagriff Elementary. I remember waking up early on Saturdays to go play football at Old Bearcat Stadium, playing baseball at AAI, and all the post game meals at Railhead, Mr. Jims, and what used to be Jorge’s. I can still smell the Bryant Grain mill on a cold winter morning and I can still hear the train passing by every morning before school. The more I think of all of those memories, the more I know that I grew up in the perfect place for this career, and it wasn’t an accident.
My mother’s parents came to Aledo in 1994. Up until that point they had lived in Arlington, and found their favorite form of entertainment was high school football. They would tell me often how they would find the nearest game on a Friday night and go watch it, whether they had rooting interest or not. When they came to Aledo, they found their rooting interest.
On the other side, my dad had moved around quite a bit. He eventually found himself in Greenville, Texas where he played football and baseball for the Lions before moving and graduating from South Garland. After he had met and eventually married my mom, he also had found a rooting interest in Aledo.
On December 12, 1998, my entire family was at the Astrodome watching the Bearcats defeat Cuero for the school’s first state championship. Ten days later, I entered the world. You could say I was practically born to be a Bearcat. As I got older, I started to play more sports and really get involved in the town and community. Bearcat football was all I looked forward to, even in the spring.
During that time, I started learning more about Texas high school football as a whole. My grandfather and I would travel just about anywhere to see a game. We once drove to Abilene to watch Wolfforth Frenship take on Wichita Falls Rider, just because we could. Another time, we went to Decatur to watch the Eagles play Abilene Wylie. As he tells it, I was already talking about defensive strategy at five years old.
That love followed me all the way to middle school. While the Bearcats were winning state titles with Johnathan Gray, my grandfather would pick me up to watch the game before, and then stay for the games after. It was about that time I realized that I want to stay close to sports in whatever job I have.
When I got to high school, I had less opportunities to go watch other football games due to playing for the Bearcats myself. Though I never cracked the varsity roster, I was dedicated to being an Aledo Bearcat. My freshman year, Aledo won state in football, softball, and baseball. I had been in the stands in 2008 when Whitney Canion and the Ladycats won, but 2014 was really my first exposure to Aledo softball and baseball. At that point, it was no longer just about Bearcat football. I realized that I have a love for my alma mater and where I come from.
I spent the next two years following and supporting the Aledo sports teams. Unfortunately, my own athletic career was cut short after my junior year. Since I was no longer competing, I needed something to fill the void that had been left. It was about that time I had a teacher tell me I should try my hand at sports writing. I had a family member that had been writing for this same sports section, but I had never pictured myself doing that. After graduation, I was informed about an entry level position covering all Texas high school football for the 2017 season.
My first ever coverage came from Bearcat Stadium between Aledo and Colleyville Heritage. That night was the first time I met Tony Eierdam. I spent most of that game talking to him about Aledo sports and my odd road into journalism. He was impressed, but towards the end of the season he started to question why I didn’t keep my own stats. I didn’t answer his questions, but instead went home and built my own stat sheet on my computer. When I brought it to him during the first round of the playoffs, all he could do was laugh.
The company I had worked for that first year had gone bankrupt, and it seemed like my time in journalism was over. However, all the contacts I had made over the 2017 football season encouraged me to stay in the game. So that next spring, I got together with a few friends that also wanted to start covering sports, and we started our own blog. The next two seasons were spent with my own blog or freelancing for papers around Texas, and I spent more time networking and practicing my craft.
The entire time, I would always come back to Aledo at least once a season. Every time, Tony and I would talk and trade stories. Occasionally, we would talk on the phone at the end of Friday nights and break down the games we had seen. He started telling me how if he was ever replaced, he would want me to be the one to do it. He was vocal about that point to more people than I even imagined.
In the summer of 2020, Tony and I met for lunch and talked about our expectations for the upcoming football season. Tony had also mentioned the softball team, and the players he referred to as “The Fab Four.” I had no idea what that conversation would come to mean to me. A month later, Tony passed away.
The beginning of the 2020 football season, while odd due to the pandemic, started like any other year for me. I traveled the state covering many teams. I was able to catch two Aledo games at the beginning of the season, but I spent most of the time in other parts of the state.
In December, it all changed with a single phone call. When I was first asked to cover the playoffs for the football team, I did not think I was the right choice but I accepted it. Those five weeks allowed me to reconnect with the people of my hometown. It was a connection I didn’t know I missed. The Bearcats finished up with the record-setting tenth state championship.
Two months later, I found myself with the baseball team, and with the softball team another month later. It was during that season that I truly experienced the amazing support and friendships that this town has to offer.
I now know why Tony loved this job so much. While I might not completely fill his shoes, I want to do my best to make sure the stories and athletes of this town are done justice. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that this is home. I am a Bearcat; I always have been, and I always will be.
All that being said, I look forward to seeing where these teams and students go, and I look forward to meeting each and every person in town. Thank you all for your support and kindness. Go Bearcats!