|Vol. 17, No. 19||Feb. 12, 1998|
Baseball fan and college sportswriter Chris Yasiejko must have felt like he had hit a stand up triple in a major league game this winter.
The junior English/journalism major from Newark was named the 1998 recipient of the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association college sportswriting award, received one of only eight NCAA Freedom Forum Sports Journalism Scholarships in the nation and was offered a summer internship at the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.
Yasiejko, still smiling from his literary hat trick, showed off the impressive plaque presented to him Jan. 30 by the Philadelphia sportswriters club. His name is inscribed as the newest recipient of the Harry Merrill Memorial Collegiate Sports Writing Award, first presented in 1984.
During the award's first 14 years, students from the University of Pennsylvania have earned the coveted prize. Yasiejko, the 15th recipient, broke the Ivy League school's winning streak and brought the honor to the University of Delaware.
A graduate of St. Mark's High School and a former sports editor of The Review, Yasiejko currently is the UD college paper's managing news editor.
"I knew the University of Pennsylvania had won the award forever," Yasiejko said. "I thought I was qualified to win, and I was hoping it would happen, but I didn't expect it. When I got the call, I didn't know what to say. I was pretty excited."
Yasiejko's parents, Joann and Walter, and his girlfriend, UD sophomore Laura Carney, accompanied him to the Jan. 30 awards dinner at Philadelphia's Adams Mark Hotel, where he and other winners were recognized.
A lifelong Phillies fan, Yasiejko said he was amazed that he was seated in the ballroom along with most of the top names in Philadelphia's sports and entertainment scenes.
Harry Kalas, longtime sports announcer, known as the "Voice of the Philadelphia Phillies," presented Yasiejko with his award.
"I grew up listening to him and Richie Ashburn," he said. "When he handed me the award, that was the high point of the evening. I was so excited, I almost blacked out. I still don't remember it all. At the head table, near the podium to my left were Darren Daulton, Curt Shilling, Bobby Higginson. All the Phillies were there-my favorite team. Plus Ozzie Smith and some of my favorite players.
"I said something funny, smiled and waited for the laughter to die down. Thankfully, they were laughing with me and not at me. I thanked so many people that Darren Daulton shouted, 'Don't forget to thank your cousin!' I was in shock, in another world."
Yasiejko said his dream is to work as a sportswriter and cover baseball, preferably in a major East Coast city. He added that he realizes the award will be a plus, supplementing his writing credentials.
"I was excited about it," he said. "But I know I still have a lot to do. The recognition is by no means my ultimate goal. It's something I applied for, and it was good to get. It's a stepping stone. My goal is to write about sports for a major national newspaper."
The $3,000 from the NCAA Freedom Forum Sports Journalism Scholarship will be applied to his tuition, Yasiejko said.
In addition, the eight national NCAA finalists will be featured in a media guide during the Final Four NCAA Basketball Championship this spring.
He said he also is pleased about his upcoming summer internship at the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, which has a well-respected sports department.
Yasiejko admitted that, at times, he had wondered if all the long hours at The Review and his freelance work for other publications would ever pay off.
Then, he said, "It all happened at once. It's pleased me to finally see some results."