2020, if summed up in one word -- printable, of course -- could be challenging. It could be miserable. It could be rough, devastating or even the blah, non-normal.

2020 has hit local journalism hard. Newspapers have closed their doors. Staff has been laid off, furloughed. You're left wondering if that byline was your last.

Yet, even with many personal challenges, I want to remember 2020 for its rewards.

All of the time spent with my two boys, from neighborhood walks/bikes/scooters to street hockey and appreciating everything Mother Nature graces us with.

Still being able to host softball teams from across the Upper Midwest in the 2020 NAFA Youth Softball Tournaments, a director for a third year.

A summer week-long trip to South Dakota, enjoying the moments together as a family.

Professionally, the spring and summer months were spent reconnecting with champions of the past. The fall months saw an abbreviated return to the field, court and course. Along the way, live tweeting of Eastern Carver County school board meetings became my thing.

So, instead of a normal top-10 sports stories of the year list, presented here are some of my favorite moments of 2020.

Thank you to so many for your words of support, your friendship. I continue to feel blessed to be a part of this wonderful community, telling and sharing stories!

THE CRACK OF THE BAT

Chan Red Birds - Johnson

Chanhassen runner Riley Johnson slides in ahead of the tag for a stolen base in the Red Birds' season opener at St. Patrick June 17.

A three-month hiatus from covering live sports, even an exhibition baseball game drew my interest June 13. The two teams, Carver and Minnetonka, showcased how the game could be played, with some modifications.

When Minnetonka Miller slugger Blaine Rutledge hit a shot over the right-field fence, bouncing on to County Road 11 in Carver, there were no teammates at home plate to greet him. There was an air high-five from head coach Kevin Hoy at third base.

No handshakes. Spaced out players in the dugouts. Spread out spectators outside the fences.

Four days later, June 17, was the first official baseball game of the year. Chanhassen and St. Patrick met on Highway 13 south of Prior Lake. Ironically, both teams played in state championships more than two months later.

PARADING AROUND

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Chaska High School Class of 2020's Devin Hatlestad, Thang Xayakoumane and Tyler Schaeffer at the June 4 reverse car parade.

The COVID pandemic was in full swing when our son, Jacob, turned 4 on May 9. No birthday party, but we were able to surprise him with a police car and fire truck parade thanks to the city of Eagan. He talked about it for weeks.

Parades were a theme for 2020.

Local high schools hosted events for graduating seniors unable to meet in-person for ceremonies.

And personally, my favorite, was spending an afternoon watching retiring District 112 teachers Barb Focka and Mary Mobeck receive car-after-car of current and former students wishing them well.

"So to be back here, with all of the great memories in this (former Chaska Elementary) building, it was perfect," said Mobeck after greeting cars for 75-plus minutes.

Chaska Elementary Car Parade2

Mary Mobeck, right, recognizes a car with daughter-in-law Emily and son, Rob, and their two children, near the front of the parade for the two retiring District 112 teachers on May 28. Joining Mobeck was longtime colleague Barb Kocka.

Ironically, Mobeck was the mother-in-law of my son's kindergarten teacher last school year, so I jumped at the opportunity to cover this event.

A STORY FIVE YEARS IN THE MAKINGS

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Chanhassen faithful rise to their feet as Hunter Even strikes out Benji Hidalgo for the final out of a 3-2 win in the first of two Section 2AAA championship baseball games June 2, 2015.

Asked often what my favorite event to cover over the years is, I always draw back to June 3 and 4, 2015, at Chaska's Athletic Park.

Last summer, on its fifth anniversary, a revisit to those two nights of baseball, along with an ensuing state championship run by the Chanhassen Storm, was chronicled over three pages and 134 inches of copy in the June 4, 2020, Chaska Herald and Chanhassen Villager.

"Five years later, those two games are brought up all the time to me," Chaska baseball coach Craig Baumann said. "I've had multiple people tell me those were the two best baseball games they've ever experienced."

"Those two games at Chaska, especially the second game with extra innings, the back and forth score, it was the best game I've ever been a part of," former Chanhassen head baseball coach AJ Pettersen said.

CONNECTING WITH THE CHAMPS

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Former Chanhassen High School state champion swimmers Kaia Grobe and Zoe Avestruz were teammates for four more seasons at the University of Minnesota from 2015 to 2018.

When no sports are happening, a sports reporter looks to the past for stories.

For such a short existence, dating back to 2009, Chanhassen High School has had a number of championship athletes.

Sitting down with Class of 2020 seniors that had spring seasons lost last spring was also a favorite moment.

Chan Girls Golf

Chanhassen senior golfers Emily Renner, Courtney Wedin, Courtney Dunkelberger, and Tricia Hemann didn't have the opportunity to defend the program's Class 3A State Girls Golf title this spring. Renner, Wedin and Hemann will continue to play golf in college.

BRANCHING OUT

Grace Lynch-William Maus

Chanhassen Class of 2020 graduate William Maus, right, was champion in informative speaking at both the Harvard Speech and Debate Tournament in February and National Speech and Debate Tournament in June. He was coached by Travis Rother. Also pictured is Grace Lynch, a third-place finisher at the Harvard tournament, coached by Tali Sinjem.

For 10 months, I covered school board meetings monthly in the BOLD District in Bird Island-Olivia-Lake Lillian. That was 2005 into 2006. 15 or so years, I'm back in the game, breaking down the who, the what, the where, and the when of everything District 112.

There's been superintendent interviews, new principal stories, distance learning into in-school learning back into distance learning. Levies, budgets and an election.

Personally, though, my favorite stories to come out of this schools beat has been talking to extra-curricular activities that are outside of the sports realm.

Goodbye 2020, hello 2021. I already have Jan. 14-16 circled on my calendar to visit local arenas and gymnasiums to see high school sports in person again.

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