On January 26th of this year, former professional baseball player Nick Swisher and his wife, actress JoAnna Garcia, made a surprise appearance at Parkersburg High's pep rally, at the same high school Nick graduated from 19 years prior and where I graduated in May. After a stellar college baseball career at Ohio State University and a World Series win with the Yankees in 2009, Nick was to be inducted that night into the Parkersburg High's Athletic Hall of Fame with two other honorees. No one besides the principal actually knew he and his wife would come to our pep rally that morning, but my journalism teacher had a hunch they would be there. I was already assigned to take pictures, but I kept an eye out for him. And, by God, Nick walked in alongside JoAnna.
I was a huge fan of JoAnna already - she played Cheyenne on the sitcom "Reba," one of my favorite shows growing up. I knew I had to talk to her. After the pep rally ended, I, along with practically everyone else in the gym, raced towards the Swishers. I met JoAnna - we conversed for a minute and got a picture. She was exceptionally nice and I thought that would be the last time I'd see her. I didn't even try to meet Nick because he was swarmed. Little did I know, I'd see them both two more times that afternoon.
I always ate lunch in the journalism room alongside my two friends because it was quiet and I usually had something to write or edit during lunch. My teacher told me when I got in there Nick was going to stop by and I was to interview him about his life and the induction for the upcoming issue of our school newspaper. That's when I became nervous. I've interviewed a lot of people for many different reasons, but no one near the caliber or prominence of Nick Swisher. I quickly thought of questions to ask him and he soon appeared without JoAnna. I started my series of questions, which Nick answered with much enthusiasm. We got to the last question and JoAnna walked in with her managing team. Nick got through all his questions and JoAnna stated she wanted to share some advice.
She told me, along with the class that was quietly working yet still intently listening to the Swishers, to "seek the truth and create a good, honest, and kind way of presenting information."
That has always stayed with me, even though that's invariably the goal of a journalist. My teacher asked if they could record the intro of our news broadcast and they agreed. After that, I truly thought it was goodbye. I shared my gratitude for letting me interview them, and JoAnna told me good luck in whatever I do. They left, but that wasn't it.
Since Nick was being inducted that night, we needed someone to get more pictures and record his induction speech. I obliged. I was ecstatic over meeting them and getting a chance to talk to them both again excited me even more. Plus, I never did get a picture with Nick, so I figured this was my chance. I arrived at the induction extremely early and the Swishers came sometime later. I waited to get a picture with Nick and when I got to him, he said, "hey, you're back! You had such good questions earlier." That made me feel so incredible.
As a journalist, you hope to hear from your interviewees – especially those as renowned as Nick – that you did a superb job. After getting my picture with him, I found JoAnna on the other side of the room, and a fellow yearbook staffer went to talk to her with me. JoAnna asked me about college and what I planned to do beyond. We talked for nearly 10 minutes and she wished me luck one more time before we really did part ways for good. I can honestly say this was my best day in terms of being a journalist.
Moral of the story: expect the unexpected from celebrities.
I really didn't know what would happen when I met the Swishers, but they were so much better than anything I could have anticipated. They were amazing in every way possible. So here's to you, Nick and JoAnna. Thank you for being kind even though it was blatant I was nervous each time I conversed with you. Thank you for giving me more reasons to become a journalist. Thank you for eliminating my expectation of celebrities being stuck up - you both were far from it.