McGuire Cage

Drury’s Scott McGuire had an incredible career, and made himself right at home on the biggest stages like Curry Hicks Cage. Telling his tale, from freshman call-up to the No. 2 scorer in Berkshire County history, was one of sports editor Mike Walsh's favorite stories of 2020.

Back when sports were still sports, I had the pleasure of sourcing and writing a story about two of the winningest boys basketball players in Berkshire County history. Neither of whom were from Berkshire County.

I got to know Mohamed Sanogo and Isaac Percy fairly well over the past couple of years, but neither was particularly talkative. Still, their story needed telling as they worked toward a third consecutive trip the MIAA State final. What they managed to come together and accomplish is impressive, and given the paths they took from North Carolina and Africa to get there, made this tale truly remarkable.

Pretty much that same week, another boys basketball player was making some history of his own. Scott McGuire became the No. 2 all-time scorer in Berkshire County history, and I wanted to look a little deeper into his career, as Drury prepared to win a second straight Western Mass. crown.

This one was really cool to research and write. I was in the gym at Taconic the night of my lede, and remember distinctly turning to former Eagle staffer Akeem Glaspie and asking if he knew who the lanky freshman was who was lighting up a Bill Heaphy-coached team in his house. I amassed interviews for this one over the course of Drury's playoff run at Curry Hicks Cage, had to hit the Berkshire Athenaeum to hunt down some microfiche, and overall thought it was a great way to cover McGuire's final games. The kid was just ridiculous in the biggest moments.

I only met Jorja Flaherty a few times, but you could know her for 5 minutes and realize what a truly special person she was. I was lucky enough to know her, even briefly, before she passed away in November. This was a story I was honored to tell.

I got an email from someone at the Friehofer's Run that mentioned Jorja and Shiobbean Lemme being an ambassador. Knowing Lemme, I reached out to see if the two of them would be interested in chatting for a story. I spoke with the two fast friends over Zoom from Jorja's garage, and got to meet her sons that way as well. The story was touching, but I needed to know and experience more. So, they were gracious enough to let me tag along on a jog in Pittsfield. That's where I really came to understand their friendship and Jorja's fight. She was a special person who touched an incredible amount of lives, and I hope this story helps keep her memory alive.

Over the summer, I was constantly in search of inspiration, much like how Flaherty's story had resonated. That led to another tip that a women trying for a world record would be making her way through the Berkshires. 

This one was tough to get down, physically and mentally. I parked at the trailhead where I hear Mercury was going to cut through along the Appalachian Trail around 10 a.m. And there I sat waiting for about four hours until her crew pulled up in a van. From there, I joined Mercury on a seven-mile hike to the Ashuwillticook crossover in Cheshire. Back home, I had to listen through more than two hours of audio featuring my heavy breathing through a mask to pick out her quotes. It was also a joy to write, though. Mercury turned out to be a lot of fun to talk to, and our mid-hike conversation ranged far and wide. It's a fun story, and something that I hoped could take people's mind off the pandemic for a few minutes. 

The 2020 calendar took so much from people, and it even grabbed me away from sports for a stretch. While I shifted to news coverage for much of the summer, I was still determined to find good stories of people doing good things. I discovered just that with the folks from the Salvation Army.

The lede of this story hit me like a ton of bricks when Heather MacFarlane said those words during a three-way phone call with her and Pittsfield SA captain Elliott Higgins. We were still only weeks into the pandemic, but speaking with them, and hearing Higgins talk about the volunteers on his team filled me with a sense of pride in both Berkshire County, and humanity in general. As dark as things got this year, there were people sacrificing to help others. The sheer numbers the local Salvation Army crew put out are mind-boggling, and the story warranted a follow-up in June as well.

Whether in sports, news or what have you, my goal was to tell interesting stories this year. These are just five of those that are going to stay with me well into the new year and beyond.

Mike Walsh can be reached at mwalsh@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6240. On Twitter: @WalshWrites89.

Sports Editor

Mike Walsh is sports editor at The Berkshire Eagle. He's been with The Eagle since 2017. Walsh also authors the NENPA-winning Powder Report column. He's an avid snowboarder, runner, homebrewer, and he used to play a pretty mean sousaphone.