Rick’s Sports Corner: A Brief Introduction

By Rick Assad


While covering a recent Burbank High baseball game, I was asked to write a column for this website by Craig Sherwood, the executive editor.

It took me roughly five seconds to answer that I would relish the opportunity.

Right now the entire world is in a fight against COVID-19, a pandemic that no city, big or small, is immune from, and that includes Burbank.

For many, sports provides a brief diversion from the daily grind of the real world. While sports has come to a grinding halt, it will return.

My initial introduction to the city was through the legendary talk show host, Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show.

Invariably, Carson would mention that the show was coming from Beautiful Downtown Burbank, which of course was a punchline, given that he wasn’t in glamorous Hollywood or colossal Los Angeles.

My first real experience in the city came in March 1982, when I was taking a journalism class at Cal State University, Northridge.

Rick Assad, longtime sportswriter. (Photo by Frances Assad)

That Monday, there was a speaker, Scott Polito, who was the sports editor of the Burbank Daily Review.

Polito spoke and after concluding his remarks, asked that if any one was interested in covering sports, they should leave their name and phone number on a piece of paper that he would provide.

I couldn’t wait to put my name and number on the list.

That night, I received a call from Polito asking if I was available to cover a Burbank-Burroughs baseball game on Tuesday.

I said yes and even though I had some writing experience after working at the Pasadena Star-News following my graduation from UCLA and The Sundial, the CSUN student newspaper, I was still a little bit nervous.

After writing and filing my story and then reading it in the next day’s issue, I came away emboldened and confident because Polito said he liked what he saw.

I continued covering high school baseball and softball and when spring turned to summer, I covered Hap Minor baseball, which is this city’s version of Little League.

I would feature one game and then get the scorecards from the other games and summarize those and add them to the main story.

I know that the parents liked and appreciated the coverage because they told me. I liked the enthusiasm displayed by those youngsters. They were having fun and that’s part of the joy of sports.

But in my mind, the real challenge would come in the fall when I had to cover football, which is faster-paced and can be more complicated.

The late George Rosales was the Burroughs football coach then and was always helpful, which made my job much easier.

Basketball followed and my time covering the Indians and Bulldogs on the hardwood was in full gear.

Art Sullivan, who is Vicky Oganyan’s assistant coach on the current Burroughs girls’ basketball team, was the Burroughs boys’ hoops coach.

Sullivan’s battles with rival Burbank on the court were always fierce and eagerly anticipated and made for an easy story.

I also covered track and field and Greg Switzer, the longtime Burroughs coach, was always available for a good quote after a tough match.

When I would come into the office to write my story, I would usually run into Joyce Rudolph, who has written for this website after spending several decades at the Glendale News-Press, Jerry Hirsch, who later worked for the Los Angeles Times, Richard Brooks, the city editor, and the ubiquitous Ross A. Benson, the photographer, who is the chief photographer for this site.

I worked for the Burbank Daily Review and the Glendale News-Press until 1985 before heading off to the Los Angeles Times Valley Sports Section.

I returned to the city twice more across stints at the Glendale News-Press and Burbank Leader, which I truly enjoyed.

In September 2012, while covering a football game at Memorial Field, I asked Sherwood, who was shooting the game, if he needed any help covering sports.

He told me to ask Dick Dornan, the sports editor, who said that he did and so I began my fourth tour of duty in Burbank.

What makes this city of slightly less than 104,000 so much fun to work in is that the people are friendly and welcoming. This can’t be minimized.

Whether it’s athletes, parents, grandparents, administrators, coaches, they’re always willing to talk which is a reporter’s best friend.

At the heart of sports is competition. But behind the competition are people and this column will be about them.

So if anyone knows of an athlete, coach or administrator they would like to see featured in this space, please let me know. My email address is yankeespride55@gmail.com.