As a SIUC student-employee and eventually a journalist, I had the chance to work with and know SIU baseball coach Dan Callahan who passed away Monday at his home in Carterville, Ill.

Coach Cal was my boss my freshman year of college (2004) when I washed baseball uniforms to support my drinking habit, which eventually forced me to quit the job. As I was drinking myself in a coma (not literally), Cal attempted to point my life in a better direction. As any other strong headed college student, I didn’t listen.

In 2007, I dropped out of school because my brother passed away and I just didn’t want to be away from my family anymore.  In 2009, I found a focus again and decided to go back to SIU and finish what I had started.

Cal was one of the first people to tell me I made a smart choice.

“I knew you were a smart kid and would get things figured out, you’re a good writer and I enjoy you covering my team,” Cal said.

I appreciated his support and enjoyed every chance I got to speak with him. During each interview he would say,  “Hey big guy, how is school and how is your family,” even though he never met my family. Although, I neglected my job when I worked for him, he never neglected me.

I’ll always remember your kind words and your honesty about every issue we’ve ever discussed. Thanks Coach, I’ll always remember you.

My thoughts and prayers go out to his family who lost a loved one and to the baseball team who has lost their fearless leader.