Walking away from a career in sportswriting has never been an occasion for tears, and with newspapers stumbling, falling and not getting up, it's difficult not to smile when one of your favorites leaves on his own timetable.
Everett Herald beat writer Kirby Arnold, who spent 27 years with the paper - the last 13 covering the Seattle Mariners - has retired. You can read his final column, though what he won't say is what his peers know - he may have been the best all-around beat guy working baseball the past decade.
When you surfed the net looking for Mariners news, you read Kirby as much as anyone, you just rarely knew it.
Time after time, I saw him toss a news item up on his blog first, getting it first and getting it right. And time and again, another blog or writer would be credited if the story was quoted on the internet. Sometimes, it would be Geoff Baker with the Times, sometimes Ryan Divish, sometimes me. For whatever reason, all the baseball sites monitoring the Seattle Mariners checked us first, not the Everett Herald.
Never miss a local story.
It was their loss.
Kirby built relationships, not sources, and I never encountered a player, coach or manager that didn't trust and like him. Well, briefly, there was one. Richie Sexson screamed at Arnold one day before taking the field, but it turned out he thought he was yelling at Steve Kelley. Sexson couldn't be bothered to know who he was mad at. It said far more about Richie than Kirby.
Like most writers, I've never had an undersized ego. I was startled, therefore, when last spring I rated the good guys on this beat and was staggered to have placed myself fourth. Me, the man my wife and daughter think of as the Most Annoying Man in the World, fourth.
I'm moving into third place today. My rankings had Greg Johns of MLB.com and Larry Stone of the Times as a tie for second last spring. They are good men, the kind that make your life more pleasant with their presence. They don't rant and curse and say one thing about you to your face and another when you're not around.
And still, Kirby Arnold was first.
As he heads off to retirement in Arizona, I don't worry about losing track of him. His love of the game was always obvious. How obvious? If he were driving through the Phoenix area at dusk in the fall, and he saw the lights on above a ball field, Kirby would pull in just to see what might be happening. Not out of any misguided news sense, though he had plenty of that. Kirby just hoped he might see some baseball.
It never seemed fair that a guy with all that joy also happened to have a devoted wife, Debbie, a son (John) and daughter (Jill) who adored him and - on top of it all - Tyson the Wonder Dog.
Now Kirby, Debbie and Tyson are headed into retirement, Arizona-style. Where the weather is warm, the sunsets long and ball parks often have their lights on. If our roles were reversed, Kirby would be delighted for me.
But that's why he was always the nicest guy on the beat. Me? I just moved up - and I'm still third.