I remember the first time I slipped my recorder next to his spiral notebook, yellow pages chock full of some type of handwriting that I'm not even sure he could read.

At 22 years old, it would have likely registered as any other moment for most people my age, trudging away at their first "big boy" job and the accompanying assignment.

For me, it was so much more.

In my eyes, I had finally made it. The realization hit me harder than seeing my first byline.

I was standing next to the Paducah Sun's Joey Fosko, guiltily listening closer to his questions than the responses of the coach we, or should I say he, were interviewing.

For me and so many others, Fosko was the benchmark. Not just for his unique style of reporting, but for his contagious passion. Through sometimes thick, never veiled, sarcasm or a refreshingly honest demeanor, Fosko made everyone feel like a key part of the journey.

And most importantly, he made them feel like a friend.

Now, he's gone. Two minutes into his 46th birthday, the Commonwealth's crown jewel of the 1st Region succumbed to a heart attack.

No one covered the prep sports in our area like Fosko. No one enjoyed it as much, either.

The last time I spoke with Joey, we were talking about why we chose sports journalism as a profession. "First of all, what on earth were we thinking?" he would ask laughing.

He didn't need to laugh to sell me on the joke, however.

There's nothing else Fosko would have rather been doing.

During our conversation we talked about our influences and future. We talked about how the journalism game had evolved, but how he had yet to change his style.

Sure, Joey adapted. He was eventually even coaxed into developing his own Twitter account. But he never changed.

"With age," he told me, "I see things differently now than I used too, probably."

But that evolution in perspective never carried Fosko away from what he loved the most.

Fosko was an ambassador for the 1st Region, and he wore that badge like a proud father, constantly reminding the rest of the state not to sleep on the Jackson Purchase. Joey might as well have boasted one of those buttons parents wear on their shirts with their child's little league picture on it, his with a map of each of the counties in the area.

He was an advocate for the players, coaches and programs, and told me the last time we spoke he couldn't imagine doing anything else.

After 23 years, Fosko's heart was still in every piece he wrote, maybe even more so now than it was when he started.

And even though that heart eventually failed him, Fosko never failed us.

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