I interviewed for the sports editors job on Labor Day in 1998. When I arrived in Rock Hill, The Heralds doors were locked for the holiday, and then executive editor Terry Plumb had to let me in the front door. I met with then publisher Jayne Spiezer, Plumb and then managing editor Rich Rassman. The place was empty.
After talking with those three, Terry said let me take you over an introduce you to our assistant sports editor, Barry Byers.
I walked into the sports department and there was Barry typing away violently on his computer. I say violently, because keyboards took their lives into their own hands when Barry was around. He attacked a keyboard. The phone was wedged between his shoulder and ear, and he was talking with some coach. It was the first time I ever heard the Barry Byers cackle. It was a laugh of joy. He was obviously listening to something he wanted to hear, his shoulders bouncing up and down to the rhythm of his laughter. I knew immediately he loved what he was doing.
While everyone else was taking the day off, Barry was in the office getting together the high school football page that ran on Tuesdays. He wasn't going to let a holiday stand in the way of that page. He put those pages together with love, because he knew coaches, players, fans would expect it to be there on Tuesdays. It had every stat you could name. It had state standings, state scores. But most of all it had names, lots of names, of kids in Rock Hill, York County, Chester County, Lancaster County. He wanted those names in the paper. He wanted those kids recognized for what they had accomplished. That page had the Barry Byers love.
He loved high school sports, especially football, but all the sports loved him back.
I spent almost 40 years in sports writing. I ran across a handful of writers who loved covering high school sports. And by a handful I mean four, maybe five. None of them did it better than Barry. High school sports is something you have to love, and Barry did. And the athletes and coaches he covered in his years with The Herald were the beneficiaries.
He and I used to talk about high school coaches who were in it for the kids. Some were. But I can say, after working with Barry for more than a dozen years, he truly was in it for the kids. He wanted those athletes in Rock Hill and the surrounding area to be recognized. When one of them signed a scholarship, he was as proud as the parents. He wanted them all to succeed.
I think he was that way because, in part, he grew up in Rock Hill. He knew the people, what it took to succeed. He once told me he took a big pay cut just to get the full time job at The Herald, and I dont doubt it. He knew what he wanted to do and made the most of it.
This is a great loss for high school sports in, not just York County, but South Carolina.
Gary McCann is former sports editor of The Herald.