When Tom Haley ‘73 first stepped foot on the Castleton campus as a student, he wasn’t thinking about sports writing as a career. After winning the National Sports Media Association’s Vermont Sportswriter of the Year Award for the 10th time this year, the longtime Rutland Herald correspondent and 2004 Castleton athletics Hall of Famer is proud of the path his career took.
The thought of writing as a career first entered his mind when, during his time writing for The Spartan, a professor left him a note following one of Haley’s stories in the student newspaper.
“A professor I never even had in class, John Gillen, wrote me a very encouraging note complimenting a story I wrote on Castleton cross country runner Mike Canty,” said Haley. “A professor taking the time to write a note to a student he did not know is the essence of the motto: small school with a big heart. It was what really got me thinking about writing as a career.”
The career that was launched in part due to a simple gesture took another step during the pandemic when Haley was faced with ample free time when local sports play ceased in the spring of 2020. During that time, he checked a project off his list that he had been waiting a long time to do: write a book.
“I had always wanted to write a book, but never had the time,” Haley explained. “A five-month pandemic furlough changed that. The inspiration for this book, in particular, was that I have always loved everything about small towns including the way communities embrace their local teams.”
From that free time, Maple Mayberrys and Other Sweet Spots was born. A collection of stories, rivalries, small towns, and big names from every corner of Vermont to other parts of New England and well beyond. Haley also dedicated an entire chapter to Castleton and its rich athletics history.
“Castleton will always be home,” said Haley. “Seeing the transformation from the school I attended to what it now makes me swell up with pride. It was in 2009, while watching a men's lacrosse game against Mount Ida, that I looked over at the frame shooting skyward: the beginning of what would be Spartan Stadium and then Dave Wolk Stadium. Looking at it that day, I recall saying to myself, 'I will never take this for granted.' I haven't.”
As time marches on, Haley remains steadfast in his dedication to his profession and to the local athletes, including those student-athletes at Castleton.
“The games, talking to the athletes, putting the words on the computer screen—even traveling to and from the games,” Haley stated when asked what he enjoys the most about the job at this point in his career. “It is all so exciting. It really never gets old.”
Haley wraps it all up the best way a sportswriter could when asked about the importance of his tenth award: “When you are 74 years old, all that it means is that you still have your fastball.”