Quincy was a place I only knew of because a friend played college football at Quincy University.
Hannibal was a city I had visited a couple times in grade school because of its ties to Mark Twain.
Macomb? Oh yeah, that's where the St. Louis Rams held training camp.
Lee County, Iowa? My broadcasting career began in North Central Iowa, so I knew of Fort Madison and Keokuk based on my coverage of state tournaments while working in Hampton, Iowa.
But, as you can tell, my knowledge of the Tri-State area was limited when I got offered a play-by-play position at WGEM in the summer of 2002.
I accepted the job, and my wife, then 36 weeks pregnant, and I began the process of moving from Hampton, Iowa to Quincy, Illinois (NOTE: never move when your wife is 36 weeks pregnant).
Our life, as parents, was just about to begin.
Our son, Jack, was born only a few weeks into our stay and the journey was underway. I spent the next 16 years (my wife gave birth to two more of our children) trying to balance a workload that begins in the early morning hours and ends in the early morning hours. Seriously it does. But it's part of the job.
As time went on, and my children got older, and much more involved in activities, it became harder and harder to come to their events midway through a game and have to leave early to return to work to prepare for a 10 p.m. sportscast.
It's one of the reasons my time at WGEM has come to an end. My wife and kids need more of me, and I need more of them. They have sacrificed a lot for me and I'm ready to return the favor.
For all those who have asked my family and I will be staying in Quincy. I have accepted a position locally in sales and marketing, and I am thankful, grateful, and excited for the next chapter of my career.
I might be a little biased here but there's not a better part of the country when it comes to coaches, administrators, and student athletes. They have all been accommodating to me and I am forever thankful. I appreciate each and every one of you.
It has been my distinct honor to serve you, the viewer and listener, for the last 16 years. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for welcoming me into your home each and every night.
A special debt of gratitude to my team members at WGEM. I was lucky to work with an incredible amount of talented people who pour their heart and soul into the product day in and day out. I could name them all, but it would take an entirely separate blog post.
I may not have known much about the area in 2002. But in 2018, I do.
And I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.
Thank you, Tri-States.
-- Ben Marth, WGEM Sports Director