BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
BURLINGTON – Fort Madison’s John Bohnenkamp used to go to the Burlington Bees games as a kid, now as a 53-year old man, he’s still there as a kid.
The former Burlington Hawk-Eye Sports Editor, and Fort Madison High School graduate, threw out the first pitch at Tuesday night’s baseball game at Community Field.
Bohnenkamp had covered the Bees for the past two years for the Hawk-Eye, but now covers them as an independent blogger after being let go as part of a transitioning at the newspaper.
Bohnenkamp is honored and recognized for his writing, so it’s no surprise he’s a bit humbled on the other end of the conversation. He said the Bees park is kind of a sanctuary for him and is where he came when his positioned was eliminated earlier this year.
“The night they got rid of me, I came out to do a game. I went up and sat in the press box and all of a sudden it didn’t feel like my seat, but I knew it was,” he said.
“I love coming out here and I’ve enjoyed the last two seasons. The players are great, the coaching staff is great. They tell great stories and it’s been fun to be a part of.”
Bohnenkamp says now he just does his own blog and works with the kids at the Daily Iowan, helping coach collegiate sports writers. He said in the fall and winter he will also be doing a blog on college basketball and is doing some stringing for different outlets.
“This is kind of a beginning I hope,” he said of the work with the University of Iowa student run newspaper. “If I can work with kids and they seem excited about it, it could be fun. It’s just a coaching deal.”
The 53-year-old graduated as a Bloodhound in 1984 and then graduated from the University of Iowa School of Journalism in 1988. From there he went to the Keokuk Daily Gate City where he was the sports editor and a general assignment reporter for about three years before being hired as a sports writer and assistant sports editor for the Hawk-Eye in 1991.
He took over as Sports Editor after Craig Sesker left the position in September of 1999 and has held that position for the past 20 years. Sitting in the bleachers with family and friends reminiscing of the days at the paper and what the future holds brought a bit of emotion from the writer.
“I think back to the days when I started at the Hawk-Eye… you made a lot of friends at that time. I think about all the people I worked with and we always had a great staff and great people,” he said.
Writing his blog, ‘Baseball at the Hive’ – found at https://bees-blog.com/, keeps Bohnenkamp fresh and helps keep the memories of his childhood at Community Field fresh as well.
“I grew up coming to games here. We used to come to games all the time. When I got to cover them back in the 90s there was something special about that, and in the past couple years, too,” he said.
“I’m 53 years old, but I got to throw a ball. I haven’t got to do that in a while. It was fun and it was something different. It was nice and it shows they respect what I’ve done.”
Former Hawk-Eye managing Editor, Dale Allison, who was also let go in the paper’s transition, contacted the Bees for a tribute to Bohnenkamp for his time covering the team and covering local sports in general.
“Dale put together a lot of this. Some friends did that for him when he was let go, and he thought this would be something nice to do for me,” Bohnenkamp said.
He said the minor league program in Burlington is in pretty good shape with the goal being developing major league prospects.
“They will be fine. At the end of the day it’s about player development. They do a great job here, the club house is great, the training facility is great and that’s what the affiliates want,” he said “Attendance has been good here. Over the weekend they had nice crowds. They’ll be fine.”
Bohnenkamp worked for the Keokuk Daily Gate City from 1988 to 1991 before joining the Sports Department at the Hawk-Eye where he stayed until this spring when his position was eliminated.
He has won 16 Associated Press Sports Editors top-10 writing awards, along with seven United States Basketball Writers Association top-5 awards.