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Epilogue: USF's Mike Radomski made thank-yous a way of life

Assistant director of communications Mike Radomski, who primarily served as the media liaison for men's basketball but also worked with several other Bulls sports, died shortly after 1 a.m. Oct. 12, 2017 in a car accident on Interstate 75 near his Wildwood home. He was 29. PHOTO PROVIDED.
Assistant director of communications Mike Radomski, who primarily served as the media liaison for men's basketball but also worked with several other Bulls sports, died shortly after 1 a.m. Oct. 12, 2017 in a car accident on Interstate 75 near his Wildwood home. He was 29. PHOTO PROVIDED.
Published Oct. 19, 2017

TAMPA — He was a sucker for baseball and benevolence. Mike Radomski tracked every gesture, regardless of how noble or benign, as meticulously as pitch counts in his volumes of score books.

Co-workers who lent a hand on a project got a handwritten thank-you note. So did his dry cleaners and the guy who changed his oil. When Mike's wife, Christina, went to an Evansville, Ind., print shop to pick up some score books he had ordered for his new job at USF, the folks at the counter gushed over him.

When she turned and glanced at the bulletin board, she saw five thank-you notes from Mike. When she got the books, she noticed the printers had emblazoned a Bulls logo on the front, at no extra cost.

"It just goes to show, you write a thank-you note and they go above and beyond for you," she said.

Michael John Radomski, whose energy seemed as perpetual as his wide grin, died in a car accident on Interstate 75 shortly after 1 a.m. on Oct. 12. A 29-year-old assistant director of communications in USF's athletic department, he had remained in the office late preparing the men's basketball media guide.

His sudden loss devastated USF coaches, colleagues and student athletes. A pregame moment of silence was observed for both Mike and the Las Vegas shooting victims before kickoff of Saturday's football homecoming contest against Cincinnati. ESPNU's announcers also paid tribute during their broadcast.

USF co-worker Patrick Puzzo, a fellow New Jersey resident, reached out to the New York Yankees (Mike's favorite team), who obliged with a message of condolence on the Yankee Stadium video board Wednesday night during Game 5 of the American League Championship Series.

"I'd never seen the guy have a bad day," said Bulls baseball coach Billy Mohl, who worked closely with Mike during the 2016 baseball season. "And if he did have a bad day, you didn't know about it. You could not tell."

At the time of the accident, Mike was only a few miles from his apartment in Wildwood, where he lived so Christina — whom he married June 11, 2016, in her native Minnesota — could be closer to her job as an athletic trainer at the University of Florida. Had he made it home, he likely would've slept no more than three hours.

He ran each morning — his goal was at least a mile daily — around 4:45, then commuted more than an hour to work. Routinely the first of his colleagues to the office, he normally arrived around 7:30, all without the benefit of coffee.

Mike, who met his goal of running 1,000 miles in a year in 2016, eschewed caffeine.

"He was like the Energizer bunny," Christina said. "He woke up and he ran, got ready for work, drove to work, worked all day long, drove home. Then he worked some more. It was unbelievable where his energy would come from."

But the giving heart? The soft-glow disposition? The willingness to drop everything to listen to a frazzled co-worker? The source of those virtues are easier to track.

Backpedal to Saddle Brook, N.J. John Radomski worked long hours at a utilities company so his wife, Alicia, could stay home to raise Mike and younger brother Brian. Alicia and her oldest boy would watch their beloved Yankees together, with Alicia recording the portion of the game that seeped into Mike's bedtime.

The next day, he'd cue up the VCR and watch the rest of the game over breakfast. Such was the doting of John and Alicia, who cobbled enough money together for Mike to attend Bergen Catholic, a private, all-male prep school.

During this idyllic boyhood, Mike also became a Cub Scout, Little Leaguer, editor-in-chief of his school paper, and — stands to reason — an altar boy.

In one of his last conversations to his mother, via text, Mike told Alicia: "You're a great mom and you always have been."

"And I told him he was my sunshine because that's pretty much what he was," she said.

In that sense, Mike was somewhat of an outlier in his chosen profession, which began at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut (from where he graduated) and segued to Evansville (where he met Christina).

Athletics communications workers — commonly known as sports information directors — represent a mostly anonymous but essential cog in the college athletics machine. They labor behind the scenes and scorers' tables, charting free throws and first downs, for their respective schools.

They promote their teams and student athletes to local and national media. Mike did it for the University of Evansville, and before that, as media relations chief and radio broadcaster for the Evansville Otters minor league baseball team.

When a team is good, such promotional work is a neat gig. When it's bad, it can be excruciating.

Last year, Mike had the worst team on the USF campus. Switched from baseball to men's hoops for the 2016-17 season, he covered an eight-win Bulls team that fired coach Orlando Antigua in midseason and lost 18 of its last 19 games.

Yet Mike told co-workers he had found his dream job. The top proofreader on the staff, he'd point out spelling or grammatical errors in red pen, and circle catchy phrases or interesting notes in a different-colored pen. He'd finish his editing with a smiley face. Always a smiley face.

"I think I only heard him swear once," said Erin Bean, also an assistant communications director.

"He could have 50 things on his plate, with deadlines in an hour that he'd have to get done. But if you walked in his office, he'd drop everything, no matter what. He was so present with you and so engaged with you."

Christina said that selflessness stemmed from his philosophical catch phrase: Rock the Planet. Which is to say, shake up the world, one thoughtful act at a time.

"Whether it was turning someone else's day around, someone's having a bad day and talking to them, or smiling at them or telling them a funny story," she said.

"Or taking the time to write a thank-you note. I mean, how many handwritten thank-you notes do you see nowadays?"

Bean saw her share, but none more touching than two summers ago.

It was during Mike and Christina's wedding weekend, less than three years after he took Christina to an Evansville IceMen hockey game on their first date. He was sports information director for Bulls baseball then, and knew he'd be on his honeymoon in the Bahamas during the Major League Baseball draft.

He already had prepared press releases for the USF players likely to get drafted, so that Bean simply would have to insert the team that picked them, and the round in which they were taken. Effortless stuff.

"When he got back (from his honeymoon) and I walked in, I had a handwritten note that I still have, just thanking me for going above and beyond so that he could be at his wedding, and a $50 Starbucks gift card," Bean said.

"All because I entered three words into a release that he had already written. That was who he was."

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.