A year ago, I was a 4-foot-10 eighth grader with a passion for writing and a dream to someday be a journalist.
Today, I am a 4-foot-11 freshman in high school with a passion for writing and working my dream job as a Youth Correspondent for Major League Baseball.
True, I've only grown an inch in physical stature, but I've grown a lot more in so many ways.
A year ago, I entered the Breaking Barriers essay contest on a whim. Hey, it'd be good writing practice, right?
Today, I stood on the field at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park, beaming and snapping photos like a proud parent as I watched fifth grader Raeya Ponugoti, from Park Tudor School in Indianapolis, be honored for writing the grand prize-winning essay in the 4th-8th grade division of the contest.
A year ago, I myself was standing on that very same field, waving and smiling into those same cameras.
Today, I am one of the judges that voted to award Raeya the grand prize for her essay.
A year ago, I attended Reds games as a lifelong fan. Today, I watch games from the press box, and many of the same players who I watched from afar in the stands now know me by name.
A year ago, I read MLB.com as a fan. Today, I have my own page on the site.
A year ago, I knew of MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. Today, I'm friends with him, his granddaughter, Natalie, and Sharon Robinson, the daughter of Jackie Robinson.
Today, I can honestly say that I've done things I never thought I'd be doing a year ago. I've been to the Home Run Derby, the All-Star Game, the World Series. And I'll be at all of those events -- and more -- for years to come.
I've also been on local TV and radio and gotten my name published in the local newspapers. I've garnered an impressive array of reporter's equipment and started a Twitter account (which now has 573 followers -- and counting!)
More importantly, though, I've gained invaluable writing experience and priceless memories. I've met lots of great people. I've learned so much more about the Jackie Robinson legacy and the nine values touted by the contest. There is no doubt in my mind that I am a better writer and a better person because of the past 12 months. They've been the best in my life.
Oh, what a difference a year can make.
Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for MLB.com in the fall of '11. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.