BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - If you grew up playing or watching sports in South Mississippi over the last few decades, there's a good chance you've seen AJ Giardina at a game. And everyone knows that distinctive "Hello, everybody..." that begins every one of his sportscasts on TV. But soon he'll be saying "Goodbye, everybody" and going to games as a fan instead of a reporter.
On Monday, AJ made public his plans to officially retire on July 2, 2018. On that date, he will surpass 39-years at WLOX and 44-years in the broadcasting business.
Saturday came with a pleasant surprise as AJ received the Hoopsfest High School Athletic Achievement Award. The award was presented to honor AJ's commitment to the Gulf Coast sports community for many years.
"Over the past few months, I have discussed my future with my wife, Virginia. At first, I decided to try and reach 40-years of employment here at WLOX and 45-years in the business," AJ wrote. "That decision came to an end when my grandkids wanted to know why I always had to go to work and miss special occasions, especially during the Christmas holidays. That's the nature of the broadcasting business. We have to cover the news 24/7."
AJ will be 67 in August, and those of us who work with him daily will tell you he's always been one of the hardest working people in the newsroom. Besides covering sports for South Mississippi, AJ also handles the station's Action Reports.
In the days after Hurricane Katrina, WLOX received numerous calls from viewers complaining about contractors not finishing work they were paid to do. AJ decided to go after them and became a voice for the little guy. His work earned him the Howard K. Lett Newsperson of the Year award in 2007. And in 2011 he was inducted into the Associated Press Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
In 1996, he was honored with the Lindsey Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award In Sportscasting and the 2002 Distinguished American Award presented by the National Football Foundation and College Football Hall of Fame.
"I will have much more to say about my years here at WLOX as July 2 approaches," AJ wrote Monday night. "I can say this...'The best years of my life have been spent here at WLOX!'"