Sitting in the Dispatch office in late May, I realized the sports season had only just begun.
High school sports were finished and both Pittston Area and Wyoming Area were holding their respective graduations within a week.
Enter: Little League.
It was a Friday and Community News Group Assistant Editor Sarah Hando and I were discussing the things we were going to cover this summer, sports-wise. Much of it fell under American Legion baseball and a few other events. Then I told her the “good” news.
In the Greater Pittston area, more than 100 Little League games would be played. I repeated myself — 100! I’m not sure exactly what the number was, officially — that would be a yeomen’s task in itself.
And, of course, every step of the way was the Pennsylvania District 16/31 staff helping guide us media folk.
Thanks to several gentlemen with a passion for Little League baseball and softball, the task of finding results for Little League games was not that difficult. In the past, Little League has been the bane of my existence — not because I don’t like watching the kids, but because it’s difficult to track down scores.
Throughout Little League playoffs, padistrict16-31.com gave me pure joy. Behind some of that hard work was West Pittston resident Phil Schoener.
Schoener is the PA District 16/31 Information Officer and currently a Multimedia Communications Instructor at the Wilkes-Barre Career Technical Center. He is the former sports director at WBRE-TV.
Schoener got involved while on a school trip with District Administrator Bob Bertoni who was on his phone constantly getting scores and results, Schoener said. Schoener offered to make the website the best it can be.
This was the first season District 16/31 worked so hard to get the site working properly.
“It was pretty intense,” Schoener said. “Being a media guy myself, I knew there could be a better way. I had no idea how much work would be needed. Thank goodness I have summers off.”
Bertoni quickly assigned Schoener to the task.
On the website, you could find anything you wanted. There were photos, videos, a live scoreboard and full schedules updated several times per day. Schoener said, on average, the site got 3,000 hits per day. It peaked at 5,800 near the end of the season.
Of course, the weather was an issue and the district had to cancel several nights of play. It didn’t take long for Schoener and his colleagues to get postponement information up on the site as quickly as possible.
“We have a large group of people who give away a lot of their time,” Schoener said. “We do it for the kids and for them to have the best possible experience. We can do a lot more.”
Schoener said one of the biggest things his team did this season was to get the Major Baseball championships on television. In years past, Section 5 games were televised. This season, Pittston Township was the host to the championship games and MyNetworkTV was there to broadcast.
“The biggest win was the four teams to play on TV,” Schoener said. “That’s what it was really all about.”
The website wasn’t the only helpful tool for parents, players and media — the district also released a smart phone app this season. Schoener said 160 people have downloaded the app so far. On the app, I would get updates at the start of games and more updates when games finished. The app also featured photos of district champions.
Between baseball and softball, the district had to keep track of 20 different divisions. The Major Baseball tournament featured pool play games while most of the rest were double elimination. It wasn’t easy for the district in some cases as teams dropped out of play at the last second.
When it comes to high school sports, coaches and parents are usually good with reporting scores to the local newspapers. Little League, however, isn’t so easy.
In most regular season Little League games, the teams don’t keep complete statistics. If they do, only first names appear on the box score. That’s not good for a newspaper.
I’m proud of the Sunday Dispatch’s coverage of Little League this season. Sure, some games were missed. However, there wasn’t an issue over the past two months that didn’t feature Little Leaguers to the fullest extent.
The district will host nine teams from the east coast for the East Region Championships at West Pittston Little League this August. Teams from Maine all the way down to Maryland will compete for a title. District officials have their hands full, but they can handle it — they always do.
Much of that praise falls on PA District 16/31. Thanks for your hard work!
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick