Friday, July 25, 2014

San Angelo Colts: Where Did The Fans Go?

Two weeks ago, the Standard-Times Sports department put together a nice three-day series covering our local professional baseball team, the San Angelo Colts, and their apparent decline in popularity over their 15-year history. The formation of the team was announced in 1999 and a fancy new stadium was built much to the excitement of Concho Valley citizens.

On opening day, the stadium was packed to the rafters with an overflow crowd of 4800 spectators looking for something to do during the hot summer months. Over the next 10 seasons the Colts' popularity held firm and in 2012 the team still averaged 2000 fans per game. But the 2013 season saw a rapid decline in attendance with an average of just over 1000 spectators per game. The 2014 season saw yet another decline in attendance, fewer than 440 fans per night, prompting the team owner to declare bankruptcy. So this begged the question, "Where did the fans go?"

To read about the history of the San Angelo Colts, check out these stories written by our crack team of Sports reporters and take a look at the newspaper clips from the series.

"San Angelo Colts timeline: 1999-2014" - by Paul Harris

"Where did the Fans go?" - by Carlos Silva, Jr.

"Colts players grateful for community support" - by Carlos Silva, Jr.

"Colts file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy" - by Paul Harris

"Colts debt register above $1M" - by Carlos Siva, Jr.

"For the Colts, it's about survival strategy" - by Paul Harris

"Unclear how bankruptcy will affect relationship with ASU" - by Carlos Silva, Jr.

"San Angelo Colts: Best seat in town" - by Charles Bryce

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

2014 2nd Quarter Newspaper Clips

Here is a collection of my favorite pages from the Standard-Times over the second quarter of the year. I think we did pretty well as far as things go and I was able to put together a diverse group. The topics of the pages range from local water issues, sports and a few other random pages that I liked.

The above clip is the cover of a 24-page special section we published in early June covering our local water resource titled Watching Our Water. Water, and our dwindling amount of it, has become a hot topic around the Concho Valley and in an effort to keep people informed about it, water has become our franchise topic here at the paper. Every water-related story we do will be accompanied by a Watching Our Water logo. Here are a few more clips from the special section and few other individual pages on the subject.

This next group of clips comes from the sports section and coverage of local teams. It was a big year for local teams in several sports including gymnastics, tennis, track and field, golf and baseball. It's always a pleasure to cover these teams regardless of the season's outcome, but it's extra special when our teams and individual athletes do well in their respective sports. I'm glad that we are able to give them extra space in the paper to highlight their achievements.

The last few clips are just random pages in the paper that I really liked. I thought they were designed well by the guys down at the Central desk and the photos got some good play on the page. Overall, I think we had a good quarter and I'm looking forward to what we come up with in the third quarter.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

WATCHING OUR WATER: "Water Bugs" Clean the Concho

Water, obviously, is a hot topic here is San Angelo. Anytime I'm asked by a fellow journalist or friend or family member about what I'm working on at the paper, my first response is always 'water'. Mainly because we have none, or at least we didn't up until about two weeks ago. While I was away on vacation up in Indiana enjoying clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid-70s, San Angelo was getting pounded by storms that produced high winds, golf ball-sized hail, heavy downpours and flooding. It rained more than seven inches over just three days!

Naturally, there was going to be a lot of run off flowing into our area lakes, reservoirs and the Concho River that runs through town. And with it, all kinds of debris and trash. This is where a local volunteer group who call themselves the "Water Bugs" jump into action. The group, made up of four retired gentlemen with a passion for kayaking, gather four to five times a year at Celebration Bridge near Oakes Street and slide their kayaks into the river with a small inflatable raft in tow and remove trash that has washed into the river. "It's just like adopting a portion of highway only we've adopted a portion of the Concho River that runs through San Angelo," said David Busker who formed the group four years ago.

I met up with three of the men last week on a cool morning just as they were about to embark. "We started this group around four years ago," Busker said, "and we find all sorts of things floating around in the water." San Angelo and the surrounding area had just been blessed with heavy rainfall over the Memorial Day weekend so Busker predicted that the amount trash in the river was going to be pretty high. With a few jokes and laughs Busker and his two fellow "bugs", George Lackey and Gene Potter, put on their life jackets and slipped into the water in their kayaks.

It didn't take long before all three men were hauling plastic bottles and cups, tennis balls and oil bottles out of the river. As I make my way up the river bank I hear Gene Potter yell out, "Hey Patrick, can you give me a hand?" He was paddling his way across the river to where I was standing and he was pushing something big through the water with the bow of his kayak. Turns out it was some kind of cushion from a bench or lawn chair. "I tried to pull this thing into the boat and it is so heavy I nearly turned over," Potter said laughing. It took two of us to haul this thing onto the shore.

After about an hour of removing trash from the water, trash bags and other large items were beginning to pile up on the shore. "We leave the trash and the debris on the shore and then the city comes by to pick it up and haul it way," Busker said. Along with the seat cushion, the men pulled out large pieces of wood, old shoes and even an old tire. "Every little bit helps," George Lackey said.

The Concho River is one of the highlights of San Angelo, at least for me personally. It's one of the defining characteristics of the city, providing a nice area for citizens to enjoy the outdoors. It may not seem like such a big deal that a few retirees clean up a small portion of the river a few times a year, but I for one am glad they do it. "It's a nice feeling knowing that, in some small way, we help beautify our city," Busker said. "Plus, we get to have a little fun a the same time."

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

High School Gymnastics: Central Boys Take 3rd at State Meet

As the school year comes to a rapid conclusion, the state tournaments and meets for spring sports are also getting into full swing. First up, the state gymnastics meet. Sports reporter Charles Bryce and I headed down to Alvin, near Houston, a week ago to cover the Central High School boys and girls teams as they vie for a championship title.

The meet is a two-day event, the first day comprising of compulsory routines in which every gymnast performs the same routine for the judges on every event. The compulsory routines can get a bit tedious to cover as every routine is the exact same, but it's an easy way to gauge which teams will be competing for a championship on the second day of the meet.

The boys' meet consists of six apparatuses (high bar, pommel horse, vault, floor exercise, rings and parallel bars) and can get a bit raucous after each gymnast performs their routine. The boys seem to wear their emotions on their sleeve which can make for some great emotional photographs. Some of the highlights from the first day of competition for the Central boys came from their pommel horse routines. Normally, the Bobcats struggle on pommel, but with the routines by Joshua Coleman and Donald Nguyen, each scoring a 9.75, helped to keep Central in the top three in the team standings at the end of the day.

The big news of the day happened when Central's Michael Opincar scored a 9.9 on the vault to put him in prime contention for a state title on the event. Central finished the first day of competition in third place with a combined score of 171.75 behind leaders Bryan Rudder High School (174.60) and defending state champs Saginaw High School (172.45).

The second day of the meet for the boys was a lot like the first: loud, intense and with another fantastic vault by Michael Opincar. "I wasn't really hitting it during warmups and I'd been thinking about it since I got the 9.9 on Thursday," Opincar said. He had earned a perfect 10 earlier in the season at the District 3-5A meet and getting another one on the final day at state would be the highlight of the junior's season. And wouldn't you know it, he did it again.

The team went ballistic.

It was a great meet for the boys. Opincar earned the gold medal on the vault, Will Arrott finished in the top 10 in the all-around competition and the team finished with another third place trophy edging out Rockwall High School by 0.35 of a point. Central has a young team and hopes to come back next year even stronger. "We weren't even expected to place, so we really came back and showed them we were serious," said Joshua Coleman, who's pommel horse routine helped keep Central in third in the team standings. "I hit what I needed to hit to help our team out," he said, "and we came around and got third."