World Series Opens World of Learning Opportunities - John S. Cendoma, College Information and Community Relations intern.
In early 1959, the site where the Little League International complex in South Williamsport sits today was just a pit of dirt. But by August, the land just north of Route 15 was home to Lamade Stadium, in time for the Little League Baseball World Series to be played at its current site for the first time.
It was up to students enrolled in heavy-equipment courses at Williamsport Technical Institute - a forerunner of Pennsylvania College of Technology - to prepare the site. The students' main job was digging 120,000 tons of fill dirt from the sides of the excavation pit and moving it to the southern end to form an artificial plateau on which Lamade Stadium was built. They also created the two 25-foot banks that rise from the diamond's outfield to Route 15, which have served as popular sliding boards for young World Series spectators since.
The W.T.I. crew, under the direction of William J. Stitzel, an instructor at the institute, also built a road from Route 15 past the western edge of the playing field to what was then a parking area.
Stitzel told the Grit newspaper in 1959 that, when he had first examined the site the fall before, he estimated the job would take three years to complete if he followed the school's usual work schedule. So he challenged the students to go beyond their expectations. They revamped their usual work schedule and put all their effort into completing the project. While the students did some work during the fall, the job did not hit full-swing until April, when spring weather set in. From that point, every day, 25 students tackled the work with "an enthusiasm born of pride in doing a task that they knew was eminently worthwhile," the Grit reported in a July 26, 1959, article.
By June 1, the project was going along so well, Stitzel realized that an "all-out push" might bring it near completion by World Series time, according to the article. So the students took on a schedule of 12-hour days, six days a week. This schedule was in effect except for the first two weeks in July, when W.T.I. was on summer vacation. During that "time off," the students worked eight hours a day, even on July Fourth.
Besides benefiting the community, the project gave the students real-life experience. As Clyde H. Wurster, superintendent of city schools, told the Grit: "The Little League project offers the students the advantage of working against a real deadline on a very necessary job. It is the sort of project on which, in a few months or weeks, they will be working to earn a living."
The students and faculty took the excavated dirt from the Little League complex to form the dike around the city of Williamsport.
Students enrolled in high school vocational education at Williamsport Area Community College - another Penn College forerunner - took on many projects at Little League International, including helping in the late 1970s to build concession stands under the stadium, which have since been moved to a separate structure and their under-stadium locales assigned to other functions.
In the early '80s, the students helped remodel Little League's dining hall. According to James S. Young, instructor of building technology, the students put paneling on the hall's inside walls and installed a suspended ceiling to lower heating costs.
Thomas J. Mulfinger, associate professor of building construction, led a class of high school students who installed roofing and siding on two of the team dormitories in the complex's International Grove, where teams and coaches stay during the series.
Mulfinger, who began teaching in the adult construction programs when W.A.C.C. became Penn College, said the college "has a long history of helping nonprofit organizations with projects that fit our curriculum in what is considered a win-win arrangement. Students get good practical experience, and nonprofit groups with limited resources are able to meet some of their construction needs."
"Little League International has embraced its working relationship with Williamsport Area Community College, and later Penn College," Chris Downs, media relations manager for Little League International, said. "The professional collaborations have benefited both in terms of providing a service and practical real-life experiences, while completing projects."
The most recent project by Penn College building construction students was a set of concrete steps leading down the hill to Lamade Stadium in time for the 2001 World Series. Students in other majors continue to find unique learning experiences at the nearby international event. In 2005, students from the School of Natural Resources Management at Penn College joined industry crews from Dincher and Dincher Tree Surgeons Inc., Cumberland Valley Tree Service and Bartlett Tree Experts to do tree work in International Grove.
For the past several years, when 16 teams and thousands of fans have congregated for the Little League Baseball World Series, students from the college's School of Health Sciences have gained real-world experience while assisting with medical coverage. While the college's emergency medical services students are on hand for fans, physician assistant students are available to assist the coaches and players during their time off the field.
Susan Swank-Caschera, an assistant professor in the physician assistant program, says that 30 to 36 students volunteer each season to staff the infirmary in the complex's International Grove. Working in 12-hour shifts under the supervision of physician assistant faculty, the students are available around-the-clock to provide urgent care for the players, coaches and their hosts, or "aunts" and "uncles."
During the physician assistant program's six-year collaboration with Little League, the students have seen a case of chicken pox in 2004 and a case of the measles, for which the player had to be quarantined, in 2007. In both cases, the students worked with the Centers for Disease Control and the state Department of Health, as well as the varied medical specialists stationed at the World Series. When a player had chicken pox, four students called more than 200 parents around the world to ask whether their children had either been vaccinated or had already had the illness. Those players, along with coaches, hosts and Little League employees who hadn't been exposed, were offered a vaccine for the disease, which was administered by the students.
According to Mindy L. Carr, clinical director of the paramedic program, the emergency medical services students have been volunteering during World Series games for seven years. Carr said the experience is open to all second-year students, and on average, 75 percent volunteer to assist at these games, with many signing on for two or even three games.
The students are partnered with paramedics from Susquehanna Health. Carr says this can be a worthwhile experience, since the students get to volunteer plus deal with plenty of real medical emergencies from a multicultural perspective.
"Hands-on is the best experience the students can receive, since they learn how to maintain a safe environment at such a large event," Carr said. "They get to see incident command as it is occurring."
Penn College students in other majors have also found ways to gain experience during the Little League Baseball World Series. Mass media communications student Seth H. Heasley, of Montgomery, was contracted to work for ESPN during its coverage of the series in both 2006 and 2007.
"Ultimately I'm a utility technician for them," he said. "Most of my work is the setup and the strike (teardown) of each event."
As part of his duties, he has set up the booth that sportscasters Gary Thorne, Orel Hershiser, Joe Morgan and Dusty Baker used during games. He has also set up ESPN/ABC's commentators' booths at Penn State Nittany Lions football games at University Park.
Heasley sets up lighting, backdrops, cameras, audio and props, as well as the "miles" of cables that connect all the components into a giant mobile network. During games, he either shadows a cameraman or operates a microphone or lighting equipment.
"It's been such an awesome learning experience; I really try to take in as much as I can at each event, especially learning how things are structured and how things are done," he said.
In addition to resume-building experience, he's gotten to rub elbows with many sports and sports casting luminaries as part of his job. During the 2007 Little League World Series, sportscaster Dave Ryan was with Heasley prior to a game when Heasley took a hard blow to the back of the head - a wild warm-up throw from a Canadian player.
"He was one of the only people on my crew who saw it and told me he was 'impressed' I didn't go down," Heasley said. "I worked through it; it was five minutes before game time and we were already on air. I've seen a few different crew members go down; depending on your job and where you're standing, it can be dangerous."
Heasley earned an associate degree in mass media communication in May and is continuing his studies toward a bachelor's degree in technology management, with a post-graduation goal of working in sports broadcasting.