For the past three seasons, District 11 has held its baseball championships at Coca-Cola Park, home of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. It's return for 2013 was in jeopardy after the district had to pick up the full $8,000 cost for the use of the stadium last season when their previous sponsorship from Coca-Cola ended following the 2011 tournament. Fortunately, two new sponsors have stepped up to pick up half of the tab for this year's cost, allowing District 11 to return to the premier facility.
Elite Championship Tournament Baseball and the Lehigh Valley Baseball Academy stepped up to chip in to cover $4,000 for the 2013 title games on May 28 and 29.
District 11 chairman Jason Zimmerman and district baseball chairman Scott Cooperman noted that the IronPigs, who manage the stadium, had cut the costs to the bare minimum where the team was getting enough to just cover expenses.
"In looking at how we could keep the games at Coca-Cola Park, it was obvious that Kurt [Landes, the GM of the IronPigs] was giving us the best possible price to use the park, so what we had to do was go out and find sponsors," explained Cooperman. "I've been working with ECTB and LVBA for a few months now and I thought immediately about going to them and they really stepped up for us."
For his part, Landes is glad that a deal was able to be worked out.
"Coca-Cola Park really belongs to the community, so we do our best to make it available, but obviously, we have to cover our expenses. Today is really about how the two sponsors came together and made this work and I think you have to really congratulate them for being so involved in the community and wanting to help," said Landes.
While the agreement technically only covers this year's championship, everybody involved is hopeful that the relationship between District 11 and the sponsors will continue for the foreseeable future. Dylan Dando, director of baseball operations for Lehigh Valley Baseball Academy and a graduate of Northwestern Lehigh High School, believes that the sponsorship agreement is a win-win situation for everyone concerned, but especially benefits the local athletes who will play in the championship.
"I know when I played, it would have been an unbelievable experience to play in a place like Coca-Cola Park. Limeport Stadium is a special place to play and when I walked in there, you felt like a baseball player. It's got to be an even greater feeling for today's players to have a place like Coca-Cola Park to play and especially for a district championship," explained Dando.
Terry Schadler, the director of operations for ECTB, is excited for his group to be involved with the district championships and is glad they can return to Coca-Cola Park.
"I think it's a great opportunity for us and LVBA to continue to help the young baseball players in our area. We've got a first class facility in the Lehigh Valley and they deserve to play there," said Schadler.
District 11 is also switching the format of their playoff system to have games played on Monday, Wednesday and Friday the week prior to the championships. The change from a Monday, Tuesday, Thursday schedule will allow teams to make it through the tournament with two pitchers, rather than needing to go to a third starter.
"You only need two pitchers in the PIAA Tournament, so it makes sense for us to go to that type of format for the district tournament," explained Cooperman.