People have asked what is it like for us at The Times and nwi.com when a team goes to state.
Sure, there is coverage and stories leading up to the climax of that particular prep season, but there is one thing that the student-athletes enjoy a lot.
That is the "ball cards" page that we publish whenever a team sport makes it to state. In Indiana, it is to the state championship. In Illinois, it is to the state semifinals.
No, we don't put bubble gum in them, but we put a lot of effort into making sure they look good. It gives the players a chance to fill out a simple questionnaire and to have some fun. They've earned it.
A lot of times a player will ask one of us, "If we get to state, we get the ball cards right?"
They can have fun posing and it gives the public a chance to see them as more than a player. Remember, these are teenagers and are entitled to fun.
Sure, it is a lot of work and communication on our part from setting up the photos to one of our photographers trying to make each card look unique to our great design staff putting everything on the page.
The hard work was done by the young men and women to put themselves in a position to play for a state title.
The kids practice a few poses and it gives them a chance to feel like a pro. Some may have their own cards one day if they are good enough and fortunate enough to play professionally. Not many newspapers do this, but we feel it put a nice touch on a team earning a trip to state. At The Times, prep sports is important to us. We take it seriously and the coaches and players know it. They always seem to have a note or quick quip for us.
We also know it is fun and that these are teenagers.
Beecher and Illinois Lutheran have a chance to bring home state title in softball and baseball respectively. They have put in the work and we'll see Saturday if we will have two trophies coming home from the Peoria area.