Mike Nieto's blog

Going to a state final is always fun for the teams who put in the hard work

2014-06-05T22:00:00Z 2014-06-05T23:33:12Z Going to a state final is always fun for the teams who put in the hard workMike Nieto mike.nieto@nwi.com, (219) 933-3232 nwitimes.com
June 05, 2014 10:00 pm  • 

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.

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Al Hamnik

Al Hamnik

Al Hamnik has been a reporter and columnist in Northwest Indiana for 42 years and is a member of the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame, as well as a winner of the Indiana sportswriter of the year award, an IHSAA media award winner, a Corky Lamm Award winner and a three-time HSPA winner.

Steve Hanlon

Steve Hanlon

Steve Hanlon was the Prep Beat writer for The Times from 1995 through 2000 before he went to work at the Indianapolis Star. Upon returning to The Times in 2004, he covered Valparaiso University for one season before he took back the Prep Beat beat in 2005.

Jim Hunsley

Jim Hunsley

Jim Hunsley covers a menagerie of sports as a reporter in the Times.

Paul Oren

Paul Oren

Paul Oren is a beat reporter for Valparaiso University as well as various high school sports throughout the Region. He has covered NCAA tournaments in basketball, soccer, tennis and volleyball, along with numerous IHSAA state championship events.

Jim Peters

Jim Peters

Jim Peters graduated from Andrean (Class of 1981) and Purdue (1985), where he met and worked with current Porter County Assistant Sports Editor Greg Smith. He spent the first 10 or so years of his professional career at a chain of Northwest Indiana weeklies that covered Merrillville, Andrean, Hobart, Portage, Lake Station and River Forest before catching on at the Times in the summer of 1998. Jim covers high school sports in Porter County.

Hillary Smith

Hillary Smith

Hillary Smith has covered prep, pro and college sports -- and even a Dixie Baseball World Series -- for newspapers north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line since 1995.

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