Team Web sites evolve from novelty to useful tool

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 5, 2001

Jackie Williamson, an assistant baseball coach at Vicksburg High, lis reflected on a computer screen in his classroom as he looks at the Web site he created. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

[03/05/01] For decades, coaches said, “Catch it IN the web.”

Now they’re saying, “Catch it ON the Web.”

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These days, when a Warren Central or Vicksburg High coach talks about “hits,” he may be referring to his team’s Web site, not his batters.

But having a site on the Internet isn’t just a way to indulge young athletes.

Vicksburg High’s baseball team and WC’s baseball and softball teams all use their Web sites to quickly communicate information, such as whether they will play.

It has quickly become a tool that players’ parents, college coaches, major-league scouts and out-of-town fans rely on.

Instead of having to track down coaches to find out if a game has been rained out, parents and fans can just point and click to find out.

College coaches and scouts surf the Web to find out who’s pitching and to track game summaries. Players’ friends and relatives who live too far away to attend games regularly use their computers to keep up with their team.

“At first, we did it just to promote the program, since baseball was growing in Warren County,” said VHS assistant coach Jackie Williamson, who started the Gators’ Web page in 1999. “In the second year, it developed into an information tool. The scouts were bugging us to death.”

Listing probable starting pitchers for upcoming games cut down on the number of calls from scouts who wanted to see current Mississippi State freshman Robby Goodson pitch.

The site also features team and individual pictures, updated tournament schedules, a roster, summaries, player profiles and links to newspapers.

“It’s taken off,” said Williamson, also a computer teacher at VHS. “A lot of students who have graduated have e-mailed me and said they liked it and a lot of scouts and coaches say they appreciate it and use it.”

He updates the game summaries by the following morning, at the latest. When a game is canceled because of rain, he puts it on the page’s “newsletter” prompt as quickly as possible.

With five straight days of rainouts last week, that’s been the most useful feature of the Web sites lately.

The Internet is the easiest and most efficient way to let people know if a game has been called off and when it is rescheduled for.

“We had 306 hits one day (last) week,” said Vikings’ assistant coach Randy Broome, who got WC’s Web page up and running this season.

Though there’s no way to know for sure, it’s likely that the majority of those “hits” the number of times the site was contacted were parents and fans checking in to see if the Vikings were playing.

“It’s really being used by the next-level coaches,” said Broome, whose site has statistics and player profiles. “Looking at the projected starter can save them some wasted trips and it gives them an opportunity to keep up with the players they want to.”

He updates team and individual stats every Sunday and puts in rainouts “as soon as I can get to a computer,” he said.

“It’s all fairly easy to do, once you get it all figured out,” Broome said.

WC head coach Sam Temple, who has about 10 junior and senior college prospects on his team, said the Internet is “used big-time for recruiting.”

“We just had a college coach here saying it was nice to find out the correct spelling of their names to send them literature,” Temple said.

It’s also good for long-distance fans.

Temple said his mother passed the Web address on to his father’s side of the family in California.

“They keep up with us from game to game,” he said. “It’s great for families.

“All of it is because of that man’s time and effort,” Temple said, pointing at Broome.

“He’s spent a lot of long hours at his computer. I commend him and the parents who have helped,” Temple said, adding that they would welcome any advice for improving their site.

There’s also evidence that the Web page can create fans out of people who have no ties to the program.

“We enjoy it a lot,” said Earl Tankersley, grandfather of WC pitcher Taylor Tankersley. “But now, a lot of (family friends) have gotten interested.

“They tell me they keep up with the team, too.”

Earl Tankersley and two of his children live in Amarillo, Texas.

WC’s softball page has stats, team and individual pictures, schedules, a roster and maps to the Lady Vikes’ road games.

“The kids really enjoy it,” WC coach Lucy Young said of her team’s page, which has been on the Web for two years. “It’s become a vital part of our program.”

She credited Elvin McFerrin, the stepfather of catcher Katie Barnett, for creating the page.

“We’re lucky to have him,” Young said. “I hope we’ll be able to maintain the site after Katie’s gone.”

Broome and Williamson admitted that it was extra work on top of their demanding coaching schedules. But neither one was complaining.

“It’s like a job and a hobby,” Williamson said.

“At first, there were a lot of nights I just wanted to kick the computer,” Broome said. “But now it’s clicking pretty good.”