Archive for the ‘Human Interest’ Category

Trick Or Treat At Eastwood Field Set For October 23


The Mahoning Valley Scrappers and First Place Bank present the fifteenth annual “Trick or Treat” at Eastwood Field, with media partners 21 WFMJ, WBCB, and Hot 101.  The event will take place Wednesday, October 23rd from 6:00pm to 8:00pm.

“Trick or Treat” at Eastwood Field is a fun and safe way to celebrate Halloween for children age 12 and under.  Ticket quantities are limited and are available on a first come first served basis. Children and adults will require a ticket. Tickets are just $1 each and are available starting Monday, September 23rd at the Scrappers Team Office located at Eastwood Field.

The Scrappers are looking for area businesses to participate in this year’s “Trick or Treat” event. Businesses will receive table space on the Eastwood Field concourse.  This is a community event and a great way to promote your business to the public.  Early reservations are encouraged as space is limited. Please contact Annie Stoltenberg for complete details by calling 330-505-0000 or emailing

The Voyage To Valpo: Tales From The Road


With Youngstown State University winning their first-round Horizon League Tournament game at home, the tricky situation of getting to Valparaiso for the second round comes up.  Dealing with all of the hurdles makes it a challenge, but the end result is always satisfying, more so if the Penguins could win.

The first challenge to face begins after YSU wins in the first round.  Without Kendrick Perry, and coming off of their worst performance of the season at Wright State, the Penguins were able to muster a 62-60 win at home in their first-round challenge.  This automatically placed YSU into a second-round game at Valparaiso on Friday.

Because I am not financially able to do this website full-time, I was at the mercy of the boss at my regular place of employment to allow me a Friday-for-Sunday swap of my work schedule.  The paper pile on my desk would have been an early indicator that the answer might have been a resounding ‘no’, but my compassionate employer was very cooperative in my proposed switch and agreed that I could maneuver the schedule for the rare occasion.

Once the hurdle was cleared, I started calling around to see who was headed West.  YSU Sports Information Director, Trevor Parks, said he would be making the trip Friday morning.


Thursday was action packed.  Because I set up at baseball card shows on weekends, I had been awaiting the release of 2013 Topps Heritage Baseball.  As good luck would have it, my wholesaler called me at 3 p.m. on Thursday to let me know that it had come in.

Problem:  The wholesaler is in Cleveland and I wanted to work late to show my boss that I was appreciative of his unselfish permission to jockey my schedule, but I had to get to Cleveland.  So at 6 (normal quitting time is 4:30), I called it a day and headed toward the lake to get my supply.

I got home around 8:30 with a new group of choices.  I had a case of these unopened cards, an empty suitcase, and hadn’t eaten all day.  I figured I have probably eaten enough in the last 45 years to skip dinner and got into the baseball cards.  When I looked at the clock, it was 12:45 a.m. and I still had the empty suitcase.

I scrambled into suitcase packing mode and realized I had some ironing to do.  Finally, at about 3, I got some sleep.

Trevor and Ron Stevens, who photographs everything at YSU with pride, met up with me at 8 a.m. and we started the voyage of hope, a chance to see the Penguins lay their season on the line in hopes of getting to the big dance for the first time in school history.

On a trip fueled with coffee, friendship, and good conversation, the five-and-a-half hour drive (357 miles) went pretty quick.

Hopefully the return trip will be celebratory and the Mahoning Valley can look toward unchartered destinations for Jerry Slocum’s Penguins.

Pregame Events At YSU Special To Many


Regardless of the outcome of the Milwaukee at Youngstown State University basketball game Friday, 35-40 people had fun.  The YSU Student Athletic Advisory Committee hosted a field day for many Special Olympians.

YSU athletes from several different sports programs showed their hearts in a big way. Kurt Hess was painting faces (above).  Michael Klaus was a bit apprehensive about the makeover but with some urging, yielded to allow Hess to show his creative stroke.


In another section of the Beeghly Center lobby, there was a game of shuffleboard.  In another area, several were engaged in an arts and crafts session.  There were T-shirts for the participants too.

“It’s a great way to give back to the community”, said Torrian Pace.  “This is how to be a positive role model and to lift the spirits of people who sometimes get talked down.  It is a special day for the visitors, but all of the student athletes helping out see it as a special day too.”

The event, coordinated by Bre Romeo and Emily Wollet, was a huge success and any casual observer to the game who caught a glimpse of the activities was touched.

Why Nobody Does It Better Than Dana Balash And WFMJ

Growing up in Youngstown in the 80’s, the six minutes of sports on a Friday night at the end of a newscast seemed like robbery.  The talent was always good with people like Denny Liebert and Chuck Galeti to quickly read off some scores and show highlights from one or two games.  However, looking back, our generation was heavily cheated.

On a Friday night in 2012, this area has some of the best coverage of high school football, and if it doesn’t start by quarter after, then that network is more concerned about showing a storm developing in Cuba somewhere, or a story about how a lady gave birth to her fourth set of twins in six years.  I’ll take the beefed-up football coverage.

Joe Aulisio, Ryan Allison, Chad Krispinsky, and Shawn Jordan are all exceptional examples of folks who multitask and put their heart and soul into what they do.  Zach Humphries is a blooming natural, and I am really happy to see DJ Yokley catch some good breaks with ESPN3 this past week.  These guys would succeed in any market.

WFMJ has a stable of people who run like crazy every Friday and Saturday night.  It starts with Dana Balash, who has seen the six minute sportscasts evolve into twenty plus minutes on a Friday.  Mike Ackelson and Rob Decker fortify a kind of magic that is hard to duplicate.  You also have hustling videographers like Jeff Holenchick and Bob Meluch who fly from one stadium to the next.  When all of the components are combined you get this production every Friday night that goes beyond all standards.

I think Balash deserves credit for all of the above mentioned whether you like him or not.  He has been at it for 25 years and has made a lot of friends and contacts.  He definitely has the respect of his peers, the coaches and players he deals with daily, and  an everyday guy element that enhances his delivery.


Paneech:  How has the Friday night stuff evolved into having to get that many highlights on television?

Balash:  We started in 1994 with our expanded sports coverage.  What I mean by expanded was that we went from six minutes to nine minutes.  In 1997, Arby’s came on board to be a sponsor and we were able to do about 17 games and the time slot became 15 minutes.  Two years ago, we took another step and expanded to 21 minutes.  We have seven crews out there filming enough to show 45 seconds to a minute of each game we can cover.

Paneech:  What kind of staff do you need to get all of this done each week?

Balash:  Mike [Ackelson] has been there numerous years and Rob [Decker] came on board a few years ago and both have done a good job learning this area.  It is not just us three, there are marketing people, engineers, videographers, and many others that you don’t see.  The three you do see, Rob, Mike, and myself, we are a small part of that.

Paneech:  Can what you have on Friday nights possibly evolve into more at some point, or is it at the maximum now?

Balash:  People want to know who won, they want to see the cheerleaders and the band.  Some people opt to start coverage with high school football instead of news, which I was against.  We get 21 minutes out of 25, if we can go further, I am not sure what that would be except to take the whole show.  There is still a part of the viewing audience that wants to see the events of the day, get the weather, and sports are third.  That is the way it should be.  A couple of weeks ago, the Vice President came to Lordstown on a Friday.  That is absolutely more important than football.  So where can we go?  If we could, I guess my wish would be to cover every local school that plays on Friday night.

Paneech:  As far as the actual football goes, is this a down year for high school football in this area?

Balash:  Overall, there are a lot of great players.  On the other hand, I am not sure we have that many great teams.  Do we have a few teams that can make a run?  Absolutely.  Since 2002, we have had a team play in Week 15 every single year.

Paneech:  What sort of criticism have you had to deal with?

Balash:  In 1994, some of the soccer people were upset because we expanded coverage  of high school football.  They wanted us to do that for soccer.  That comes down to sponsorships and sales.  We also sometimes get criticized for not covering a certain school or missing a story.  I’m the first to admit that I do not know everything about sports.  I have come to rely heavily on people to call us and let us know prior to something happening.  By giving us the opportunity to be there for a players 1,000th point, we can be there.  We cannot recreate a milestone, so I wish we had better communication not to miss big events and we can be there.


Paneech:  How is the relationship with YSU?  The coaches, the administration, and the student-athletes.

Balash:  Even at the high school level, if the coaches or administration tip us off, we better know where to be.  The sports information department at Youngstown State is one of the best that I have ever dealt with.  These guys keep you notified as much as they possibly can.  There are some things they can’t tell you, but it is understood.  The relationship that I have on and off the court with the coaches at YSU is the best it has ever been.  Obviously, there are times when we have to ask the hard questions.  Coach Wolford has turned things around.  Coach Boldon has the women’s basketball program moving in the right direction.  The men’s basketball team is showing how good they can be.  Coach Slocum had a couple of tough years but I think he now has the players he needs to be successful.  I feel as though I can now call these coaches on my own, not that I do that a lot, but am comfortable when I have to.  It has never been better, and winning helps.

Paneech:  How much longer can you do this?

Balash:  I know I am on the backside of my career.  I have been doing this for the 28 years that I have been with the same company.  I am home.  I have had opportunities to move out of the area.  There is no better area to me than here.  With high school football, all of the other high school athletics, Youngstown State and other universities, Cleveland and Pittsburgh are both an hour away, and you have Ohio State too, it is a sports mecca.  If I can do another twenty years I would be happy.  That is a decision that the company will have to make.  Because we are locally owned, it is very huge, and the owners know what we do.

So Dana Balash has been at it awhile.  He is someone people that have never met feel as though they know.  In fact, one woman, who passed away about three years ago in Niles, mentioned Balash in her obituary.  The article said that the deceased woman loved watching Dana Balash do his sports.  Balash never met the woman, but keeps a copy of the obituary on his desk.  When he has a tough day, he can look at that to put things into perspective.

No Stone Unturned Lobster Boil Tickets Going Fast, Get Yours Now!


A few tickets remain for what could be called the party of the year.  A charity event will be held at the Covelli Centre on Friday, June 1, to raise money for the No Stone Unturned Foundation.  The cost of a ticket is $85.00, but there is live entertainment and the most expensive seafood money can buy – lobster.  Melted butter will be plentiful and the cause if truly worth supporting.

No Stone Unturned is run by Dr. Melinda Wolford and her husband, YSU Head Coach Eric Wolford.  The charity was named after their son Stone  and focuses on helping people who cannot afford medical priveleges that our health care system cannot account for.  All of the money is used to help people in need and Dr. Melinda keeps very good direction on what is allocated to whom and when.

The event will start at 6 pm and run until 11 pm and will feature live music by Fins To The Left, a Jimmy Buffet tribute band that knows how to get the party going.


Get your Summer off to a great start this Friday by heading to the Covelli Centre, having a delicious lobster dinner, and supporting the cause.  I fully support the efforts of No Stone Unturned and will continue to do anything asked to make this charity a productive venture.  The Wolfords are top-notch people with very big hearts and this event will be something to behold!

For tickets and reservations, hurry and contact Tiffany Koma via e-mail: or call 330-740-1865.

Help Youngstown on Walmart: Fighting Hunger Together Contest!

Badge - 2008 election

Walmart is holding a contest on Facebook called ‘Fighting Hunger Together‘. The top community in votes at the start of next week wins $1,000,000 to feed the hungry in that community. The next twenty communities win $50,000 each. As of tonight, Youngstown is in 2nd place and just 1,772 votes behind Johnson City, TN.

We ask that you please vote once per day through the end of the weekend and that you please forward this email on to your family and friends from the community!


Vote by clicking here

Dealing With Adversity, Part 1: Eric Wolford


A couple of weeks ago, I was strolling through Dillard’s at the Southern Park Mall.  As I was trying on a new pair of dress shoes, the sales representative, a female in her thirties, commented on my YSU apparel.  Her comments echoed disdain toward the Penguins Eric Wolford.

“He is pretty arrogant and I heard his players hate him.”

That was the exactness of her wording.  Of course, I raised the defense on behalf of Wolford and said that he was a stand-up guy who cares for his players and has a lot on his mind.  There was not much conversation beyond that, other than me telling her I didn’t like the shoes.

I didn’t purchase any shoes. The thing I took away from that experience was the idea to contact Wolford, Kelly Pavlik, and others in the area who have had to deal with adversity.  Plus, I thought the saleswoman had issues.  Dillards has joined my small list of businesses that are now ‘closed’.


During the season last year, Wolford made a comment about adversity and how everyone in the room would have to deal with an uninvited circumstance sooner or later.  I thought his addressing an issue that way was commendable and it stuck with me.

Kevin Watts, a YSU football player, recently lost his father.  Wolford commented on how he helps others when they face adversity such as the death of a parent.

“Kevin’s dad was obviously a very big part of his life.  Other kids have parents who are sick and not doing very well.  As coaches, we try to step in and provide a father-figure role to take them under our wing and encourage them to get through that part of life.  We will offer grief counseling if it is needed, anything to put their mind at ease and to know that they have someone they can turn to.”

It’s not just death and sickness, there is always something going on.

“These kids all have so many things going on at home.  Some of them send their financial aid checks home so that their parents can pay the car insurance or the rent.  It sounds crazy, but it is the reality some of these kids are faced with.”

“I live with adversity every day, and these guys know that”, added Wolford.  “When I get home every night, I have to wonder if Stone will be there.  It is something that I live with every day and the players know my relationship with Stone.  The players can reflect on that relationship and see the degree of adversity that exists.  It helps them deal with something on a smaller scale sometimes.”


Wolford, and his wife, Dr. Melinda, started a foundation called No Stone Unturned which helps families pay bills that our out-of-whack health insurance system hits people for.  Wolford has referred to it as ‘paying ahead’.

Dr. Wolford commented on Coach Wolford’s relationship with his players.

“Eric loves each and every one of those kids.  He has to handle how he coaches differently with each of them.  Some respond better to yelling, some are better with sit-down meetings.  One player was going to quit because he didn’t like being yelled at.  Eric found that kid after pursuing him for a couple of days.  They talked and worked it out, and you are always going to have that at every school.  A coach that seeks to resolve the problem, sends the message to the players that he cares.”

Wolford faced a different adversity earlier in his coaching career.  Dr. Wolford told the story of her husbands worst nightmare coming true.

“Eric was hired by Coach Stoops to be the line coach at Arizona.  He was helping with recruiting and found a lineman in Texas.  The lineman committed to come to Arizona and Eric was thrilled about the addition.  Early on during Summer workouts, the recruit died in Eric’s arms, collapsed at practice and never recovered.  Eric had to call the family and tell them that their son was dead.  He was so devastated, but he made his way to Houston for the funeral, and he even spoke there.  The next season, another recruit was shot in a separate incident and never was able to play football after that.  Eric still stays in touch with that young man and his family.”

Wolford is special, and he treats those who let him, as part of his huge football family.    I know Wolford will make mistakes, we all do, it’s just human nature.  However, the fact that he never turns down a speaking appearance to assist local charities, donates more money than you would ever know to causes he considers worthwhile, and has a unique home life where adversity is faced daily, he is a role model people could learn something from.  Far from arrogant.

Why Being Comped At Bally’s In Las Vegas Felt Like A Scam


The name of the game within the Las Vegas casino district is deception.  In days past, the goal of every casino was to get people into town in hopes of them blowing huge piles of money at their establishments.  They would sometimes throw the customer a free meal or tickets to a show, but even some of those perks are gone.  Having been to Vegas many, many times, a trend of deception is developing, and people need to be made aware of it.

In my most recent visit to Sin City, I stayed at Bally’s.  Having stayed at Bally’s once before, ten years earlier, I wasn’t thrilled because the casino was average in appearance and the rooms were well worn.  However, much has been done.  Mr. Bally must have made a few trips to Home Depot because the appearance of this hotel has improved greatly.  I was comped my room based on my player rating, which is merely accumulated through gambling and time spent on the machines and tables.

Before I shred this establishment with criticism, I will compliment the employees and staff.  Throughout my stay, they were hospitable and congenial.  Unfortunately, the rules they must enforce, in particular, hidden fees and charges, ultimately deter from the tips they may receive.

Once my group arrived at Bally’s, I learned about a hidden cost that irked me.  In order to have internet access, I would have to cough up $13.95, per 24-hour period that I wanted it.  For a five night stay, that total would hit $69.75.  My cable bill at home, which includes a Hi-Def package, HBO, Showtime, DVR, and my internet is $125.00 FOR THE WHOLE MONTH.


The next upsetting fee that I was not expecting was a $3 per day charge to use the safe in the room.  Nobody wants to carry all of their money around every second they are on vacation, especially in Las Vegas.  I have used a safe in a casino hotel room each time I have visited Las Vegas.  This was the first time I was ever asked to pay for it.

Another feature that blindsided me was the use of the hotel gym at Bally’s.  I learned that there was a $22.00 per day charge to use the facilities.  The fitness area was nothing different than I see at the gym I belong to in Youngstown, Ohio.  The 30-pound dumbbells weighed 30 pounds, just like the ones back home, and they didn’t play music, smoke, fizz, or make me feel any stronger when used.  This was the most disturbing of the charges.  Having stayed in Valparaiso, Indiana just a week before, the fitness area was complimentary and the treadmills there kept track of how many miles I would walk, just like the ones at Bally’s.

I was tempted several times the last couple of days I was there to call the front desk and ask if I would be charged fifty cents each time I flushed my toilet, a quarter for each square of toiled paper I would use, or a buck to use the shower.  Don’t be surprised if you see it soon.

So it is nice to be comped, but don’t think that your stay will be free.  I am sure Bally’s, as well as many other Las Vegas Strip casinos are just dreaming up new ways to squeeze something else out of their customers.  With casinos popping up everywhere in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia, I would have thought the Vegas marketing department would do their homework to compete for my money.  I guess until they anger enough visitors, nothing will change.

I will return to Las Vegas again soon.  I will not stay at Bally’s.

Dustin Gorby Fundraiser Scheduled For March 31 At Crestview High School

securedownload-1 securedownload

On March 31, 2012, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. there will be a benefit fund raiser at Crestview Local High School for Dustin Gorby and his family.  Dustin is currently a sophomore at Crestview Local High School in Columbiana, Ohio.

On Monday January 30, 2012, Dustin was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the white blood cells and bone marrow.

Presently, Dustin is being treated by Akron Children’s Hospital where he receives aggressive chemotherapy treatments. He will undergo chemotherapy treatment for three years and three months.

The Dustin Gorby Benefit Fund will be hosting a Chinese Auction and Pasta Dinner for Dustin. In addition to the Chinese Auction and Pasta Dinner, a bake sale, 50/50 raffle, and a T-shirt sale are planned. If your organization or business would like to make a contribution to this event, please send your donation to 3547 State Route 7, New Waterford, OH 44445 by March 15. Monetary donations may be deposited to the Dustin Gorby Benefit Fund at any Home Savings & Loan location. All monies raised will be disbursed to the Gorby family. Should you request further information, please contact On behalf of the Dustin Gorby Benefit Fund and the Gorby family, in advance, we thank you for your generosity and compassion.

The Jambar Sports Department Brings The Gold Home


Last week, Youngstown State University‘s student-run newspaper, The Jambar, won a very prestigious award.  The Ohio Newspaper Association awarded the staff with the award of Best Sports Coverage.  This staff has done an outstanding job, shown up for anything and everything, and have been extremely creative and insightful in offering strong photography and writing.

The judges report made the following comment about the YSU paper’s sports coverage in their report:

“This is what a college sports section should look like.  Tremendous package on a rugby story with art, layout, and the best lead of any sports piece in the contest.  Penguin Spotlight is an excellent idea.  Breakout boxes of polls and schedules gives the reader lots of entry points into stories and enhances context.  Refer to online video was the only one of that type noted among the entries.  Many of the principles here should be emulated in other sports departments.”

These students work long and thankless hours to put out a publication that will hold the students interest, and they do a great job with the finished product.  Congratulations to everyone who puts in those tireless hours at The Jambar, and keep up the great work!


Left to right: Joe Catullo Jr. (sports editor), Kacy Standohar (features editor), Jordan D. Uhl (news editor; last year’s sports editor), Josh Stipanovich (editor-in-chief), Marissa McIntyre (assistant news editor), Chelsea Telega (arts and entertainment editor).