PBS39 reporter and producer Laura McHugh said her documentary on the Lehigh Valley IronPigs encountered a change of direction as the 2011 baseball season unfolded.
"We started out this documentary with the idea being 'How does a losing team make themselves the most visited stadium in all of minor league baseball?' " McHugh said. "Then here we are in July going 'Oh my goodness, they really might make it to the playoffs?' So, one of the most difficult things for us was throwing out our original plan and really incorporating the 2011 season."
The documentary will debut at Coca-Cola Park at 7 Wednesday night, on the eve of the 2012 opener. The hour-long program will be shown on the stadium's giant scoreboard screen following the IronPigs workout and batting session, which is set to run from 5-6:30 p.m.
The PBS39 premiere is set for 8 p.m. on April 9.
McHugh, who grew up in Philadelphia and arrived in the Lehigh Valley in 2008 at the same time the IronPigs arrived, spent much of the 2011 season at the ballpark.
She did more than 100 interviews with players, IronPigs management, media, and, of course, popular manager Ryne Sandberg.
Mike Zambelli, who has worked IronPigs broadcasts on Service Electric TV2 since the team's debut in 2008, handles the narration.
But the true stars of the show are the fans.
You get to know Jim "Jimmy T" Talianek of Allentown, who has become a fixture in Section 108.
Talianek, you learn, loves to make the rounds with his second family at every IronPigs game. He rings his cowbell for nine innings and then goes to work the graveyard shift at Wegman's off Route 512 every night after the game.
Talianek summed up the Coca-Cola Park experience beautifully and noted that the team was bringing out people in large numbers long before they became a success on the field in 2011.
"Even when they were losing, there was magic in this ballpark," he said.
And the magic has come from the people; the people who embraced this franchise from that very first game — the exhibition contest against the Phillies on March 30, 2008.
The love affair between team and community was instant and everlasting, even though it was tested immediately by the 11-game losing streak that began the inaugural 2008 season.
And it was that 2008 season and the two losing years that followed that made 2011 so special from the opening-night win in April right through the International League's Governor's Cup Championship Series.
McHugh and the PBS39 camera crew captured the season-long excitement, while also detailing the IronPigs experience from the special giveaways to the Friday night fireworks displays.
Hambone, Ferrous, Fefe, the Dancing Dirt Dudes all got their spotlight as does umpire attendant Marty Ondrovic.
However, the essence of the documentary remained the fans — from Noise Nation founder Dan Kehl to Emily Priddy of Tulsa, Okla., who traveled a long distance just to support Sandberg, and to lifelong Sandberg fan Tara Faccenda of Center Valley, who admitted to having a crush on Sandberg while growing up and got to meet her hero with her son, named Ryne, in tow.
IronPigs documentary on PBS hits a home run
IronPigs documentary spotlights the fans and ballpark magic
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