Schantzenbach put fun in the games he officiated

Dennis Schantzenbach was much more than just a nice guy

In the days following his death last week at age 64, Dennis Schantzenbach has been called a nice guy by almost everyone that I've talked to who knew Dennis.

And he was, truly, a nice guy.

But somehow, those words don't do him justice because there are a lot of nice guys out there.

Schantzenbach, well-known as a field hockey and basketball official and softball umpire, was able to affect lives through his niceness.

He brought a certain sense of civility, class and warmth to a local sports scene that often lacks all three elements.

Officials are often the most abused, badgered, ridiculed and despised members of high school athletics. Parents usually have to blame someone if things don't go their way, and if they can't blame their own coach, the officials are generally the next target.

Yet, even the most demanding of coaches and parents would have trouble disliking Schantzenbach if they were fortunate enough to get to know him, because here was a guy who wasn't in officiating for the money or his ego.

He was in it because he cared about people and wanted to do help out wherever and whenever he could.

I had many conversations with Dennis over the years, and sometimes those conversations had nothing to do with sports. They were just about life — family, vacations, maybe even where to get a good hot dog or cheese steak after the game.

And when those conversations ended, I was generally in a better mood than when it began.

Schantzenbach was a PIAA official for 41 years, working a combined 72 seasons of basketball, softball and field hockey.

Few people touched more lives across the local sports landscape.

"He was a very loyal person, loyal to me and loyal to the PIAA and he was the most wonderful mentor to new officials, often taking them under his wing," said longtime District 11 committee member Betsy Wilson. "I don't know how many officials have called to tell me how much Dennis helped them. We had officials who were going to quit without Dennis' encouragement.

"He not only saw the best in people, but he had a knack of bringing out the best in people. He kept fun in the game. All of us … parents, players, coaches, officials … we all sometimes lose perspective of what high school sports are about. But he always had a way of making it fun. He had a great sense of humor and never got rattled."

That was made clear in a comment I received from Shawn Hindy, the former Lehighton athletic director and field hockey coach.

"I remember when he was officiating one of our field hockey games, he showed me that he never carried cards (green, yellow, red) with him," Hindy wrote. "That's because he knew he could control the game in an enjoyable and fun way for everyone."

Schantzenbach would also accept any assignment, no matter the location.

"It didn't matter whether he was doing a state championship or a junior high event, he would give it the same effort and with the same level of enthusiasm," Wilson said.

Dennis Brong, who worked dozens of softball and basketball games with Schantzenbach, said he was "not only a great official, but an even better person."





Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
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