LEAD: New EU sports info director a vet of Erie scene, local sports

Categories:  News    Sports
Wednesday, September 23rd, 2020 at 3:40 PM
LEAD: New EU sports info director a vet of Erie scene, local sports by Thomas Taylor
Photo: EU Sports Information

There’s a lot of information that can fit on the back of a sports card. From the player’s name, to their stats and records, it’s a lot of numbers for a person to memorize. Even more impressive than someone memorizing those numbers? Being able to recite them off the top of their head. Alex Womer has been prepping for a career in sports information for longer than he can remember.

Womer, the new sports information director at Edinboro, has always had a deep love for the numbers behind athletics. “My siblings used to joke that I bled sports statistics, which I think is a little bit of an overstatement,” he said jokingly.  

He would memorize the batting averages from those Topps baseball cards, and numbers from other sports memorabilia his dad collected, then reciting them to his family and friends. “I guess it was clear to those around me at an early age that I was a ‘sports nerd,’ and from that point on, it always felt natural.” 

Just as naturally, he listed the figures in the Pittsburgh sports world he looked up to, including players such as Mario Lemieux, Hines Ward and Sidney Crosby, the latter who he admires for his leadership skills. This admiration, notably, stretched to sports commentators like Mike Lange for the Penguins and Lanny Frattare for the Pirates. 

Womer grew up in Oil City, Pennsylvania, playing outfield and pitching for his high school baseball team. In the summers, he played with the Titusville American Legion team. “A lot of communities had their own American Legion team, and Oil City did not at the time, so we had to drive to Titusville if we wanted to continue to work out through the summer,” he explained. “We could compete on a better team.” 

This squad gave Womer and his friends a glimpse into the collegiate talent they couldn’t see at their high school games. On occasion, a collegiate scout would come in under the radar. “Most of the time, I felt like a spectator in these games. I’m on the field (about to play), and you know this guy’s got a scholarship to Kent State. They’re in a different league than I am. Maybe that’s how I figured out I was meant to talk about sports [rather] than play them.” 

He would next go to Gannon, studying journalism and communications, while becoming a part of 90.5 WERG, the campus radio station. “It was a whirlwind because I got thrown into it,” Womer stated, when talking about how he got the position of sports director for the station.  

When the previous director got an opportunity to intern with the Erie Otters, he got the call at the end of his first semester. “I just said yes. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.” 

It was an adjustment, and it took equal parts hard work and time to get used to it. “I don’t want to say it came naturally to me, because I had to spend years in this industry to be as comfortable as I am working with the media, but that gave me at least a scope for what I wanted to grow into.” He looks back on the experience fondly, believing the station gave him an opportunity to experiment and branch out. “There’s no better place to learn than in a collegiate environment. In some cases, I failed; in some cases, I succeeded.” 

Mentorship and an opportunity to jump into the professional world came with Jim LeCorchick, a legend in the Erie radio world. Womer was only a sophomore when he was interning with Connoisseur Media, which would later become iHeart Media. At the time, he was helping to set up and run promotional events. Greg Szuba, the director for promotional events, was the one who introduced the pair. 

“It was the right place at the right time. That’s so much of life, and that was the case with me,” Womer recalled as he remembered the first meeting. “I went in and talked to Jim LeCorchick. He said, because I was from Oil City, ‘Well, do you have connections in Oil City,’ and I said ‘yeah.’” After a moment, LeCorchick turned to Womer, and hired him on the spot.  

The Oil City connection was important to his new mentor. “In his mind, if I didn’t have connections to the community I came from, he wouldn’t have much confidence in the community he was trying to install me in.”  

Womer theorized that there was another reason he was hired: to talk about a specific sport. “Another big part of it was he (LeCorchick) wasn’t a hockey guy, so he wanted to bring me in to talk about hockey, and that may have had a lot to do with it.” 

The confidence that Womer had developed in his time at Gannon grew while working with LeCorchick on the shows “Never Enough Football” and “Sportsblitz.” 

Both shows would cover local sports, as well as collegiate and professional leagues. They would deliver the news and analysis while adding their own personalities to it, making it fun. “At the end of the day, the way we liked to view it was like you’re sitting around a sports bar with your friends. We didn’t want it to be any more than that. We wanted it to be a place where everyone can call in, everyone can participate. It was a fun show. Some days we winged it, and we didn’t know what we were doing when it started, but that ended up being some of our better shows.” 

When LeCorchick died in 2016, this left the responsibility of the shows on Womer's shoulders. “I felt the need to carry out his legacy.” 

At the same time, Womer was also working with the Erie Bayhawks, Otters and Seawolves, and working with these organizations provided many opportunities. “The doors that were opened by doing so were countless. I just never got tired of working. I was at the ballpark every single night. That’s the only way for you to get the experience you need to go further in the sports industry.” And on top of all that, he would do play-by-play commentary for local high schools and Gannon sports. 

Womer was hired as sports information director for Edinboro after Bob Schreve retired in June after 22 years in the position. Beyond simply replacing a sports department mainstay, challenges lie ahead for the office due to the pandemic. “It’s tough for me to make connections with student athletes and get content from them that I can share through social media, because I can’t make a face-to-face connection with them. They have no [idea] who I am.” 

The PSAC and NCAA have helped with guidance on how the department should proceed by sharing plans. “Plans are ever changing in our current world. So, with that, we’ve had to have an understanding that what we find out today might change an hour from now, a day from now, two days from now. Everyone keeping that in mind and working together has fostered a really healthy back-and-forth (between PSAC and Edinboro).” 

He later elaborated that the PSAC is rewriting schedules daily, due to COVID-19 and in attempts to have sports in spring 2021. “COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in just about any industry across the country, and athletics is no different because we want to keep our student athletes safe; that is our top priority. While at the same time, we understand people are missing out on that sports experience. PSAC has been very instrumental in guiding our day-to-day operations as far as how to communicate with our student athletes.” 

Maintaining the legacy of Bob Schreve’s work is something always present on Womer’s mind. “Bob and the sports information directors that came before him did a fantastic job of documenting everything. I have physical files that I need to figure out how to upkeep digitally [though], and that is a massive undertaking … Our challenge in the sports information office right now is not losing a single second of the history of Edinboro sports, even though we need to transition it into more of a digital format.” 

That history is more than just statistics and scores. “It can be a photo, it could be a program that an athlete was featured in, it could be a remarkable performance they had. I have individual files on every single player that’s been at Edinboro.” 

Despite the challenges lying ahead for the department, Womer expressed a positive outlook on the future of sports information at Edinboro. “I am going to rely on students as they come up through the ranks because student athletes and students know what (they) want to see and experience.”  

Womer has new ideas that all stem from his background in radio. “I can bring ideas from sports talk radio and commercial radio to the sports information world. So, hopefully our events will be more exciting; hopefully our partnerships with local sponsors will be more fruitful; hopefully we will get more students to come and be at actual events and entice them to do so. When they aren’t, we’ll also make the product that they’re viewing from their tablet, from their cellphone, we’ll make it as cutting-edge as possible.” 

Some things will remain the same, though. “There are certain systems that Bob has in place that we aren’t going to touch. Certain things that Bob did, we are going to try and replicate to the best of our ability.” These include procedures for game days, where sports information will have to maintain a balance of having few people on the field while getting the best quality statistics and information they can. 

He finished with advice that could only come from an athlete, or lover of athletics. “What I’m going to do is stay on my toes, and try to adjust as this world does.”  

Not dissimilar from adjusting to a tricky pop fly, the sun in your eyes.

Thomas Taylor is a staff writer for The Spectator. He can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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