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Parents listen to YouSpeak on the games

New technology offers parents of Little Leaguers a quick and easy way to learn if games have been canceled.

By AARON SHAROCKMAN
Published October 6, 2003

OLDSMAR - Here, a new up-to-the-second Web messaging system tells Little League parents if their kid's game is a go.

Now Little League administrators would like to see the YouSpeak system spread to Little Leagues throughout mid and North Pinellas and west Pasco.

"It's a great concept," said Steve Gottscho, the assistant district administrator for District 12, an area that covers Little Leagues from Ulmerton Road in Largo to Hudson in Pasco County. "Now we just have to get people to use it."

A local technology firm developed the program, which allows anyone to create Web audio messages using a telephone. The messages can be heard the second the person hangs up.

Lightning Technology Group, a 13-employee firm based in Oldsmar, developed the YouSpeak Network this spring, and owner David Frank used the Oldsmar Little League as a testing ground. Frank, who has a daughter and a son in the league, said the messaging system has taken off in Oldsmar.

"It's so much better than what we've had," Frank said.

What they had was a message on an answering machine at the ball fields at Canal Park. If games were canceled, a league official would leave a message for parents and players to access.

The problem was only one person could call in at a time, and with 500 parents all coming to the field at once, the phone line was always busy.

The new system allows everyone to hear the message at the same time. And the sound is built into the Web site; parents don't have to wait for a sound application, like Windows Media Player or WinAmp to open.

"It's been a boon in getting information to the users," Frank said.

The Oldsmar Little League also uses the technology for coaching tips as well as league news. On the league's Web site - www.oldsmarll.com - Frank's daughter Madison, 12, acts as anchor for this month's broadcast, he said. She uses the name "Hollywood" and gives the schedule for the upcoming weeks.

So far, other Little Leagues aren't using YouSpeak, Gottscho said. Gottscho said the district purchased the program for all its teams after seeing the success in Oldsmar. In theory, a coach in Largo whose team is playing a game in Holiday can know the field conditions before ever leaving home or searching for someone to call, Gottscho said.

"It has the capabilities of getting to a lot of people," he said.

But so far the messages, which are on the district's Web site, www.district12florida.com have been empty. Gottscho said he's trying to get area coaches and league officials to understand the benefits of the new system.

The district purchased the messages, at $7 a month, at the end of the spring season in May. Gottscho said he hopes the system will pick up when next season starts.

"It can be quite helpful," he said, "if people take the time to use it."

- Aaron Sharockman can be reached at 727 771-4303 or asharockman@sptimes.com

[Last modified October 6, 2003, 01:49:36]


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