I covered the Montour-Hopewell football game Friday night, and by the time I wrote my story after the game, sent a box score to the Post-Gazette, the only people still left in the stadium were the custodians.
I turned the lights out in the press box, and as I exited the stadium through a gate, a few lights still shined on Joe Colella Field, the baseball field next to the stadium. I looked at the field and remember saying to myself how unbelievable it was that Joe Colella was still coaching Hopewell's baseball team and how special it must be for someone to have a field named after them while they are still coaching.
That was only three days ago. Today, Joe Colella is gone.
The legendary baseball coach died suddenly Sunday. Hopewell athletic director Don Short said the cause of death has not been released.
It's a sad day not only for high school baseball in the area, but for high school sports in general. The guy coached Hopewell for almost a half-century. He finished his 48th season as Hopewell's coach this past spring and had no plans of retiring. The Vikings won the WPIAL title in 2010 and made it to the Class AAA semifinals this past season.
On top of coaching Hopewell's high school team, he also coached Hopewell's American Legion team for 48 years.
Forty-eight years of high school coaching? You won't see many guys like Joe Colella any more, coaching for almost 50 years. You know between the two teams he won more than 1,600 games? And he wasn't like Joe Paterno these days. Colella actually did coach, and was most definitely still the man in charge of the Vikings. Heck, he still coached third base and still handled all the signs with the team.
Colella would never reveal his age, but he was inducted into the WPIAL Hall of Fame in June. He won three WPIAL titles and one state title in his high school coaching career.
"I think that really meant a lot to him," Short said of the Hall of Fame induction.
I'll have more on Colella later.
Funeral arrangements will be handled by the John Syka Funeral Home, but the arrangements are incomplete at this time.