reigles

When the Athens Academy baseball team opens the 2023 season, it will do so without two longtime fixtures in its dugout.

Peggy Reigle spent the last 30 years keeping stats and providing encouragement in the Spartans’ dugout. Her husband, Tom, joined the effort during the last several years. But after the conclusion of the 2022 season in May, the Reigles decided to retire from those adventures.

That decision was not made in haste. The couple spent a lot of time thinking of their age and health concerns and, ultimately, they decided the wise move would be dialing back their commitments.

“It was a very, very difficult decision,” Peggy said. “I wanted to stay on but I thought that's not the smart thing to do.”

The Reigles’ decision to stop keeping stats for the Spartans brought an end to a 30-plus-year experience.

Peggy was hired as a middle school math teacher when they moved to the area from Boston. That same year, their son, Douglas, began attending the school as a fourth grader.

Douglas moved up the ranks and played for the Spartans from 1989 to 1992. The Reigles sat in the bleachers and kept up with their son’s statistics for their own record.

They gained notoriety for their scorekeeping and, when Joey Alfonso became the team’s head coach in 1992, he asked Peggy whether she would keep the books for the team in an official capacity beginning with the 1993 season.

Alfonso first asked Peggy to do scorekeeping while also working as the first base coach during games. Peggy demurred but eventually settled on a different role within the program.

“I said, ‘Would I have to wear those pants you guys wear?’” Peggy said when amusingly recalling the conversation with Alfonso. “And he says, ‘Yes,’ and I said, ‘No.’ So, I became the dugout coach and the scorekeeper.”

Peggy was officially a part of the Spartans team. Thus began a 30-year run as the program’s statistician.

Ironically, Peggy did not know much about baseball regarding certain terminology and verbiage. That’s where Tom stepped in to help, leaning on his years of playing and coaching experience to help his wife better understand the game.

The statistics themselves were more simplistic during Peggy’s early days as scorekeeper. The rise of sabermetrics and advanced statistics, however, made the sport more complicated over the years.

Still, Peggy kept up her work with the team.

She even started sending recaps to then-assistant coach Casey Kane when he joined the team in 1997 and later on when Kane became head coach. Those recaps appeared on the school’s website and became a staple of Peggy’s efforts.

“At that time, the stats were pretty easy,” Peggy said. “They're not as complicated as now. I would do the stats. I'd go home, do them and I'd send them to Casey. Then, I'd do a write-up and we'd put it on the webpage. And the dugout was a challenge. They're boys. Sometimes, they'd get mad and I'd have to calm them down and sometimes they'd start to cry and I'd have to give them a little hug.”

As Tom put it: “She was a mother as much as a scorekeeper.”

Tom later took on the role of proofreader for Peggy’s written recaps. And within the last decade, Tom worked his way into the dugout, too, and helped Peggy from start to finish by using the online GameChanger service, which digitally tabulates statistics.

“I would always go to the games, even after our son graduated, because I just enjoyed it,” Tom said. “I'd be with the parents in the stands and have a good time with them. About 10 years ago, I started going in the dugout because they came out with GameChanger and I learned how to do that and it was pretty cool. So, that became my role. I would go in and do the GameChanger app and she kept doing the books, so we had the book and GameChanger.”

The name of that app could not have been more fitting for the Spartans, as Peggy said the app sped up the process of scorekeeping.

“When I first started, I did it all by hand. I did the averages and everything by hand,” she said. “Now, when [Tom] puts it on GameChanger, it comes up automatically. Their average is there, how many hits, how many RBIs. It would take quite a while to do those stats every night and do the different categories.”

There is still a need for the old-fashioned books, the Reigles were quick to add, because the hot Georgia temperatures sometimes caused Tom’s iPad to malfunction and consequently lose data on GameChanger.

The two complement each other with their scorekeeping efforts. They also provide a source of encouragement for the players.

“We'd be interacting with the players and trying to keep them calm and yet keep them focused,” Tom said. “They're really great kids. It's been terrific. I think we've gotten as much or even more out of it than we put into it, for sure.”

Those positive relationships extended to the bleachers.

There have been minimal complaints, according to the Reigles, even at times when there might be a tough call to be made about whether certain plays were hits or errors.

“In all the years we've done it, I don't remember one parent ever coming into the dugout to complain,” Peggy said. “It was amazing. Usually, you're expecting something like, 'I think that's a hit,' especially after [Tom] started putting it online. I kept waiting for someone to say, 'That's not an error' or something but they didn't.”

Several highlights from the last 30 years stand out in the Reigles’ memory.

The 2004 squad played for a state championship at Lakeview Academy in Gainesville but not before crisscrossing the state throughout the playoffs.

This year’s team, they said, showed great resolve with how it jelled after a shaky start to the season.

A unique honor came along in 2014 when the teams’ parents surprised Peggy with a building dedication. The team’s indoor facility, which features batting cages and bullpens, was named after Peggy.

“They said, 'We would like to make this hitting facility the 'Peggy Reigle Baseball Facility,' and I started to cry,” Peggy said. “It's so humbling. You don't do this for your name on a building. Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine this poor girl that grew up in East Cleveland, Ohio, getting her name on a building. That doesn't make sense.”

She was honored again this past season when the team presented her with a commemorative plaque marking her 30th season as its official statistician.

Peggy was recognized prior to one of the 2022 home games. Several former players, former coworkers and parents were on hand for the celebration.

“It was really special,” Peggy said. “It was heartwarming. To be in an environment like that, you're very blessed.”

The Reigles reached the decision to give up their duties in the last few weeks after giving it careful consideration.

Peggy noted the years of long bus rides and hundreds of games attended began piling up – but she stressed that the coaches made the real sacrifices throughout all that time.

In the end, the Reigles decided to end that phase of their lives.

They do so with immense gratitude for the experience.

“We've met a lot of great people and still have a lot of great friends,” Tom said. “The rewards are more than the effort. There was considerable effort but the awards were more.”

Peggy retired as an Athens Academy teacher back in 2009. With her latest retirement so fresh, she reflected on all the time she spent with multiple generations of Spartan student-athletes with great fondness.

“I came to love them and they, I think, came to love me,” she said. “We just had a great time. It was really fun in the dugout. They come back to still see me. It's really been an honor and a blessing. You don't know where God's gonna put you in your life, and I never would've thought I'd have ended up here.”

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