Sparta High School Softball: Community Support Delivers New Scoreboard

With Sparta High School varsity softball team, Eastern Propane president Robert Nicholson throws ceremonial first pitch to celebrate new scoreboard donated by Eastern Propane and Lakeland Bank. Credits: Jean Smith
Ceremony with Eastern Propane's Robert Nicholson, Robert Nicholson III and Lakeland Bank's Keith Niedergall, coach Richard Poots, and Keith Niedergall. Guedenkauf Electric also contributed Credits: Jean Smith

SPARTA, NJ - The new Sparta High School softball scoreboard was finally put to use last week.  A rainy start to the season pushed back the first home game but it was worth the wait.  The new board got a work out with Sparta putting up 11 runs in the inaugural game against Montville.

Something that might easily be taken for granted, the scoreboard came about through a team effort; parents, community members and the school district worked together to get it done. A small ceremony before the game allowed for a public thank-you to those involved.

As he tells the story, two years ago, Rob Nicholson III was driving when he received a call from Lisa Lake.

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"Your family and businesses do so much for Sparta but Sparta softball don't have a scoreboard," was the gist of the call. Lake asked Nicholson for his help. A few days later, he said yes. He entrusted softball parent Mark Scott with the project. Scott in turn brought together the two businesses that have been involved in Sparta for many decades, Eastern Propane and Lakeland Bank.

Scott is quick to say many people were involved in getting the scoreboard. Along with Nicholson, his father Robert B. Nicholson, Keith Neidergall, Maureen Martin, Jeff Guedenkauf of Guedenkauf Electric, former AD Pat Shea and softball coach Rick Poots all played a part in making it a reality.

Neidergall is the senior vice president of Lakeland Bank, while Martin is the director of marketing for the bank. Both were instrumental in getting the scoreboard up but no one was more crucial than Scott. "Mark kept the train on the tracks." Nicholson III said. 

Everyone at the ceremony spoke about Guedenkauf's commitment level. He donated his time and expertise, doing the electrical work for the scoreboard. Lakeland Bank has sponsored countless fields improvement projects throughout the county but this was more special to Nicholson III because he has lived in Sparta his whole life and graduated from Sparta High School in the '80s. Sparta is in the blood of everyone involved.

Lakeland Bank and Eastern Propane split the costs of the scoreboard, which were around $8,000. 

Nicholson III threw out the first pitch with a special softball embossed with names and logos of both companies. Nicholson, the director at Lakeland Bank and also involved with Eastern Propane, said those two companies are "two of the most charitable companies not only in Sparta but in Sussex County."

There is a family connection in Lakeland Bank and Eastern Propane that came together to give back to in which they have a long and continuing history. Putting their names on a scoreboard together shows the connection between the family businesses and sports. "A lot of the people I went to school with have kids on the team now," Nicholson III said. 

Not only did Sparta shut out Montville that day, 11-0,  Paige Smith threw a no-hitter. It was a game to remember.

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