People arrive at the Daily Pilot open house event Thursday.

People arrive at the Daily Pilot open house event Thursday. (Don Leach)

In the span of a week, I got the opportunity to learn first-hand how much the Los Angeles Times Community News' products mean to Orange County.

It started Sunday with the finals of the Pilot Cup, the annual Newport-Mesa youth soccer tournament sponsored by the Daily Pilot, Los Angeles Times, the city of Costa Mesa, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District and organizer Kirk McIntosh.

I was taken with the drama — particularly because we're talking about elementary school players. Over at The Farm, I witnessed a nail-biting shootout, two last-minute goals, amazing goaltending, a couple of vicious strikes and some aggressive tackles.

As with every year, there was one publicized example of cheating, but at the Pilot Cup those missteps are always the exception, never the rule.

I met coaches and players from UC Irvine and talked with plenty of parents who are grateful The Times and the Pilot put on this event.

After the tournament, the winning teams posed for photos. One group shouted "Daily Pilot!" instead of "cheese." That kind of recognition meant a lot.

Though there are too many people involved in this event to name them all, I want to give credit to Steve Virgen, our sports editor.

He and his team worked nearly a week straight, covering the Pilot Cup with so much enthusiasm it may as well have been the World Cup.

Our staff photographers, Don Leach and Scott Smeltzer, as well as our committed stable of freelancers, spent hours in the sun capturing scrapbook-worthy images.

Then there was Cara Stephens, our promotions manager, who coordinated the difficult logistics of putting together the event. She worked tirelessly with McIntosh and her counterparts at the city and in the school district to make it all happen.

This event has become a community treasure that grows richer with each year.

Open house at the plant

On Thursday, we held an open house at the Los Angeles Times Orange County plant in Costa Mesa. I got a chance to meet readers of all three of our community newspapers and our growing website, OCNow.

The feedback was amazing. Readers told me that they appreciate our commitment to community news and also said they like the regional news we are now providing on OCNow, which runs online and as a daily column in the Pilot.

I demonstrated the features of our new websites, and many folks told me how impressive the site looked.

There were a smattering of complaints, and I took those, too.

The story ideas came all night. We're going to get to some of them soon.

Turnout was strong, in the neighborhood of 150 people, which is not bad when you're competing with the NBA Finals.

Nothing is better for newspaper folks than to meet their readers face to face.

We plan to do another open house at the end of the year. I hope to meet more of the folks whose devotion to our newspapers and website keeps us in business.