Hey Blue, Y’er Outta Here
Andy Konyar Retires as Little League International’s Umpire Consultant, Little League Baseball World Series Umpire-In-Chief
Since August 1987, Andy Konyar had set the standard for Little League umpires throughout the world. At the end of October, Mr. Konyar, a volunteer Little League umpire for more than 30 years and Little League International’s Umpire Consultant for the past 21 years, retired.
In more than two decades of service to Little League Baseball and Softball, Mr. Konyar traveled to communities and countries, large and small, intent on making the Little League experience better for all the children that play and the volunteers who choose to don the umpire blue and gray.
“Andy has been a faithful and valued member of the Little League International staff,” Stephen D. Keener, President and Chief Executive Officer of Little League Baseball and Softball, said. “Little League thanks Andy for a job well done. He’s been a good sport and a fine ambassador through the years and we’ll miss him. He told me he plans to spend a lot more time with his family and grandchildren, and we certainly wish him all the best for many years of well-deserved retirement.”
During the Little League Baseball World Series in Williamsport, Mr. Konyar served as Umpire-in-Chief. He also was a member of the Little League International’s Charter Committee, Tournament Committee and Rules Committee.
In a recent edition of the Little League umpires’ “Fairball” newsletter, Mr. Konyar announced his intentions to retire.
Below are excerpts from that message.
“… What a wonderful ride these 21 years have been. As I say my final farewells, I feel privileged to have been a part of an international icon. Little League Baseball and Softball is one of the greatest institutions in the world.
…The best part of it for me, however, has been you. I've met hundreds of volunteer umpires and found each and every one of you to be the most dedicated individuals in the Little League family.
…And how about those kids that inspire and motivate us season after season. We tried not to fumble. We struggled not to fail them. Win or lose, we stood proudly with them because of how they played the game. They made better men of us and for that, I'll always be grateful.
I leave the field confident that I've played a small part in making all you blues stand taller and wear your gear with pride. For me, you have truly been the best part of the game.
… Until I see you again, call ’em like you see ’em.”
After 20 years in the U.S. Navy, Mr. Konyar came to work at Little League International in 1987 as the Assistant Director of the Eastern Region. In 1990, he was named umpire consultant following the retirement of longtime Little League Umpire Consultant Frank Rizzo.
Mr. Konyar umpired in two World Series, both in 1993: The Little League Baseball World Series, and the Big League Baseball World Series.
As umpire consultant he oversaw the education and training of thousands of volunteer umpires through clinics and seminars, and manages the Little League Umpire Registry. He also answered thousands of questions about Little League rules and regulations each year. For the tournament season, Mr. Konyar coordinated the selection of umpires for Little League’s eight World Series in Little League Baseball and Softball.
“Andy is a unique individual,” Mike Messick, Pennsville (N.J.) Little League Umpire-In-Chief and Senior Instructor for the Little League Umpire School, said. “He has the personality, delivery and knowledge to make everyone feel at ease and comfortable with what’s being presented.
“Andy’s always said, ‘Not every umpire has the skills or desire to umpire in Williamsport, but if we (clinic instructors) can give them the basics, and they in turn can use them to help the local program get better, then we have done our job and achieved our goal.’”
Mr. Messick has been a Little League volunteer for 31 years and has 27 years of Little League umpiring experience. He and Mr. Konyar attended umpire school together in 1989, and when Mr. Konyar assumed his position at Little League International, Mr. Messick was among the first people he called.
“In 1992, when Andy told me he was going to take over as Little League International’s Umpire-In-Chief, he asked me to help him re-vamp the umpire school,” Mr. Messick said. “Over the next nine months we developed the basic curriculum that have been part of the school ever since.”
The Little League Umpire School, along with countless clinics, seminars, training sessions and, of course, the International Tournament, had introduced Mr. Konyar to a wide assortment of people and personalities. Mr. Messick is among many who have had the pleasure of getting to know Mr. Konyar and who’ve nurtured lasting friendships.
“Andy has the passion, desire and drive to help any umpire get better,” Mr. Messick, who umpired in the 1993 Little League Softball World Series and the 2001 Little League Baseball World Series, said. “He is totally Little League, but I think he will miss the people and kids the most.”
“I’ve worked together with Andy for 22 years,” Frank Policano of Rock Tavern, N.Y., and the Town of Newburgh (N.Y.) Little League, said. “He is sincere in promoting the idea of umpiring, and he has earned the respect of every umpire that has come to the World Series.”
A Little League umpire for 44 years, Mr. Policano, has volunteered at the World Series with Mr. Konyar for 12 years, the last six as Assistant Umpire-In-Chief. He describes Mr. Konyar as an excellent leader with a passion for umpiring and consistent message to all umpires – It’s a kid’s game, but you have an important job to do, so do it.
“Andy is quiet and low key, but he gets to the point and leads by example,” Mr. Policano, who umpired in the 1979 Little League Baseball World Series and has worked every U.S. Eastern Region Little League Baseball Tournament since 1978, said. “He teaches ‘the right way,’ to do things, while explaining how important volunteer umpires are to the Little League game.”
Little League umpires belong to a special fraternity that Mr. Konyar has led for more than two decades. During his time as Little League International’s Umpire Consultant, clinics and training seminars have deepened the talent pool, while the resources available, including the Little League umpire registry and the “Fairball” newsletter have brought this unique group of volunteers closer together.
“I treat him like a brother,” Mr. Policano said. “We’ve traveled the world, and met so many umpires. We’ve all become brothers, and Andy has helped the fraternity grow together.”
A native of Trevorton, Pa., Mr. Konyar resides in Lewisburg, Pa. His wife “and best friend for 40 years,” Bev, passed away in August 2007. Mr. Konyar has two children: a son, Chris, and daughter, Jill; and five grandchildren.
At the end of October, after 21 years, Andy Konyar retired as Little League International’s Umpire Consultant and the Little League Baseball World Series Umpire-In-Chief. Mr. Konyar of Lewisburg, Pa., has volunteered in Little League for 30 years, and has umpired in the Little League Baseball World Series and Big League Baseball World Series.