Just One Of The Guys
Cynthia Smith couldn't play baseball when she was young because girls weren’t allowed.
Fast forward to 2013, girls are playing baseball, and Smith is playing one of the most important parts on the field in the Little League Baseball® World Series -- the role of umpire.
Smith is making waves as the only female umpire in the South Williamsport this year, something that has historically been a men's only club.
"It's like heaven," Smith said with a grin. "I think for everybody here, this is on their bucket list. It's the highest honor a volunteer umpire can get."
Just like for the kids who get to the tournament, it's the pinnacle of Little League Baseball to be an umpire in World Series. Every year, a select few umpires are invited to the tournament. Sixteen are here this year, and all of them have to pay their own ways to get to South Williamsport.
"It's my volunteer work," Smith said of why she's stuck with umpiring for 17 years. "My profession is with the YMCA. Volunteers are important part of the YMCA's organization so I really understand they are at the heart of making a strong program. I think all of us, we love the kids. We love baseball, and we are fortunate that volunteer work combines our love."
Smith is now based out of the Southside Little League in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She is also the Chief Advancement Officer at the YMCA of Broward County. She said volunteerism is very important to her, and that has played a key part in umping for nearly two decades.
Smith began umpiring because her kids, Ben and Adrian Brumby, started playing baseball. Before she was an umpire, she was a coach, and in the league her kids played in, coaches had to help umpire a few games.
"It's like heaven," Cynthia Smith said with a grin. "I think for everybody here, this is on their bucket list. It's the highest honor a volunteer umpire can get."
"My kids were in the program and back then there were very few women that were umpires," Smith said. "There weren't any in my league, so I was very fortunate to have a couple of guys that were mentoring me along and trying to help me get better. They really helped me to get here."
While her love is baseball -- and umpiring the 11-12 age group -- Smith said she has umpired softball games. She would also like to see more umpires transition between softball and baseball and not stick to one sport. She said it makes them a better umpire and well rounded.
She also feels that staying involved after their own kids leave the program could help the next generation of local leagues.
"By then, the parents are really starting to learn how to coach well or learn how to umpire or learn how to run a concession stand," Smith said. "If we could get them all to give us one more year after the kids age out, the program would get stronger."
The female umpire has already been reached out to by others saying how proud they are of her. She has spent her free time in the past few days responding to emails and posts. Smith joins an even smaller group, the sorority of female Little League Baseball World Series umpires. She is the fifth in the 67-year history, joining Betty Speziale (1989), Flora Stansberry (2001), Lo Mei Yan (2006) and Nancy Prieto (2011).
Although for a long period of time, umpiring was a boys’ club, Smith feels the barriers are just mental for women to crossover into baseball. She also said if more females could be officials, it would help double the number of umps in leagues.
She's had another unique honor this week in Williamsport as well. She was the plate umpire for West pitcher Grant Holman's no-hitter.
"My favorite part is that I have the best seat in the house," Smith said. "I will never forget that. I had two incredible pitchers, and great catchers. I will just never forget that moment."
For Smith, she still wears blue. Her strike zone isn't different. She has to learn the rules just like anyone else. When she calls an out, it means the player is out just like with every other umpire.
"I'm just one of the guys, and I'm appreciative of that."