A “Full-Count Conversation” with Maria Pepe Little League Baseball® Legacy Series Umpire, Michelle DeRosa

For many people, Little League
® becomes ingrained in their everyday life, starting with their childhood and spanning decades later. That’s exactly what it has been like for Michelle DeRosa, a volunteer who was selected as one of only 16 female umpires to participate in the 2024 Maria Pepe Little League Baseball® Legacy Series. Ms. DeRosa has worked in nearly every volunteer role after playing in the inaugural season of Lynwood (Ill.) Little League, including spending the last 16 years as an umpire. 

Ms. DeRosa’s service with Little League has been a rewarding experience, providing her the opportunity to give back to the community. An experienced umpire, Ms. DeRosa has worked her way from being an emergency, fill-in umpire to working the 2017 Little League Softball World Series and international games, where in 2019, she was selected to officiate games in the Europe and Africa Region in the Netherlands. When she traveled, she also brought along her mother and youngest daughter, giving them the chance to explore the country and learn about its history when they weren’t watching her call games.

Ms. DeRosa umpiring at a Europe and Africa Region softball game in the Netherlands in 2019.

To learn more about her experience as a female umpire, Little League sat down for a special Girls with Game 50 (#GWG50) Full-Count Conversation with Ms. DeRosa: 

1-0 Count: You played in the inaugural season of Lynwood (Ill.) Little League, what was your favorite memory from that time?

We were a brand-new Little League that my mother helped start, and became its first president.  On the very first opening day, we had a parade, which ended at the community park where a picnic and the first two inaugural games were going to be played. Everyone was watching the games, not knowing the Chicago White Sox mascots were going to come to the picnic. When they got there, that was it. As soon as they stepped out, everyone just ran from their games and the picnic started early. I vividly remember being there as an eight-year-old like it was yesterday. 

1-1 Count: From your time as a Little Leaguer®, to now volunteering as an umpire, what would you say is the thing that kept pulling you back to the program?

Little League just weaves into the fabric of your life. I saw so many people in our very small community, made up of only 2,600 people, come out to support this program. It’s just what you did. When I aged out of playing, my league still offered an opportunity for me to coach softball. I coached minor softball through high school, and once I had a family of my own, I knew that my kids were going to play Little League because that’s just what we do. I was moving to another state, to a new community, and I had young kids that were four and eight. I called the town’s Chamber of Commerce before we moved and said, “I want them to play Little League softball, what is my option, what is my league,” because there was no League Finder back then. They said State Park Little League is what they had there. When I signed them up in January, I got a call from the President welcoming us to the league. I explained that we weren’t moving in until May because our house was not ready yet, so we drove back-and-forth an hour for practices before we moved in officially. This introduced my girls not only to Little League, but they were able to make friends in their new community before school started. Over the next year, I joined the board because I wanted to help more and also meet people in my new community. Eventually, I transitioned to the Indiana District 1 Staff and then I volunteered for the Central Region tournament staff. When I started umpiring, that opened up even more doors to start traveling around and meeting more people. It’s just woven into my life, and I don’t foresee myself ever not being involved with Little League in some capacity because there’s just always something to do.

Ms. DeRosa (far left) with her 1984 Lynwood LL softball team

2-1 Count: It is clear you have a passion for volunteering and giving back to your community, where does this strong desire to come from?

It comes from my mother. When she started the league to give kids in my small village something to do, I watched everything she did as a volunteer. She was selfless. Seeing everyone participating and coming together as a community during events like candy sales for uniforms and equipment, it instilled in me that drive to want to give back. If I don’t do it, and everyone has the attitude of not doing it, then it’s not going to get done. I battle a lot with umpires that I work with that want to work by [calling] travel games in the summer because they want to get paid. They don’t understand why I would umpire Little League for free.  But, nothing feels as good as giving back to your community and giving back to the kids.  I still do regular season games, even though I’m an umpire that does a lot of higher-level games. When coaches see me they’re like, “Wow, you’re still coming here to do these local games?” Well, these leagues need umpires and I’m not too good to do these games. They get so excited to have you there, and if you stop giving back, then the whole system fails.

Ms. Derosa at State Park Little League (Porter, Ind.) in 2018

2-2 Count: Is there any one event, game, or interaction that really stands out to you as making a difference as a volunteer?

Back a few years ago, I started participating in the Little League Urban Initiative event that was taking place in my hometown, Lynwood Little League. I went back to that area, which is now more urban, to give back.  When we worked those games you got the kids that were so excited to play and have “real umpires”. You give them a pin, or some swag, and they just think that it is the greatest thing. Being able to see that they feel included playing in a big tournament with all the fanfare, they feel like they’re part of something special, that they’re not just out there playing a regular season game, it was pretty cool. 

3-2 Count:  What advice would you give to a female looking to become an umpire?

The very first piece of advice I would give would be don’t give up. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. I’ve had many instances of being passed over or passed by because I’m a female, and I wasn’t going to give up. You find yourself a good support system, find a female official/mentor, and they’ll support you through the process. This has been an amazing life experience and I am glad I didn’t give up. I really try to recruit female officials because other little girls need to see us big girls doing the job. And if you can see it, you can be itAs a female official, there are barriers that you have to deal with, but don’t let it overwhelm you, and don’t let it make you think you don’t belong there. Because you belong there like everyone else.

Interested in becoming a Little League umpire? Visit LittleLeague.org/Umpires to learn more.

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Note: The #GWG50 Celebration is proudly supported by DICK’S Sporting Goods, a long-time Little League partner that is committed to creating opportunities for girls and women in sports and will be activating around key events and milestones this year.