Zachary Frattaroli is just 18 years old. A freshman at Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) University. He loves the game of baseball. But he never was the best player on his team. Still, he has something over his teammates: He was the most knowledgeable on every field he ever stepped on.
“They called me Coach Frat,” said Zachary. “I didn’t get much playing time, but I knew a lot about the game. I helped coach on most of the teams I was on. I was like that secondhand manager.”
Much of that knowledge came just from just being around the game and enjoying it so much. Zachary is a huge New York Yankees fan and says he goes to as many games as he can. So, when his playing career ended after middle school, the decision to stay involved with baseball was an easy one.
But for “Coach Frat,” coaching wasn’t where he would turn. Zachary chose umpiring. He felt his impact there was greater than it would be as a coach. He’s now in his second year as an umpire in Stanford, Connecticut.
“I wanted to continue working with kids in a way that I knew that I would impact the game … And I can impact more kids by umpiring than just a single group of kids like if I was coaching.”
“I wanted to continue working with kids in a way that I knew that I would impact the game,” said Zachary. “And I can impact more kids by umpiring than just a single group of kids like if I was coaching.”
Zachary has fallen in love with umpiring over the last year. He loves it so much that he took the initiative to attend Little League® International’s week-long umpire training academy at its complex in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
His love for the game has kept him grounded even as he overcame living in a single-parent household for much of his life.
“I’ve just always loved the game. I went to my first baseball game in third grade, and I just fell in love,” said Zachary. “The scheduling was very tough. A bunch of the games were on Sunday and my mom worked on Sundays, but I was always just happy when I got to play. I knew she was doing all she could.”
When Zachary is on the field, he sees the umpire’s role in a unique way: an avenue for players to have fun and gain energy.
“When you have passion, you hear the kids reflect off of that,” said Zachary. “The kids bounce off your energy and how you call the game. If they hear you get excited for a big play, then they’ll get excited too.”
Zachary does that by staying confident even if he misses a call. He knows you can’t get them all right.
“Umpires make mistakes, which makes it such a challenging job,” said Zachary. “We just do this for the fun of the game, and for our love of baseball.”
He hopes that passion has allowed for umpiring to open potential avenues down the road.
“When I graduate from college, I might go to the minor league umpiring school in Florida and test my luck there for five weeks and try to figure out if I might want to continue into the minor league system,” said Zachary. “But I think just doing it for the love of the game is where I’m at right now and I want to just continue doing it for the kids. The kids are what baseball (and softball) is all about and helping them make those friendships that last a long time.”
His final message to other young umpires echoes that of Little League’s message as a whole. It also falls perfectly in line with what got him into umpiring in the first place.
“At the end day, yeah, one team will need to win and another will lose, but what matters is the kids having fun and learning to love the game.”