Little League® International recently held spring training for Little League Umpires.
Nearly 40 game officials from across the United States and Canada, made the trek to Williamsport, Pa., for the annual week-long Little League Umpire School. Among the attendees were 10 from various Canadian provinces.
Canada is often represented at the week-long school, because Little League Canada does not offer a centralized national training option, so to have such a large group make the trip is expected, and an encouraging sign.
“We don’t have a regional school, which makes it even more important that we come to Williamsport for training,” said Brad Johnston, Little League Canada’s Umpire-In-Chief. “While we are at Little League International, we see the most up-to-date information on rules and mechanics.”
Mr. Johnston has been a Little League umpire for 25 years. He was a student at Umpire School in 2008, continued to hone his skills, and he was selected as Canada’s representative to umpire the 2017 Little League Baseball World Series in 2017.
Mr. Johnston feels that officiating games in Canada is much the same as umpiring in the United States.
“We don’t have different weather issues like you might expect,” said Mr. Johnston. “We have roughly the same participation levels in our leagues.”
The biggest issue the Canadian contingent faces is geographical distance. Leagues are often spread out across the country, so it can be difficult for umpires to communicate and keep each other up-to-date.
“Coming here, I only really knew about four of our 10 guys (from Canada),” said Mr. Johnston. “In talking with them all, I’m able to tell them the small things, like other training clinics; and the best places to get a uniform.”
Mr. Johnston sees a bright future for umpiring in Canada. Along with consistently providing quality representatives from their region and country to umpire for the World Series, he cites two main goals for the Canada Region moving forward.
“The end goal is definitely to have our own regional umpire school,” said Mr. Johnston. “In the nearer future, we are focusing more on building and retaining our junior umpires.”
Sebastien Morin, a 14-year-old junior umpire from the Canada Region, was in attendance for the week, along with his father, Richard Morin. Sebastien sees umpiring as his way of helping the children who play in local leagues near his home town of Embrun, Ontario. He admitted quite enjoying his first time at umpire school.
“I had fun just hanging around with the guys and learning more about the rules,” said Sebastien. “The other guys have been like a family and they have all really supported me.”
Like the other Little League Umpire School participants, Sebastien had the opportunity to umpire regular-season Little league games during the week and the other umpires did not miss out on the chance to support one of their younger members.
“When he made a call, all the umpires were cheering for him,” said Richard. “It was great to see how quickly they made Sebastien one of their own.”
For Richard, who has umpired for 7 years, the time spent umpiring with his son is very important. He viewed their time together in Williamsport not only as a learning experience to better themselves as umpires, but also as a time of bonding with Sebastien.
“It means everything to me that I get to share this experience with my son,” said Richard. “Umpiring together makes us not only father and son, but partners.”
The 2019 umpire school is one of several training opportunities available to Little League umpires. In addition to separate weekend clinics that focus on rule interpretation and application; and mechanics; the umpire school, held each April, provides game officials the ability to actively apply what they have learned, while remaining current with Little League standard of umpiring. Satellite clinics are also conducted regularly at the region and district level.