I’ve spent the last 10 days in Branson Missouri umpiring at the 12u Cal Ripken World Series and it’s been quite the experience.
I flew out on Wednesday, August 1, the first leg of the trip was Calgary to Houston and then on to Springfield. From there, it was an hour long bus ride with Team Canada to Branson and Baseball Parks of America. The team got settled into their dorms and I was taken to my hotel, my home for the next 10 days, the Belmont Inn and Suites.
As an umpire, I had nothing on tap for Wednesday or Thursday. The other umpires weren’t there yet either, so I was on my own. I watched Team Canada play Team Australia in an exhibition game on Thursday morning, Canada won and looked good for the tournament. I had dinner with Team Canada at Golden Corral, a popular buffet restaurant, I don’t think anyone went home hungry.
On Friday, we had the opening ceremonies and it was held at Dolly’s Stampede. It was a good show and an excellent meal. I met the other umpires, there were 11 of us in total.
This year, the World Series had 4 International umpires, myself, representing Canada, one from Puerto Rico, Australia and New Zealand. The rest we’re from the US, two from California, my roomie, from Texas, Indiana, two from Arkansas and the UIC (Umpire in Chief) from New Jersey. I immediately knew I’d fit in with this bunch, they were almost as sarcastic and dry humoured as I am.
Finally, Saturday arrived, the start of the tournament. In the round robin portion, I was scheduled for 9 games in 4 days and was on the plate 4 times in total. We ran a 3-man system for the opening round. The baseball was generally good quality and was fun to umpire. I was on the plate twice for Team Canada, which I considered odd, but the UIC didn’t seem to have an issue with it. Speaking of Team Canada, they struggled offensively and dropped their 3 round robin games to Japan, Korea and the Dominican Republic. Talk about a tough division. I’d say their highlight of the tournament was against the DR, myself on the plate. The game was tied going into tg 6th inning but they ended up losing by 2 runs. The boys seemed to have a great time, nonetheless.
The playoff round had us using a 4-man system, something I wasn’t overly familiar with. It was great, always having an umpire covering a base for a potential play. I think I drove the UIC a bit insane sometimes forgetting my rotations, but, I also think it may have been a short trip for him. 😉
I umpired in the International Championship game yesterday, Korea vs Japan on the right field line. As expected, Japan easily defeated Korea to advance to todays World Championship.
In the other game, the US Championship, I was watching from the media center and witnessed one of the best games I’ve ever seen in youth baseball.
It was Virginia vs Mid-Atlantic, both teams scoring in the first with Mid-Atlantic taking an early 4-3 lead that they’d hold until the 6th.
Virginia scored 2 runs in the top of the 6thto go ahead by one. In the Mid-Atlantic teams bottom of the 6th, with 1 out, their batter hit what was almost a home run, he started trotting out of the box, thinking it was gone. Rounding first, he headed hard for second base and the center fielder threw a strike to the second basemen (it might have been the SS, I’m unsure), all I know for sure is that California Two (and Number One, to me, more on that, later) called him out. It was one of the best throws I’ve ever seen in baseball and came at the absolute right time. The Virgina fans exploded with applause while the Mid-Atlantic fans couldn’t believe what they saw. With 2 outs, the next batter grounded out, causing the Virginia boys to pile on (I think), their first baseman.
This setup today’s championship game, Virginia vs Japan. As good as the Virginia team is, and believe me, they are a great team, I don’t think they stand a chance against a nearly perfect Japanese team. I’m predicting a 6-0 Japan win, for back to back World Championships (I think it’s back to back, but hey, I wasn’t here last year). I could be wrong and for Virginia’s sake, I hope I am.
At any rate, it’s been an honour and privilege to umpire in this World Series. I have memories that I’ll keep for a lifetime. Thanks, Branson Missouri.