PORTLAND – Airplane ticket to Portland: $350-$1,000.
Nine or 10 days’ worth of expenses in Portland: about the same.
Working the Little League Softball World Series as an umpire: priceless.
Eleven men and one woman from different parts of the United States – and one from Curacao – are working the games free of charge this week at Alpenrose Stadium in Portland. Actually, it’s a money-loser for each of them.
They have to pay their own way to get here, and with umpires hailing from Connecticut, Delaware, Virginia, Texas, Kentucky, Florida, New York, Ohio, California, Washington and the aforementioned Curacao, that’s no small expense.
“It’s the love of the game,” umpire Rick Roberts said, “and to be able to watch the girls play the very best softball that can be played.”
Roberts is an assembler at a Whirlpool plant in Marion, Ohio, near his hometown of Bucyrus, Ohio. It cost him and his wife, Jeannie, $1,000 to fly to Portland, and he had to burn two weeks’ worth of vacation time.
When asked about the money and time involved, Roberts brushed his hand aside.
“It’s nothing,” he said, “compared to the thrill of watching the girls play ball. This is something we’ll never forget.”
Each of the 12 umpires works two games a day. After games, they gather in a nearby parking lot to assess each other’s work. The goal: make sure they’re getting the job done right.
“We critique each other so we’re more in-tune to what the other is doing when we get back out on the field, so we look nice and crisp,” said Umpire-in-Chief Doug Perret, “and most importantly, that we’re in the right place at the right time.”
Each umpire must perform well at local, district, state and regional levels before he or she is selected to work at the World Series.
“It really is an honor and a privilege to be here,” said Jeff Holliday, a sergeant with the New York State Police who lives in Catskill, N.Y.
Holliday is amazed at the quality of play some teams at the World Series have displayed, especially when compared to the local level games he works.
“There will be great games and there will be not-so-great games,” Holliday said, “and you roll with the punches as far as that goes. When you come out here to a tournament of this magnitude, and you have the best of the best from regions or throughout the world, it’s really neat to watch.”
“You really are kind of awed at times at how well these kids play. It’s easy to forget these kids are 11, 12 or 13 years old.”