MAN IN BLUE: Pat Leadbeatter in the umpires role looks on as Norths Under-20s catcher Brendan Gillespie goes about his work du
MAN IN BLUE: Pat Leadbeatter in the umpires role looks on as Norths Under-20s catcher Brendan Gillespie goes about his work du

Umpires needed to play ball

By GEOFF HALLMANN WITH the 2007 season marking 70 years of baseball in the region and the local competition putting on some spectacular action, it is little wonder spectators are coming out to watch the games.

Ironically, however, there is a shortage of spectators in the best seats in the house the umpires.

With numbers dwindling through injury, playing commitments, work and travel, the Far North Coast Baseball Umpires' Association is keen to attract new recruits.

Association secretary Paul Latta has put the call out for spectators, family of players and baseball lovers to take the opportunity to contribute to the development of the sport locally.

"Our goal is to build up the numbers and provide some quality officiating for all the grades," Latta said.

"You don't have to be experienced. If people bring the enthusiasm, we will provide the skills and support to help them learn the game, or build the skills they may have once had."

Umpires are paid and, while not all aspire to the top levels, Latta is an example of what can be achieved.

Last year he attended the Jim Evans Umpiring School in Florida in the United States, along with one of the region's most senior umpires, Julian Sexton.

Latta's hobby has led to appointment to various national championships across Australia and a likely overseas appointment, accompanying the Australian AA team to their world championships later this year.

He also instructs umpires locally and across Queensland when the need arises.

And with National League Baseball set to start in 2008, Latta is likely to make his professional debut behind the plate of Australia's premier league.

"Umpires have the best job in the game and the best vantage point to watch the game," Latta said.

"You don't need any baseball experience. If you love sport and you like a challenge, or just want to do some exercise on your weekend, we are looking for you.

"Age is no barrier, nor is your sex. It's a great job, and you will appreciate just how good the game is when you're part of what goes on."

Just ask local sporting legend Harold Crozier, who retired from the game almost two decades ago.

Crozier, a life member of the Far North Coast Baseball Association, has been watching games from the sidelines for years, and when he heard of the umpiring shortage he threw on the leggings and chest plate and has been umpiring Division 1 games all season.

As with all sports, the players don't always like all the calls, but you can be assured there is no back-chatting Harold Crozier the umpire.

He calls a mean but fair game. He calls it as he sees it and he is always in control.

The players take the calls in their stride and in the spirit of the game.

Crozier is accorded the respect of his position as an umpire and elder of the game, ensuring the dignity of the game is preserved.

So if it is tee-ball, juniors or even senior grades you could help out with, or you just want to fill in your weekend, the FNC Baseball Umpires' Association is looking for you.

For more information, phone umpires' director Geoff Hallmann on 0414-014365 or email geoffhallmann@yahoo.com



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