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Big League Series through the eyes of an umpire

DiFabio shares experiences from Easley, S.C.
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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The youngsters who participate in Little League Baseball are not the only ones with dreams of reaching the Little League World Series. All over the world, volunteers give their time to the game by calling balls and strikes and keeping the games moving along. For many of these umpires, the dream of umpiring at regional and national tournaments is also very much alive. Gary DiFabio, a veteran District 54 and District 11 official, who also works high school and college games all over the area, was one of the umpires selected to work this year’s Big League World Series, which concluded this week in Easley, SC. DiFabio shared his experiences with daily emails, and what follows is a look at the Big League World Series as seen through the eyes of an umpire. Day 2 The District 54 umpire passed his swine flu test and then attended the tournament’s home run derby. ”We headed to the field for the home run hitting contest,” DiFabio said. “It was won by a player from the Dominican who hit 20 home runs in the two rounds. Let me tell you none of them were cheap.” DiFabio discovered that the CEO of Little League Baseball, Steven Keener, was in attendance, but not in an official capacity. “One of the players on the East team from Williamsport is Steven Keener's son. Mr. Keener is here as a parent so that should be interesting.” Day 3 The experience of the day was the chance to call Keener’s son out on strikes. “I had the plate in the first game of the tournament - Central vs. East. You guessed it, Steven Keener's kid’s team, DiFabio shared. “So I want to thank each of you for helping me share my only World Series.............you got it, in the fourth inning, Keener batting, a called third strike on a great pitch middle out.” Day 5 Odd calls found DiFabio on the fifth day of the tournament, and he shared one that to show that sometimes umpires see things the rest of us do not. “I seem to be a magnet for odd calls, DiFabio said. “I was working third and had a delayed steal on a passed ball. As the third baseman got to the bag to await the throw he drug his foot over the magnetic breakaway base and dislodged it forward (toward home plate) by at least one half of the original spot. “The runner arrived and stepped on the magnet and then was tagged by the third baseman. I called him safe and the manager came running out of the dugout. The manager came out to object and when he got to third base I made sure I was standing directly over the base.” “He said to me ‘how can you call him safe when he never touched the base.’ I calmly said, ‘Greg, look down.’ He looked down and said ‘oh’ and went back to the dugout.” Day 8 Sometimes people don’t think, and emotions get the best of them, leaving umpires to deal with what follows. “I was working second base. The bottom of the sixth inning ended with a whacker play at the plate that was called an out to end the inning. On the very first pitch of the top of the 7th inning, the catcher ducked a fastball the hit Bobby (the plate umpire) in the mask.” ”It dazed him and we immediately knew that this was an intentional act. All three of us infield umpires started in and then had to deal with dugouts and players. In the end the catcher was ejected and his father went ballistic and had to be escorted off the field. The general consensus was that we should have gotten the pitcher and manager also. Oh well live and learn.” Day 9 DiFabio’s son, Drew, arrived in South Carolina in time to serve as his dad’s water boy and the umpire called his last game, as he would not be asked to do the West team’s game in the title tilt. “What a treat to have him (Drew) be a part of it,” DiFabio said. “While some may think I would be upset (about missing out on the final) I have to be honest and say I am somewhat disappointed but it is something I knew I could not control. “I will not be on the field tomorrow night but will be watching from the stands as my partners and new friends have the time of their lives on national TV. I must say that this whole experience has been one of the best of my life and I will take so many memories away from it.”