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Softball: Little League ump to call World Series

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By Mike Cote

For several years, Kerry Coffelt has moved up the ranks in Little League umpiring.Now, he’s made it to the highest level.Coffelt, a longtime local umpire, was selected to call this year’s Little League softball World Series. The World Series will be held in Kirkland, Wash., in mid-August.“It’s a really long process,” Coffelt said. “You just don’t go to the World Series. It’s a coveted honor to go as an umpire. Players have to be good and lucky to get to go to the World Series, and we’ve got to do the same.”Only two umpires were selected out of this Little League region, which includes eight states.The process to even be considered is an arduous one. Coffelt had to attend a regional umpire’s clinic in Waco, Texas, the head office of Little League. This was after calling a regional juniors event in Grand Junction, Colo., in 2005-2006, and regional seniors playoffs in San Antonio last summer.Along with the regional experience, prospective umpires have to score very well on an evaluation, which is assessed in the Waco headquarters.Francisco Guerra, a longtime White Rock Little League and District 1 Little League coordinator, said Coffelt was well-deserving of the honor.“He has earned it,” Guerra said. “Going to the World Series means he’s been a top-notch umpire at regionals…he’s very fair, he’s very consistent. I’m very happy we have someone from our district going to the World Series.”Guerra said one of Coffelt’s biggest contributions is his off-season work. For each of the past three years, Coffelt has run a local rules clinic for those interested in umpiring, coaching or those who just want to learn more about the games of baseball and softball.While sports officials are generally treated like punching bags and get to hear first-hand the opinions of everyone watching, Coffelt, who also calls prep football, said he and the officials he knows take their jobs extremely seriously.Coffelt has been calling Little League games for nearly 30 years and has been doing prep baseball and softball for 25 years. He’s learned to take the fans’ comments with a grain of salt.“You always make at least 50 percent of the fans angry no matter what you do,” he said.But throughout his career, Coffelt has learned a thing or two about how to call a game. The key, he said, is to be ready for what’s going to happen before it happens.“If you’re able to think ‘what-if’ before a play, you’re better off,” he said. “A good official never wants to be surprised. You have to be able to do that with the crack of the bat….Once you get that, you have an intuitive feel for the game and you make less mistakes.”Of course, the first thing anyone wants to know about an umpire is whether he’s had to toss people and how often he gets to do that.Coffelt said he hasn’t had to run anyone in many years, and when he’s had to, it was often because of a breakdown of communication between himself and the offending player or coach.While Coffelt was proud of his selection to call the World Series, he was also very happy to see a pair of female umpires get selected to work the World Series as well.The league doesn’t assign umpires into crews, so he doesn’t know if he’ll be working with those umpires or not.“I’d like to see more girls come out on the field and do this,” he said. “If you know the rules and if you know the mechanics of being an umpire, it makes you a better player.”