Calling the shots

While the girls are on the field, stealing bases and the spotlight, it’s easy to forget all of the donations, time and effort that goes into the World Series. The tournament would not be possible if it weren’t for the volunteers, medical and emergency staff, and, of course, the umpires. Nick Lloyd, umpire-in-chief of the Little League Senior Softball World Series, has had his fair share of experience at the event.

Having officiated games for more than 16 years, he oversees the umpires throughout the tournament, determining which umps will take to the field this Saturday for the World Series championship.

A committee of six, plus Lloyd, has been keeping a close eye on the officials throughout the games this week to find the umpire best suited for each position come championship time. He’s watched the Senior Softball World Series, which was moved to Roxana in 2004, since he joined District III as umpire-in-chief six years ago.

“It’s an extreme honor to umpire in the World Series,” said Lloyd, “and you can only receive two appointments to do so in your career. In other words, you can umpire for 40 years, but you can only umpire in the World Series two times.”

The crews he works with through the week, studying their strengths, can hail from across the country. Each umpire rotates through positions in each game, allowing for the committee to analyze their calls. The committee comprises former World Series umpires and past league presidents, all of whom have experience with the largest international stage of Little League.

“We watch them closely, because we have to be right in our selection,” said Lloyd. “The guys who will be out there for the final game are going to be the best of the best. We never really have any issues. Of course, you’ll always have minor things when you have a group of people who’ve never met or worked with each other before, but everything has been going well so far.”

While it is quite a distinction to take to the field for Saturday’s match, much of the focus will be on one umpire in particular.

“There’s a lot of pressure on the home-plate umpire,” Lloyd explained. “He’s just about in every pitch. You have to look professional, act professional and call a good ballgame. A lot of times, they don’t know what to expect. All of the umpires out there are under the gun.” Most have worked Eastern Regionals, and all have an appreciation for the spectrum of the televised championship game.

While Lloyd definitely has his work cut out for him, he still feels privileged to be part of the World Series.

“A lot of people don’t realize that there are only eight Little League World Series worldwide each year,” he added, “and to be able to say that we host one here in Delaware is definitely something to brag about.” Those eight series include four softball and four baseball title tournaments at four different age groups.

Preparation for next year’s World Series will begin in November, just a few months after the 2008 World Series wraps up.

“We’ll take a look in the fall at what we can improve on for next year’s tournament to make it even better.”

When not on the diamond, or supervising those who are, Lloyd works with an architectural firm. He got into umpiring about 16 years ago in the Nanticoke Little League, filling in as an umpire for his son’s Little League game.

“I started then, and I’ve loved it ever since,” he said. “It sort of grows on you.”