Do­ing it all for the kids

Long­time um­pire Ralph McMullen helped gen­er­a­tions of ball play­ers get to the plate

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - SPORTS - JONATHON BRODIE

Ralph McMullen knew he was nom­i­nated for the Brockville and Area Sports Hall of Fame seven years ago, but when it came time every year for the HOF an­nounce­ment of who was get­ting in it never crossed the long­time um­pire’s mind he would be part of it.

“It was a shock, an hon­our, and hum­bling all at the same time,” said McMullen.

While most nom­i­na­tion forms come in multi-page pack­ages de­tail­ing ev­ery­thing a po­ten­tial Hall of Fame hope­ful has done in their career, maybe the beauty of McMullen’s nom­i­na­tion form, sent in by the late Keith Whiteland in 2011, is how sim­ple it is.

The bulk of the nom­i­na­tion is eight bul­let points, each one be­tween five to 15 words, de­scrib­ing McMullen’s cre­den­tials and um­pir­ing his­tory. Al­though each point is short they’re ex­trav­a­gant in their longevity and achieve­ment.

•Um­pired Le­gion Mi­nor Base­ball, 1960 to 2004;

• Um­pire in Chief from 1969 to 1999;

•Um­pire in Chief 1985 – Cana­dian Lit­tle League Ma­jor Cham­pi­onships;

• In 1985, Ralph was se­lected to um­pire the Lit­tle League World Se­ries in Wil­liamsport, Pa.;

•Um­pired Cana­dian Cham­pi­onship Ju­nior Base­ball, 1993;

•Um­pired On­tario Cham­pi­onship Se­nior Base­ball, 1994;

• Um­pire in Chief Cana­dian Cham­pi­onship Ma­jor Base­ball, 1995;

•Um­pired Cana­dian Cham­pi­onship Big League Base­ball, 1997;

It’s in­ter­est­ing, though. When you ask McMullen why he thinks he got the call to the Hall he doesn’t fo­cus on his 44 years of um­pir­ing or work­ing a Lit­tle League World Se­ries. Like his nom­i­na­tion form, he keeps his rea­son­ing short and sweet, but it still man­ages to hit home.

“I guess it was my ded­i­ca­tion to the kids,” McMullen an­swered when asked why he thinks he’s go­ing into be in­ducted into the lo­cal and area HOF Fri­day.

In some ways McMullen is part of Lit­tle League World Se­ries his­tory. He worked a game in­volv­ing a team from Mexicali, from the Mex­i­can state of Baja Cal­i­for­nia, who even­tu­ally went on to the cham­pi­onship game. That 1985 year was the first time a non-U.S. team made it to the cham­pi­onship game and it’s only hap­pened one other time since.

Still, it’s not the mem­o­rable mo­ment in time why McMullen is get­ting in­ducted into the Hall of Fame’s builder cat­e­gory – al­though it cer­tainly helps.

Re­gard­less if it’s roughly 10,000 peo­ple watch­ing him at the Lit­tle League World Se­ries or 20 par­ents at the Le­gion ball field, “once the first pitch goes and the first call is made,” it all came nat­u­ral to him, said McMullen. He’s made those calls for thou­sands of young ball play­ers that have crossed through his plate and he looks at his work at the di­a­mond as help­ing gen­er­a­tions of ath­letes learn the game.

“There’s a cer­tain amount of what you give must go off onto the kids,” said McMullen. “I think they ap­pre­ci­ate what you do and they try to un­der­stand that there’s rules of the game and they have to play within the rules.”

The Hall of Fame is filled with mostly ath­letes and coaches. McMullen con­sid­ers it re­ward­ing that he’s part of a small select group get­ting in as an of­fi­cial.

“If you look at how many ath­letes are around and take a look at how many of­fi­cials are around they’re out­num­bered 1,000 to one I would guess,” said McMullen.

McMullen has a story he likes to tell. A young player, he calls “Lit­tle Johnny,” came up to bat. McMullen called a strike on him, prompt­ing Lit­tle Johnny to turn around and shake his head. Lit­tle Johnny did the same thing when McMullen called the sec­ond strike and then again af­ter strike three, so the um­pire asked the bat­ter what was wrong.

“He said, ‘I don’t think those were strikes.’ I said, ‘Oh, is that right? Well, I’ll tell you what, the next time you come up I’ll clean my glass eye off and maybe I’ll be able to see bet­ter,” re­told McMullen.

There were times, McMullen said, when he con­sid­ered leav­ing um­pir­ing through­out his career, but his wife, Mar­i­lyn, al­ways re­minded him why he was do­ing it – for the kids.

There were also times when those kids he was do­ing ev­ery­thing for would come up to him af­ter a game to thank him for his work.

“I got a few of them. A few not so good too as you can well imag­ine,” laughed McMullen.

He stepped away from um­pir­ing in 2004, but the last game he ever worked was in 2006. It was be­tween two high schools just start­ing base­ball. McMullen’s grand­son was play­ing for one of the teams and he called up his grand­fa­ther to ask if he would um­pire the game. McMullen obliged.

Any­thing for the kids.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.