During one of many trips from Ohio to visit his parents who had moved to Florida earlier, Paul Thompson happened to ride through the City of LaBelle. He remembers seeing a two-story building with a porch on each floor somewhere near the middle of town. A woman was sitting on the upper porch. He thought to himself that this was a real laid-back community and would be a wonderful place to retire. Never dreaming that he would be able to retire and live in LaBelle, approximately 20 years ago, it took Paul and wife, Marcia, about two years to move to LaBelle, and they have been here since 1999.
Paul started out as a coach in Ohio. He coached his son’s baseball team and his daughter’s softball team. It was while coaching that he decided to become an umpire.
When asked what was the main attribute of a good umpire, Paul said that you have to be fair. At this point, Marcia stated: “And he is.” She then told about their daughter (who was a pitcher) asking Paul (after he umpired one of her games) why was the strike zone smaller for her than for the other team’s pitcher. There is no favoritism in how this umpire calls games.
Paul has been an umpire for 30 to 35 years now, and every state has different rules and regulations. That can make it a little rough for Paul since he is an official umpire in Ohio and Florida. He is affiliated with the South Gulf Umpire Association in Fort Myers, which covers Lee, Hendry, Glades and Charlotte counties.
In Florida, if an immediate family member goes to a school (even if they don’t participate in sports), you are not allowed to umpire a game for that school. You are only allowed to umpire four games per school. Each year you receive a new rule book to study and prepare for the upcoming test on the rules and regulations.
Paul was umpire for the Little League in LaBelle for a number of years, but decided to drop the other sports and call only girls fast pitch softball. That decision definitely paid off for him because, at 73 years of age, he was chosen the Florida Official of the Year for girls fast pitch softball for 2015-2016.
After being an umpire for approximately 120 games a year, Paul decided it was time to cut back some. Now he will be umpiring for approximately 60 games a year – 30 in Florida and Ohio each.
When asked how long he was going to keep being an umpire, Paul stated: “As long as I can. It’s fun.”
Jo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org