Ron Kellie points to one of the Everest Park fields and smiles.
The 60-year-old Kirkland resident first stepped up to bat there for his Kirkland American Little League team, and his children also played baseball and softball on the Everest fields.
“I never got cut but, of course, you can’t get cut from Little League, so we’ll leave it at that. I enjoyed my time,” said a chuckling Kellie, who continued to play baseball through his Kirkland Junior High years and graduated from Lake Washington High.
For the last 13 years, Kellie has manned the role of umpire in chief at the Junior League Softball World Series at Everest Park. With help from administrative assistants Terry Thompson from Mill Creek and Ted Evy from Canada, Kellie and the duo meet with the 13-man umpire crew from all over the world (including 10 from the United States, and the others hailing from the Netherlands, Curacao and Canada), set up assignments and evaluate the umpires throughout the week.
The event took place from July 28-Aug. 3 and featured 31 games, including the Southeast’s 7-6 victory over the Southwest in the final, which was televised live on ESPN2. The early games had umpires on each base, and they added left- and right-field linesman to the semifinals and final.
Kellie said the umpires are the third team on the field.
“You have each other’s back. Everybody’s gonna make a mistake… if you know you made a mistake, conference up, it’ll get corrected and you move on,” said Kellie, adding that most of the international teams can speak and understand English pretty well and some of the umpires are fluent in Spanish, Dutch and Italian. Interpreters are allowed on the field if needed.
During one of the games, the announcer noted of the umpires: “You can question their calls, but you can’t question their heart.”
If a heated situation arises between umpires and coaches, Kellie discussed the best way to douse the scenario: “Hopefully your pre-game, you’re ready for that and at the plate meeting you’re talking to coaches and whatnot and trying to get them to do their large part — take care of their teammates, take care of their parents if they need to, their fans. Then, you just gotta be a straight-up person. If you’re fair, people will see that, I believe, and try and nip it in the bud before it escalates.”
Umpire Stan Ball from Naples, Florida, enjoyed his time on the basepaths along with the people and weather.
“There’s a lot of good athleticism at this level that you probably don’t see at the local level and it’s amazing how well these girls play,” said Ball, a paramedic field trainer for Lee County EMS in Florida.
Born and raised in Kirkland, Kellie began his umpiring journey as a parent volunteer in the mid- to late-1990s and then he took on the umpire in chief position for Kirkland American and then for the 13-league District 9.
“It’s a great place to be,” said Kellie, a building engineer in downtown Seattle. “There’s all types of sports out there and I think the main thing is that you provide a structured environment for kids to learn life value lessons and I’m happy to be a part of that however I can.”