A Thrill Umpiring At Williamsport
Wednesday - September 08, 2010
If you’re like most local sports fans, you had to love the recently televised Little League World Series games featuring the new U.S. champions from Waipio. For the third time in the last six years, the Hawaii Little Leaguers shined on the baseball field with their outstanding skills and thrill-a-minute play.
Seventy-two-year-old Cliff Yaguchi from Pearl City got the thrill of seeing them up close and personal in Williamsport, Pa. Yaguchi, a retired station supervisor for Hawaiian Telcom, was there not just as a fan, but also as one of the chosen volunteer umpires for the Little League World Series.
“I’ve been putting in applications for the past 15 years or so,” says Yaguchi, who has been umpiring around Oahu for three decades. “When I didn’t hear last December (the regular time for notification), I thought I was passed over again. (But) the regional director came out here to Hawaii for a seminar and told me personally that I was selected. It kind of floored me!”
Yaguchi umpired 12 games in the double-elimination series at Williamsport, and was the first base umpire for the International championship game between Taiwan and Japan.
“The crowd was huge (estimated at approximately 30,000 fans),” he recalls. “The chief umpire comes up to us before the game on the field and says, ‘I want you guys to turn around and scan the field. You’re never going to forget this!’ It was awesome - what a venue!”
Keeping with Little League tradition, Yaguchi and the other umpires were unpaid volunteers for the tournament. They paid for their own transportation to get to the World Series.
The only benefits they received were their hotel rooms and a few of their meals.
Yaguchi brought along wife Jeanne and daughter Tammy. “It was well worth it,” he says.
When he wasn’t umpiring - and obviously, he wouldn’t be called on to ump Hawaii’s games - he got to see Waipio in action.
“I sat in the stands with some of the parents - I had done some of their games at the district level - and I rooted them on,” he says. “Their team was excellent and they have super coaches.”
Yaguchi has actually been to the World Series before, but at a different level and with a different job. He was a coach for the Pearl City 14- to 15-year-old Senior Little League all-star team that won the U.S. Championship in 1991, and then fell to Taiwan in the world title game. He says there’s a reason that Hawaii does so well in Little League.
“I think that at this age, the kids here are very well-coordinated,” he says. He noted that most of the Mainland U.S. teams are much bigger than Hawaii players. “Some of those bigger guys are still growing into their bodies. I think that helps not only Hawaii, but also some of the international teams, like Japan, Taiwan and Latin America.”
He says the trip to Williamsport was the chance of a lifetime, and he had one more memorable moment that was unexpected.
“I got to meet (former major league pitching star) Ron Darling and his parents,” he says. “You know, he was born in Hawaii, and they came up to talk to me after one of the games. It was a treat.”
It was definitely a World Series to remember for one of Pearl City’s finest umpires.
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