Regional umpire Gumbs gets the call to Williamsport
August 11, 2004
KUTNO, Poland — For minor league baseball players, the ultimate goal is getting to “the show” — the major leagues.
For Little Leaguers — and those who umpire their games — “the show” is the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
One team from this week’s Transatlantic Regional tournament in Poland will go to the World Series. So will one umpire.
Bobby Gumbs, who has been umpiring in Little League for 15 years, got the call-up this week. He knows it’s a big deal, but he’s taking it in stride.
“If I let myself get excited when I get there,” Gumbs said, “I’ll lose focus. I can’t get nervous.”
The 54-year-old from Alkmaar, Netherlands, was chosen as one of the international officials because of his competence, said umpire Bill Carter of Placerville, Calif., one of six North American umpires working the regional.
Candidates must have worked a Little League regional and must be recommended by their district supervisor. The regional director forwards nominations to Williamsport, where the decision is made.
It’s a decision that doesn’t come lightly.
“For an umpire in the States, the average wait, once you’ve been recommended, is eight to 10 years,” Carter said.
Gumbs worked the Junior World Series (for 13-year-olds) in Taylor, Mich., three years ago and conducted an umpiring clinic in Kutno the year before that.
Little League’s European regional director, Beata Kaszuba, jumped at the chance to recommend Gumbs to work the Series.
“He’s a good umpire, that’s the No. 1 thing,” Kaszuba said. “He’s been involved with Little league for many years. For umpires who support us like he does, our way of saying thanks is to send their names on to Williamsport. He really worked for it.”
Williamsport is a far cry from Gumbs’ stickball games in his native Aruba, a baseball-savvy Caribbean island.
“We had a system with tennis balls,” Gumbs said. “We used three bases and broomsticks.”
Gumbs began umpiring when he got to the Netherlands 15 years ago. He kept umpiring even after his wife died last spring.
“She was a scorekeeper,” he said, “and sometimes when I looked over to the scorer’s table my heart would ache. I would forget what I was doing. I could have turned to the glasses and the bottles, but I knew that wouldn’t help. You have to get through.”
“Each game is different,” he said. “It’s always a surprise. I’ll keep umpiring as long as my body can make it.”
Gumbs prefers working with the 11- and 12-year olds, such as the ones he’ll be umpiring at Williamsport.
“I enjoy these kids the most,” he said. “You can still control them.”
And help them, too.
“These kids have talent, but they’re nervous playing in front of their teammates, parents and crowds. It’s my job to make them relax, to let them know they have all the time they need to get ready.”
Does it work?
Gumbs smiled and shook his head.
“They still swing at anything in front of the plate.”