For 35-year veteran umpire Mike Roach, it’s the young ballplayers who keep him doing what he loves.
Roach, a 59-year-old Brownstown resident and an auto line worker for Ford Motor Co. since 1994, has been volunteering at the Junior League Baseball World Series in Taylor as long as he’s been umpiring, performing a wide variety of necessary tasks.
The year 2017 is the first time he has been selected to called balls and strikes in the JLWS. But it’s not the first time he has umpired in a World Series. In fact, it’s his fourth.
Roach’s Little League umpiring career started in the Lincoln Park North Little League in 1983. Two years later, he became the league’s vice president for softball. From 1989 to 1994, he was league president.
Roach said he moved to “the other side of town” and became involved in Lincoln Park South as the umpire in chief. Eventually, South and Lincoln Park Central merged into Lincoln Park American, which exists today.
Roach – and eventually his entire immediate family – began volunteering at the World Series in Taylor in 1983, the third year of what was then known as “the 13-year-old World Series.” Roach has done “anything you can imagine,” including working on fields, selling pins, getting ice donated, locating a trash dumpster, acquiring soda pop, picking up World Series program and more.
Roach and his ex-wife Joann have four daughters: Jamie Roach, Michele Misiak, Ashley Roach and Holly LeSage. All but Ashley live in Michigan. And all six family members have volunteered or still volunteer for the World Series, selling 50/50 tickets and working as part of the scorekeeping team. Even Roach grandchildren have made appearances this year.
Meanwhile, Roach estimates he has umpired in excess of 3,500 games. He has worked in more than 135 state tournaments – all in Michigan – and at least 19 regional tournaments.
His resume includes three previous World Series for the Little League International family: the Big League Softball World Series in Kalamazoo in 2004 and the Junior League Softball World Series in Kirkland, Washington, in 2007 and again in 2012.
Daughter Jamie also umpired at the World Series in 2012, becoming the only father and daughter in Little League history to do a regional tournament and a World Series by appointment. That year, Roach said, he exercised his “alumni option,” so they worked the series together.
He said the average umpire gets assigned to one World Series – “two if you’re really lucky.”
Little League calls volunteer umpires “one of the most important aspects in the success of Little League programs around the world.”
The selection process to become a World Series umpire is lengthy and rigorous, and begins with a recommendation from a district administrator within the ump’s district, to call balls and strikes in a regional tournament. Little League’s nine regional offices then consider all nominated umpires before selecting those who most closely meet the selection criteria.
The umpires volunteering at each regional tournament are then evaluated and can receive one of two recommendations: to work another regional or a World Series assignment. Once an umpire has earned a World Series recommendation, the ump must indicated that he or she wishes to be considered further. Individuals who meet those qualifications are then screened annually by Little League International and regional staffs for selection to umpire in a World Series tournament.
Appointment as a member of the umpiring crew for a World Series is considered the highest honor that Little League can bestow on a volunteer umpire. An individual can be selected for a World Series assignment once every four years. For the third straight year, Little League International is supporting all volunteer umps with a $400 travel stipend to help offset costs for the men and women to attend their respective World Series.
In Taylor, this year’s umpire crew features 15 individuals. Six are called upon to work each game at positions around the field. The World Series concludes at noon today at Heritage Park, 12111 Pardee Road.
“Kids are entitled to the best umpire they can have,” Roach said. “These tournaments are not paid for any of us. We’re on our own. I feel it’s my responsibility still. I figure at 59 years old, I still have a few years I can do this stuff – as long as I can do it and kids say ‘cool, it’s Mr. Roach again’ and not ‘oh no, it’s Mr. Roach again,’ I’ll keep doing it. It keeps me busy.”