Dee Dee Martinez
Chance of a lifetime: umpiring in Little League World Series
By Bob Highfill - Record Staff Writer
STOCKTON — The uniform arrived Wednesday: the blue shirts, dark slacks and embroidered caps.
For Jeff Frese, the assignment of his life is beginning to take shape.
The 59-year-old Stockton resident is one of 16 umpires in the world selected to work the 2016 Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
Frese said had he never been selected to umpire Little League Baseball’s grandest event, he would have been fine. He has given nearly 30 years of volunteer service to the organization. He coached and managed for six years at Hoover Tyler Little League, starting when former Stagg High and Oakland Athletics pitcher Dallas Braden was in the league, and has been an umpire for 23 years.
Frese is the District 8 umpire-in-chief and has served on its staff and the board of directors.
“I couldn’t begin to imagine how many hours it is (that I’ve volunteered), but it’s not a matter of how many hours I’ve put in,” Frese said. “It’s about doing something I thoroughly enjoy. It really is.”
In Williamsport, Frese likely will be as excited as the 11- and 12-year-old kids representing the United States and countries far and wide.
“It’s definitely getting real,” he said. “I’ve tried to maintain an even keel for months now, but it’s been a little difficult.”
Frese will represent the Western Region, comprised of 11 states, as well as District 8’s dozen or so leagues in Stockton. Dee Dee Martinez, District 8 administrator, believes Frese will be the first umpire from Stockton to work the Little League Series. Martinez will accompany Frese to Williamsport for the tournament from Aug. 18-28. They met while working on the District 8 staff and are engaged to be married.
“I haven’t taken a vacation in years and this is my first two-week vacation where I’m just going to be a spectator, not a tournament director,” Martinez said. “I’ll just be watching him.”
Frese will be one of 14 umpires from the United States in Williamsport. The final two will be from Little League Baseball International: one from Puerto Rico and one from Canada. The umpires will work at least two games at each position: home plate, first base, second base and third base, and the foul lines in left and right field.
This literally is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because umpires can work the Little League Series only once. Being selected to umpire in Williamsport is an honor. Out of hundreds who are nominated, 16 are chosen each year.
“Certainly, had I not gotten it, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world because I do so many good things for Little League,” said Frese, a health and safety manager at Pactiv Corp. in Stockton. “I always told myself it’s one of the goals. It's not the only goal. But Little League has chosen to reward me for my years of volunteer service this way and I really appreciate it.”
Little League Baseball has been Frese’s true passion.
“I love baseball and we still have the opportunity to shape the futures of kids,” he said. “People at our level and people at the Little League International level and the region level, we talk about Little League Baseball is not a baseball program, it’s a leadership program for kids; to teach them life lessons. Baseball is the vehicle for us to teach those lifelong lessons.”
Frese said the key to being a good umpire is to let the game call itself and handle the arguments and controversies professionally.
“Anybody can call balls and strikes,” he said. “You can learn the techniques, you can go to the schools, learn the mechanics, learn the rules and learn the interpretations of the rules. But handling the game itself is the most difficult part.”
Frese will evaluate umpires this weekend at the Western Region tournament in San Bernardino, as he has for many years. Then, he and Martinez will head to Williamsport.
Said Frese: “It’s a huge deal to me.”
August 7, 2016
Western Region Little League Tournament Begins
San Bernardino, CA
ESPN3.com, ESPN2, ESPN
August 18 - 28, 2016
Little League World Series
Little League Baseball World Series Schedule & Results
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