Paying Tribute to an Umpire, a Volunteer — a DadApril 21st, 2011 by Ric Hallock
The community of Gig Harbor lost one of the good ones on April 5.
Alec Douglas left us far too soon at the young age of 34, leaving behind many family members, including his two children, daughter, Callie, and son, Dane.
I had the good fortune to first meet Alec by chance three years ago, while serving as manager for a AA Gig Harbor Little League team. One of the tasks at the younger-age teams is having to draft the team fresh each year, and with that comes the often mind-boggling task of rating hundreds of kids during a daylong turnout.
You get a few minutes to watch a child catch, throw, hit and run and the only sane way to maintain some sense of judgment is to ignore the names and faces and reduce it to a game of numbers. During that time in 2008, I saw one particular 9-year-old that I had not taken notice of in previous years. Unlike many of the other kids running around the field, his demeanor was all about work and his face showed a focus and determination I didn’t see elsewhere on the field. That was Dane.
It was an easy choice to place him at the top of my list and when I was fortunate enough to draw the first pick in the draft, Dane became the top draft choice. At that time I had no idea I was also drafting an experienced umpire in his dad, to our team. How fortunate that turned out to be.
As another manager noted recently, Alec was never one to say no, so when I asked if he would help out with the team, he jumped right in.
At the end of a very fun season of baseball, Alec and I agreed to team up together to coach a AAA team the following year. But those plans fell through when I was passed over to be a manager the next season. Our two sons drifted to different teams and we crossed paths only occasionally when Alec would ump a game we were playing.
We were reunited again this year when our sons joined the same select team. It was good to catch up with the two of them, and to see how Alec was still deeply involved as a volunteer with umpiring (as well as coaching in youth football).
As both a coach and a parent, it was good to have Alec be a part of the team as he helped fulfill team requirements to umpire games as well as being able to explain to the boys specific calls. But it was also sometimes a bane when he would umpire one of our games, as he always seemed to call his son’s pitches a little tighter than he would other pitchers.
No doubt he did this as part of the routine of most other father/volunteers in giving that little extra effort to assure that he was not favoring his son over others.
Three days before Alec died, we had a scrimmage for our select team with another team in our organization and Alec — of course — volunteered to umpire. I’m no umpire and I don’t know what compelled me to do so, but that day I asked Alec if he wanted some help with me umpiring the bases.
He accepted and gave me the two-minute crash course of umpiring that he took weeks to develop each spring.
He told me I had the tags and bags on 1 and 2 and tags on 3. I nodded affirmatively, not wanting to let on that he’d already lost me as he ran down a quick list of regulations.
He finished by saying there were three rules to abide by, above all else.
“Don’t overrule me and I won’t overrule you,” he started. “And don’t rush to make the call. See it through to the end of the play and then make a call.
“And always remember, once you make a call, stand by it,” he said.
Three days later when word of his passing first reached me, his gameday advice came back to me, his baritone voice still giving those words weight in my head.
This child’s game has often been used as a metaphor for life. And I’ve come to realize in the days since, how Alec’s words reach far beyond the game of baseball.
And so I tell you, from the limited perspective I have from the few short years I’ve known Alec, he will truly be missed by all those involved in Gig Harbor youth sports. I feel privileged and honored to have had the chance to get to know Alec and Dane. And I look forward to watching Dane’s progress as he continues to grow and develop in the Gig Harbor youth sports world.
That’s my call and I stand by it.
Ric Hallock is managing editor of Gig Harbor Life and has coached youth baseball, football and soccer since moving to Gig Harbor in 2004.