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October 25, 2014

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Clinic gives Southern Nevada umpires first-hand training

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Aaron Thompson / Special to the Home News

16-year-old Alex Fischer screams at the top of his lungs at umpire Drew Vertes during The Vegas Valley Umpires Association weekly clinic at the Russell Road Park Jan. 31.

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The Vegas Valley Umpires Association umpire Chris Schultz telling potential umpires how to watch the ball during the association's weekly training at the Russell Road Park Jan. 31.

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The Vegas Valley Umpires Association umpire Dave Ruegge guides 17-year-old Matt Kerstine in the association's weekly umpire clinics at the Russell Road Park Jan. 31.

More than 60 baseball players, managers and fans gathered at Russell Road Park on Jan. 31 to learn an aspect of the game new to them — being an umpire.

The umpire training session was part of an ongoing clinic hosted by the Vegas Valley Umpires Association, which assigns umpires for most Little League, club ball and travel ball games in Southern Nevada. The clinic includes six, two-hour classroom sessions and three, three-hour on-field training sessions, the last of which is scheduled for Feb. 7.

Typically, the association has about 150 umpires each season.

David Ruegge, owner of Vegas Valley Umpires Association, said the turnout of 60 to 75 people for the ninth-annual training clinic is slightly higher than normal.

"This is an opportunity for adults to stay in the game and help the kids if they can't play anymore. And it's a way for some to get a second income, with the economic times the way they are," Ruegge said.

Umpires in training at the on-field session ranged from 14 years old to retirees in their late 60s.

Brad Reitz, a Green Valley resident who has coached Little League and club ball for nine years and coaches his 14-year-old son's club team, said he recognized players, parents and former umpires from games at the clinic.

Reitz said it is beneficial to learn the game from an umpire's point of view.

"It's a totally different game when you're on the umpire crew. You're looking at totally different things," Reitz said. "I wish my boy was here so he could internalize all that there to being an umpire, because it can make you a better baseball player."

Green Valley resident Tom House said he first thought of the idea of being an umpire when he was walking by a baseball park and his wife suggested he try it. House enrolled for the clinic and hopes to be a first-time official this spring.

"I've been on the couch too much, and I need to get up and get around," House said. "So I thought it'd be cool to be an umpire and help the youngsters out. I'm enjoying the clinic very much."

During on-field training, the majority of the potential umpires stood around the bases for various drills, while a handful of others gathered around a pitching machine to learn how to call balls and strikes.

Chris Schultz, the operations manager for the Vegas Valley Umpires Association, handled most of the on-field instruction. "We want to make them feel more confident and learn their responsibilities," said Schultz, who has been an umpire in minor league baseball.

Carol Ruegge, David Ruegge's wife and co-owner of Vegas Valley Umpires, said she expects many of the new umpires to officiate games this fall. "This is the calm before the storm of the season," she said. "We enjoy doing this clinic."

Christopher Drexel can be reached at 990-8929 or [email protected].

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