Play ball! Summit Softball looking for a few good umps |

Play ball! Summit Softball looking for a few good umps

Summit Daily News
Summit Daily/Reid Williams

SUMMIT COUNTY ” Wanted by Summit County Softball directors: Thick-skinned, hard-working, fair and confident men and women to work as umpires during the upcoming summer season.

Like he is every spring, Summit’s 10th-year umpire in chief (UIC) Mike Swirka is looking for a few good candidates to assume the often unrewarding detail of diamond patrol.

“I’ve got 10 umps right now,” Swirka said. “And if I had 10 more show up, I could work with them all.”

Swirka, who umpires 60-100 local games a year as a self-described “fill-in guy,” will launch his annual beginner umpiring course Tuesday at the Holiday Inn restaurant in Frisco.

An explanation of game rules will be the focus of the two-session clinic that continues May 15. After that, students will engage in field training.

“I’ll shadow them and they’ll shadow me,” said Swirka, the United States Specialty Sports Association’s (USSSA) 2005 Colorado umpire of the year. “Then they take a USSSA test on the rules. When they’re ready to go solo, we let ’em go at it.”

Make no mistake ” Swirka’s open invitation does come with a caveat. Although the compensation is an attractive $18 per 55-minute game, those clad in the official’s uniform tend to earn their dough.

“You’re expected to be perfect in your first game, then improve every game after that,” Swirka said, only half-joking. “Everyone thinks the calls should go their way. … That’s why we’re there.”

Merlon Pusey, who attended Wednesday’s Masters Clinic at the Holiday Inn, a meeting that was conducted by Colorado USSSA-UIC Bill Harper for a small group of local veteran umps, explained his motivation to officiate.

“It gets me outside, for one, but it also keeps me involved with the game,” said Pusey, who’s been calling ’em as he sees ’em for 29 years. “I do it to help out the players. I know what it’s like to not have officials, but also to have somebody that works hard and tries to do their best ” that’s why I always try to hustle and be in place to make the right call.”

Despite his extensive experience, Pusey isn’t immune to dealing with dissatisfaction.

“Sometimes players complain about a call you made,” he said. “You know you made the right call, but they’ll still complain, so you have to let that bounce off your ears.”

Summit County Softball director Steve “Smoke” Wilkins, who also attended Wednesday’s clinic, lamented the perennial lack of local refs and gave a plug for Swirka’s teaching methods.

“You get more training here than you do in most jobs,” Wilkins said. “You don’t get paid until you do a game, but that’s just a part of it. Once you’ve got training down, it’s just updating yourself every year.”

Swirka has requested that anyone interested in attending Tuesday’s clinic contact him at (970) 485-9945. This summer’s local league games, which will be played in both Silverthorne and Breckenridge, take place from 5:45 to 9:45 p.m., Monday through Thursday.

Adam Boffey can be contacted at (970) 668-4634, or at

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