It took Clint Batten 47 years, but he’s hit the big leagues. He began umpiring in 1967, volunteering his time because he loved the game and enjoyed watching kids work as a team. He’s umpired more than 3,500 games at the local, district, sectional, state and regional level.
This time, the 76-year-old will be umpiring at the Little League Softball World Series in Portland, Ore. He’s one of only 12 umpires worldwide and the only one from Jacksonville participating. The games run Thursday-Wednesday, Aug. 7-13, for girls 11 and 12.
It’s not easy getting to that level. Batten started playing ball when he was 8. At Andrew Jackson High School, his sports were baseball and basketball. After graduating in 1956, he played on an Army fast-pitch softball team in Germany and was recruited to play on an Air Force team.
Back in civilian life, Batten had a couple of nephews on a newly formed San Mateo Little League team that needed a coach. He volunteered, and that meant umpiring, too. He coached his own son, Brian Batten, for seven years. And the teams he managed for boys 9-12 won San Mateo’s Little League championship 11 straight years. He also continued playing fast-pitch softball in a city league program. But Batten’s playing days ended when he was 30 and dislocated his right shoulder.
He’s umpired all age groups, from 9 to 18. He went to umpiring clinics and stayed on top of new rules and rotations. While a lot of umpires had no interest in going beyond the local level, Batten said he had a passion for ascending the ranks.
He had to do well at each level and win recommendations from Bob Veleta, his umpire in chief, and Larry Geiger, District 11 administrator. To get past the state tournament, for example, he had to apply for the Southeastern regional. Veleta, Geiger and Southeastern headquarters officials had to approve his bid.
“Then you might get it that year or five years or so later,” said Batten, who got the nod in two years. “They monitor you during these tournaments, and you are graded. You have to get a good-enough grade to put in for a World Series.”
Now that he’s made it, Batten has been studying a 57-page rotations manual since a different system is used than that in the Southeast.
“It’s the pinnacle. I can’t wait,” said an excited Batten, whose wife, Myrna, is going with him.
And he’s not finished yet. Batten plans to umpire until he’s at least 80.
Here’s more good news:
■ Merchandising Plus, a St. Johns County interior design firm, won an Aurora Award for a model at Tamaya, a new Mediterranean-style community off Beach Boulevard. The firm won Best Interior Merchandising in the $300,000 to $500,000 category for its work on the Sienna model by ICI Homes. Judges cited the firm’s mix of transitional and contemporary decor for the 3,079-square-foot home.
■ Daniel Breaker, who graduated from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in 1998, is on tour with the cast of “The Book of Mormon.” His accomplishments include graduating from The Julliard School in 2002; winning an Obie Award and a Tony Award nomination for his portrayal of the lead role of “Youth” in the Broadway musical, “Passing Strange,” in 2008; and a Drama Desk Award nomination for his turn as “Donkey” in “Shrek the Musical” in 2009.
■ It was a water-cooler idea that became the Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach’s first Y’ART Sale. And shoppers scooped up donated artwork that included original watercolors, photography and jazz posters. The center raised nearly $1,000 for its fall children’s programming, a news release said.
■ Portions of the fence had fallen down, and some of the wood was rotten. So Billy Fetzer, 18, removed and rebuilt 143 feet of wooden fencing in the back parking lot of Ortega Presbyterian Church as his Eagle Scout project. Twenty-five volunteers helped him out, and supplies were donated by Builders FirstSource. Fetzer is a 2014 graduate of Paxon School for Advanced Studies who is starting Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton in the fall. He is the son of Charles and Catherine Fetzer and a member of Troop 26, which meets at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Matt Morgan is the Scoutmaster.
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