×

By The Books: Thetford Youth Baseball Coach To Umpire at Cal Ripken World Series

  • Nathan Maxwell, of Lyme, coaches his Thetford youth baseball team on proper form before batting practice in Post Mills, Vt., Thursday, August 2, 2018. A longtime youth baseball umpire, Maxwell has been invited to umpire at the Cal Ripken World Series in Florida. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Thetford Recreation Director Nathan Maxwell, of Lyme, reacts after one of his players dropped a catch during Thetford youth baseball practice in Post Mills, Vt., Thursday, August 3, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Coach Nathan Maxwell, of Lyme, follows the trajectory of a ball hit by Reece Ilsley, 12, of East Corinth, during Thetford youth baseball practice in Post Mills, Vt., Thursday, August 2, 2018. Maxwell will umpire at this year's Cal Ripken World Series in Florida. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Sunday, August 05, 2018

Thetford — Much like his knowledge of baseball rule books, Nathan Maxwell was ahead of the curve (ball) when it came to umpiring a youth league World Series. 

Maxwell, who began officiating in the Cal Ripken League in 2010, had a goal to be selected to officiate the league’s World Series by the time he was 40. The Lyme resident and town of Thetford recreation director turned 39 on Thursday and departed Sunday for Jensen Beach, Fla., where he’ll be among a crew of 18 umpires calling the World Series of the Cal Ripken League, a division of the Babe Ruth League and conceptually similar to Little League.

Maxwell, who also umpires Vermont high school games and is an assistant coach for the youth baseball program in Thetford, has garnered increased admiration from peers thanks to his command of the rule book and persistent desire to improve. The East Corinth native has umpired the last five Vermont Cal Ripken championships and last year was part of the 11-U officiating team for the Cal Ripken regional championship tournament in Waterville, Maine. Maxwell believes the commissioner of that tournament helped spearhead his nomination to be part of this summer's World Series crew.

“This is a huge honor. It’s something that I considered a pipe dream when I first started,” Maxwell said in an interview last week at Thetford Town Hall. “It’s some of the best baseball you’re going to see. For me, it’s all about interacting with the kids and seeing the enthusiasm they play the game with. Some of these guys could be on major league teams in 10-12 years, so from an umpiring standpoint, this is as good as it gets.”

When serving as the home plate umpire — the designated umpire-in-chief — Maxwell asserts a handle on affairs from the outset. If there is a dispute of a call, he requests to coaches, please allow the sequence to play out and then call timeout. A discussion may then ensue, during which Maxwell normally convinces the questioning coach that the correct call was made. It helps when the ump’s grasping of the rules is impeccable.

“A lot of people think that must be the hard part of the job, the arguments and issues with coaches,” Maxwell said. “The fact is, if you know the rule book, most of these conflicts are easy to overcome. When I first started umpiring, when a coach started yelling, I would yell back, but I realized that’s not the way you want to do it. Calm and collected is the way to go. Most of the time, the coach will understand that I made the right call as I saw it.”

Maxwell has been exemplary to colleagues such as Terry Boone, a Norwich resident whom he helped recruit to Vermont umpiring circles three years ago. From the first youth tournament they officiated together, Maxwell has helped Boone learn to officiate the game with conviction. 

“He knows the regulations inside and out, which makes the game a lot easier for the whole crew,” Boone said. “He’s very good at explaining regulations to coaches and players so that everyone can just stay focused on the game.”

The Cal Ripken World Series will feature 11-U, 9-U and 8-U divisions, the latter including both machine pitch and player pitch tournaments. Maxwell won’t know until today [editor’s note: “today” is Monday Aug. 6] to which tournament or tournaments he’ll be assigned.

Regardless, it’s bound to be a festive atmosphere — and a fervent one — in Jensen Beach, less than an hour north of West Palm Beach. It’s Maxwell’s third time ever visiting the Sunshine State. 

Bruce James, the northeastern and central Vermont assigner for high school games, has known Maxwell for years and is impressed with his attentiveness at umpiring workshops. James himself has umpired five Babe Ruth World Series, and notes that while the tournament is a celebration of the game, the high stakes of the outcomes place a lot of pressure on officials. 

“It’s a really good time, but the pressure for umpires is not only on the field, but off it, too,” James said in a phone interview. “Not only do you want to make the right calls on the field, but in the final days of the tournament, the stakes get really high and you always want to be aware of your surroundings. You might be at a restaurant with a group of officials, sitting together as a group, and not realize that a group of coaches are sitting next to you. You don’t want to say or do anything that might compromise the tournament. There’s a lot of integrity at stake.”

That shouldn’t phase Maxwell, whose professionalism has stood out both behind the plate and while serving as the Vermont State Cal Ripken commissioner and assistant umpire-in-chief, helping organize schedules and serving as a liaison between administrators and coaches.    

Maxwell is also motivated by a desire to stay significantly involved in the game. Prior to this year’s stint playing for the Randolph Jays of the Vermont Senior Baseball League, he hadn’t played since he was a student at Barre, Vt.’s Spaulding High School in the 1990s.

“I was talking to my nephew (Jory Humphrey) a couple years ago when he was graduating from (the University of) Maine-Farmington, and he said, ‘I can’t believe my baseball career is ending.’ I told him, ‘Your career ends when you decide it ends.’ If you have a passion for the game, there are always ways to maintain a presence in it.” 

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.