Umpiring friends head to NAFA World Series one last time for special honor

Written by Bob on August 3rd, 2016

OAKCREEK, Wisc. – The miles to league games and tournaments add up into the thousands, the games into the hundreds. And the pay doesn’t make them rich.

For fastpitch umpires, that’s the price they pay to officiate the game they love. And Wisconsin umpires Steve Komoroski and Tom Ueberroth, certainly have a soft spot in their hearts for the game of fastpitch softball.

The two good friends started umpiring together about 1996, figures Ueberroth, 58. They’ve officiated the girls and women’s side from college division I to high school and tournaments.

ST CLAIR THE CATALYST

But they’ve umpired the men’s side as well, mainly with the North American Fastpitch Association (NAFA) in Wisconsin and at the NAFA World Series.

“Henry St. Clair (the late, former NAFA UIC) got me started in men’s fastpitch about 20 years a go,” said Komoroski. “You don’t make much money, but I love it.”

The two men are retiring from NAFA after the World Series at Caswell Park in North Mankato, Minnesota, Aug. 10-21. It marks the final time they will be on the field together in a World Series.

Ueberroth actually stepped away from the men’s side about three years a go. He’s returning to North Mankato not only to umpire, but for very special occasion that he wouldn’t dream of missing.

HALL OF FAME CREDENTIALS

During ceremonies at the World Series, Komoroski will be inducted into the NAFA Hall of Fame. Since the organization’s founding in 1993, he is just one of a handful of NAFA umpires to be inducted.

“This is so well deserved,” said Ueberroth. “Steve has put in a lot of hard work in the men’s game. He was dedicated to NAFA from start to finish, and the quality of his work is excellent.”

Komoroski has all the attributes that define a good umpire, added Ueberroth –training, attention to detail, fairness, commitment, and the respect of players, managers and the officials he works with.

And he also has the personality and character suited for the role.

“He doesn’t take things personally; he isn’t showy, and he’s easy to get along with,” Ueberroth said. “We always talk about details to improve our game (through) constructive criticism. I might ask Steve, ‘how did you see that call?’ We can do that because we have good chemistry.”

PROFESSION FOR THE TOUGH

Komoroski’s season starts in March at the Rebel Spring Classic in Florida; a month-long event that gets him ready for the long season.

“I umpired 36 games there this year,” Komoroski said. “It gets your legs under you and familiar with any new rules.”

When he returns home, his busy schedule includes high school and college softball games. And of course, men’s fastpitch.

The challenges? Long weekends of one game after another; often times in dreadful weather that would freeze a polar bear, fry a desert tortoise, or drown a dolphin. But unlike players who usually get a break between games, umpires must grind it out.

“It takes a lot out of you and you have to stay healthy when you get older,” Komoroski, 66, said, adding that on the men’s side he learned in his early years that “when you’re new they will test you, push you. But you earn respect through constant training, knowing the rules, being in position to make the call, and calling a fair game. The guys play hard with all their heart. All they ask is that (umpires) give 100-percent.”

It’s those attributes that have earned Komoroski a seat in the NAFA Hall of Fame. An honor that came unexpected, but deeply appreciated, he said.

“I was speechless when I got notified,” he said. “It is quite an honor.”

And in his final World Series his good friend Ueberroth will be on the field with him.

“We started NAFA together and will end it together,” he said. “I Love the game and I’ll miss the players and the umpires.”

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