North Vancouver's Roger Shaw played an important part in a record-setting game at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. last Friday, umpiring in front of the largest crowd ever in the tournament's history.
Umpire-in-chief for Lynn Valley Little League as well as British Columbia's District 5, Shaw earned his way to the World Series as the host umpire in charge of last month's Canadian Little League Championships held at North Vancouver's Chris Zuehlke Memorial Park.
There was no easing into the World Series tournament for Shaw as his first assignment on Day 1 was home plate for a game featuring the U.S. Mid-Atlantic champions from the Keystone Little League of Clinton County, Pa., a town located about 30 miles from Williamsport.
The locals came out in force, filling the 9,000 seats of Lamade Stadium and covering the entire grassy hill behind the outfield fences to officially set the record attendance for a Little League World Series game at 41,848. The previous record, set twice during championship finals, was guesstimated at 40,000. Friday's game was also shown live on ESPN.
"It was some experience, I'll tell ya," Shaw told the North Shore News in a phone call from Williamsport. "They had 'em out on the hill, all the way to the top. Everywhere. The place was packed, it was pretty crazy."
Shaw was at the centre of it all, calling balls and strikes as Clinton County took on a team from La Grange, Ky. The Kentucky squad took an early 1-0 lead and then hung on from there. In the top of the fifth inning the Keystone Little Leaguers rallied but their comeback stalled when they had a runner thrown out at home plate. Shaw made the tough call, disappointing the local faithful. The play was reviewed -- Little League rules allow for video replay reviews -- and Shaw's decision was upheld.
"I got it right," he said with a chuckle, adding that the home crowd was very loud as they encouraged Clinton County throughout the game.
"It was noisy. The decibel level on the field when they had runners on first and second in the final inning was absolutely deafening. It was like a jet going off. It was just crazy, your ears are just pounding."
Sadly for the home fans the Kentucky team held on for a 1-0 win.
The tournament, however, continued for both teams and for Shaw. The North Van ump was on the field for Clinton County's second and third games as well -- both of them wins. He estimated 100,000 people watched just those three games -- a pretty good number for a guy whose previous high for umpiring was the Canadian Little League Championship game with an estimated crowd of around 4,000.
Shaw said he doesn't know how the tournament organizers are choosing the assignments or why he's getting all of the crowded houses. The only official rule is that he is not allowed to umpire games involving the Canadian champs from Langley.
"I think it's just luck of the draw," he said. He's not, however, reserved only as Keystone's personal official -- all of the 16 umpires at the tournament are kept busy with one or two games every day. Shaw is up to the challenge -- the Lynn Valley resident has been calling games on the North Shore for the past 22 years. The World Series is a pretty fantastic reward for those years of service.
"It is a lifetime thrill, really," said Shaw. "You can't ask for much more than this as a Little League umpire. This is like coming to Mecca."