Tim Chapin can often be found making judgement calls in Abington Town Hall. This week, he’s doing it in Cooperstown.
Chapin, a member of Abington Board of Selectmen, is working as an umpire at Cooperstown Dream Park, which is located in the upstate New York hamlet that’s home to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
“I always dreamed of making it to Cooperstown, and since I never could hit a curve ball I guess this will have to suffice,” Chapin said.
The park, which is actually a complex featuring 22 youth baseball fields, hosts weekly summer tournaments that attract some of the best squads from across the country. It’s affiliated with the American Youth Baseball Hall of Fame. Current big leaguers Chris Sale, David Price, Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Anthony Rizzo, Delino DeShields, and Gerrit Cole, as well as NFL standout Odell Beckham, Jr., are among those who have played at the park, according to its website.
Chapin has been umpiring for the past six years and works about 10 games a week during baseball season. He heard about the Cooperstown Dreams Park opportunity through the South Shore Umpires Association.
“Who wouldn’t want to work games in Cooperstown, not to mention working with 80-plus teams from all over the country?,” he said in between games. “We even had a team from Hawaii here this week.”
When all done, Chapin, who brought his family along for the trip, will have worked at least a dozen games this week alongside umpires who have also worked college and high-level minor league games.
“There is so much I’ve learned from these guys, it’s invaluable,” he said.
Many youth sports are reporting a serious shortage in referees and umpires, partly due to bad behavior by over-involved parents. The shortages have resulted in reworked sports schedules and even canceled games.
However, Chapin, who grew up loving to play youth baseball, says umpiring allows him to stay connected to the game.
“There is nothing better than watching the game through the kids’ eyes. What is a little game for us is the biggest moment for them,” he said. “The raw emotion in youth sports keeps me young. It might sound corny, but it really adds levity in what can be a stressful world.”
Chapin also dons black and white stripes in the fall and referees youth and high school football games. He says anyone interested in officiating either baseball or football can contact him and he’ll help them enroll in training programs.