BLUE STREAK: Joel Dietz umpires Junior League Baseball West Regional
Scappoose native waited six years for regional chance
Joel Dietz is a Little League umpire on the rise.
The District I umpire-in-chief, 39, of Scappoose, served on the third-base line in Hawaii's 2-1, 10-inning Junior League Baseball West Regional championship defeat of Southern California on Wednesday, Aug. 10, at Propstra Stadium in Vancouver, Wash.
"It was a dream come true to be on the field with the caliber of player that gets that far," said Dietz, who waited six years for his shot at a regional. "An umpire's No. 1 goal is to walk in and out of the game without being noticed."
Dietz was behind home plate in the quarterfinals on Aug. 9 as Hawaii beat Nevada 1-0 in the bottom of the eighth.
He didn't find himself in controversy except for a close call at third base for the final out of the championship's fifth inning.
Dietz, who will celebrate his regional achievement with new equipment and return to umpiring next season, is now eligible to call any Little League World Series as a regional umpire must swing up or go down to state.
Little Leaguers play district, state and regional tournaments in hopes of reaching the World Series.
Dietz found out he was chosen for regionals just before Christmas last year.
"Dec. 23 to Aug. 2 was slow because of the excitement," Dietz said.
He's engaged to Scappoose Little League president Mandi Abraham, with whom he has Patyn, their 23-month-old daughter.
"He's a thinker, and as an umpire he's not that different from a player agent to make it as quick and as fair as possible," Abraham said. "He's going to assure me, the tournament director, a smooth game. Joel's passion has always been being on the field. He might be doing a Minor game, but he does it at a Junior and Senior level."
Dietz delivers steel for welding and farm equipment to manufacturing plants and mom and pop stores for Pacific Machinery and Tool Steel of Portland, and makes trips as far east as northern Idaho and as far southeast as Salt Lake City, nearly a different trip every day.
Interstate 5 to Medford is a particularly scenic route.
Scappoose and St. Helens Little Leagues don't razz him too much if timing conflicts with his ventures.
He's vocal when he makes a call, and hopefully coaches don't argue. There's lots of running involved to be close enough to make a call.
Griping parents are welcome.
"When I was a kid, it was cool to see umps at the game," Dietz said.
Umps need only a general knowledge of the rules, and they can learn from parents and coaches if they are unsure of the call they just made.
He's worked Junior games, remarkably, by himself.
"You're lucky to have a two-man crew in local leagues," said Dietz, who also says he's yet to umpire perfectly.
If you're chosen for regionals, you'll go through six days of training in San Bernadino, Calif., because you've earned it.
Dietz graduated from Scappoose High School in 1996, served in the United States Navy until 2006, started umpiring from there and was the Indians' junior varsity baseball coach in 2014.
He grew up playing Scappoose Little League, and was a back-to-back state runner-up with the varsity Indians in 1993 and 1994 at what is now Providence Park in Portland.
Dietz was an all-state junior and senior catcher after being an all-league honorable mention as a sophomore.
Little League umpires are volunteers and can use new help.
"If you accept money, you will not get a regional," Dietz said. "No money, just get me a hot dog and we're good."
Hawaii chases its third Little League World Series at the Junior League Baseball World Series that runs Aug. 14-21 at Heritage Park in Taylor, Mich. The championship game is scheduled for 11 a.m. PST on Sunday on ESPN.
Last year, Wilshire-Riverside of Portland became the latest of five Oregonian teams to have reached the Junior League Baseball World Series.
Tokyo Kitasuna (Japan) won its third championship since 2001 last year, but Taiwan's 17 titles lead Japan (10) and California (7) all-time.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bruce Springsteen and former president George W. Bush belong to the Little League Hall of Excellence.