Hannah enjoying long career as umpire
Cherokee Nation citizen Leslie D. Hannah makes an out call during a NJCAA game March 13 at Carl Albert State College in Poteau. Hannah is in his 39th year as an umpire. MARK DREADFULWATER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Leslie D. Hannah watches a pitch during a NJCAA game March 13 at Carl Albert State College in Poteau. Hannah primarily umpires softball and called his first games in 1979 as a freshman in college. MARK DREADFULWATER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Leslie D. Hannah makes a safe call during a NJCAA game March 13 at Carl Albert State College in Poteau. He has umped some major National Collegiate Athletic Association conferences in the past. MARK DREADFULWATER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – With the warmer weather and longer days, parents and children are preparing for softball and baseball, and Cherokee Nation citizen Leslie D. Hannah is doing the same. However, he’s getting ready to umpire.
Hannah primarily umpires softball and called his first game in 1979 as a college freshman. He said it was to earn extra money, and he’s called at least one game per year since.
“I never thought I would still be doing it nearly four decades later,” he said.
When he began umpiring, there was one major softball association, the Amateur Softball Association, and everyone played by the same rules. Today, he said, there are different associations with different standards and rules. He said once those associations appeared, the game’s spirit began to deteriorate.
“I feel the game has degraded some since I first began. By that I do not necessarily mean the game itself, but more the spirit of the game. More accurately, it’s those who should be invested in the spirit of the game,” he said, “Respect for the officials began to degrade. Respect for the game began to disintegrate. I officiated probably 10 years before I had to eject anyone, and as I recall it that was also the first time I was verbally assaulted as an official.”
Hannah said the lack of respect for officials comes from parents, coaches and players.
“I think the game needs to return to its roots – the spirit of the game, not the spirit of ‘look at me’, especially the youth game,” he said. “If we could just let the kids play without the interference of the adults. Too many times adults ruin the game when they think it is an arena to showcase their talents as a terrible influence. They see the officials as the enemy, and make every effort to dehumanize those in blue.”
Despite the criticism umpires endure, Hannah said he does his best to keep calm and set a good example as a professional. He said he endures the abuse because of his love of the game.
“Umpiring keeps my involved in the game. It keeps me close to the game,” he said. “Plus, I just enjoy it. I get a sense of satisfaction knowing I gave the teams the best game they can get from an umpire. I get a sense of pride knowing that I did my absolute best.”
With the different associations, Hannah said he primarily umpires for USA Softball (formerly ASA), but also umpires at the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association level. He has also umpired in some National Collegiate Athletic Association conferences.
Hannah said it takes a certain type of person to be an umpire.
“I believe an umpire must be incredibly smart, not just about the game, but about people as well,” he said. “People create situations that often times make the umpiring job very difficult, and most of the time for no good reasons. Umpires must be patient, to a point, tolerant, to a point, stern, to a point, but also forgiving, to a point. That point will be different for each umpire and for each situation, that’s why umpires have to be incredibly smart — to be able to ‘read’ each situation.”
He said for people interested in umpiring, they must read the rulebook, attend an umpire clinic and go through annual training. He said even after nearly 40 years of umpiring he still tests annually.
Along with being an umpire in USA Softball, Hannah is its deputy district commissioner for the northeastern district in Oklahoma. He said the association is in need of umpires. “We need more umpires, younger umpires, to take the baton and keep running with it.”
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