Local elementary school teacher Carl Shreve was recently appointed to work as an umpire for the IHSA Class 1A and 2A State Finals in Peoria, a position Shreve thoroughly enjoys.
“Even before I got this state assignment, I have told myself, I’m going to keep doing it,” Shreve said. “I am not doing it for personal accolades or anything; I am doing it because I like baseball, I like being around the game, I like helping the kids, I like talking to the kids.
“If a kid asks me ‘Why did you do that or Why can’t we do this,’ I will explain it to them, because that’s how they learn. The more I can teach them, the better they will be. I think (it does go in hand with being a teacher).”
Having years of experience umpiring high school baseball, the postseason level was just a matter of timing and a proven track record.
“Coaches and AD’s (athletic directors) rate you, they rank all of the officials in the area,” Shreve said. “They give you a rating of every game you do. AD’s and coaches can put you on a top 15 list; all that goes into the state. Its kind of called our ranking, and then its just being seen, going to clinics and meeting the right people – someone just knowing your name out there.
“Its kind of like everything else – you have to be in the right place at the right time.”
While umpiring can be a thankless job at times, Shreve has learned to use his position as an opportunity to help fans and players better understand the way the current rules of the game work.
“I block the fans out,” Shreve said. “Sometimes I laugh at them, sometimes I question them and then go, ‘Why do you think that should be?’ The hardest part that I have, and what we run into as the biggest thing, is the dads and grandpas.
“The game has changed so much from when they played, so they show up and think it should be the same rules, or watch it on TV and our rules are different then their rules,” he said. “Sometimes you just have to stop and say, ‘Sir, this is why this is done that way,' and they are like, 'Oh I did not know that.’”
Shreve was assigned to the IHSA Class 2A semifinal game and both the IHSA Class A championship and third-place games, adding that he did well enough to garner a spot in next year's state finals.
“You’re more scrutinized (at the postseason level),” Shreve said. “Mechanics have to be perfect, you have to be in the right spot at the right time. They want to make sure you are doing what you are supposed to, that you are looking the part. They told me that I would be back, and each umpire can go three times.”
While the balance between his full-time teaching job and umpiring hasn’t always been easy, Shreve cited current administration as a big help in the juggling of the two responsibilities.
“It was (a challenge to balance teaching and umpiring) before I came here,” Shreve said. “My administration here has been great with me. If I tell one of them I have to leave a little earlier to do a ball game, they are like, ‘Go.’
“My principal at the elementary level right now has given me my last hour free every day, and she told me, ‘That’s why I do that. I know you need to get to ballgames. That way you get your work done here and then you can go do your other stuff.’”
The Gillespie native and Vandalia resident has always had a love for baseball, which tied in with a passion for teaching and it has helped lead him to his continued involvement as an umpire.
“I have been around baseball my whole life and I enjoyed it,” Shreve said. “I felt like it was a good way to stay involved in the game, give back to the kids, (and) it kind of falls in line with the teaching.
“The biggest part is just managing the game to make sure everybody feels like they are getting a fair shake.”