Sports

Whidbey Little League ump calls it like he sees it

Surrounded by players, Ken Tyler, at center, checks his clipboard and makes sure everything is going according to plan as Oak Harbor Mayor Jim Slowick, left, welcomes everyone at the opening-day ceremonies for the 2008 Little League season at Windjammer Park.    - Tim Adams/Whidbey News-Times
Surrounded by players, Ken Tyler, at center, checks his clipboard and makes sure everything is going according to plan as Oak Harbor Mayor Jim Slowick, left, welcomes everyone at the opening-day ceremonies for the 2008 Little League season at Windjammer Park.
— image credit: Tim Adams/Whidbey News-Times

The enjoyment of watching youngsters play Little League baseball is one thing, but most fans don’t realize the time and dedication it takes to make a local program run successfully.

Think I’m wrong, just ask North Whidbey Little League president Ken Tyler.

A retired Navy Master Chief, Tyler said he was born at Fort Hood, Texas.

“I’m an Army brat,” he said with a smile. “I retired in 1989 and I’ve been on Whidbey Island for almost 40 years.”

For 30 of those years he has been involved with Little League baseball, spending 28 of them as an umpire.

Tyler, who has been league president for five years, has had his youth baseball career branch out to the national level as well.

Last year he received the highest honor a Little League umpire can receive when he was selected to be one of the umpires at the Little League World Series Williamsport, Penn.

“Of all my memories of my career in Little League baseball, that was my fondest,” he said.

Tyler continues to don the blue suit with the “clicker” in his hand, and can be found in the evenings during the week or on Saturdays at Windjammer Park either on the base paths or behind the plate calling balls and strikes.

“Right off the top of my head, I’d say we have about 450 kids participating in the program this year,” he said. “This is about as good a turnout as we had last year, but I’m not sure of the numbers on opening day as I was at the National Little League Congress in Houston, Texas, when the season began.”

Being president of a Little League baseball league is a 12 month a year job that doesn’t begin with lining up coaches and scorekeepers, handing out uniforms and a myriad of other tasks prior to the start of the season, and ends when the final out is called in the last game played.

“The pay is terrific,” he laughed.

Fortunately, the president has a number of capable and equally enthusiastic people assisting him, beginning with his wife, Stella.

“Her primary job is uniform coordinator and just about anything else I ask her to do,” Tyler said. “She helps out running the concession stand and is a general do-it type of person. Stella and Sue Wolfe end up covering almost anything that comes up and needs to be done.”

Tyler said the most important thing for an umpire is to always be aware of the rules. If they’re not there is usually somebody in the stands who is sure to remind them when a call was missed or a specific rule was improperly interpreted.

“Overall, I think we have a great Little League program here in Oak Harbor,” he said. “We’ve had a drop in participation the last couple of years, but I keep thinking that’s because the school district has also had a drop in students.”

Tyler said one of the areas he would like to see the Oak Harbor Little League expand in is participation by the older kids.

“We’re trying real hard to get some of the older kids, ages 13 and up, involved,” he said. “We had three teams of older players last year and only one this year. We have a huge number of younger teams, but I can’t understand what happens when the kids get older.”

Another area where there is low participation is in softball.

“I don’t understand why this is either,” Tyler said. “We are trying to build up the softball program so the girls will have something to do during the summer.”

Whether presiding over a board meeting or wearing the blue suit on the diamond, Tyler is the man. A man dedicated to improving Little League baseball and a man who is always sure of the rules.

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