Two British umpires selected for European Little League Championship

Fri 26 Jan 2018

Congratulations are in order for two British umpires – Darrin Muller and Blake Taylor -- who have been selected to officiate at the 2018 Little League Baseball Europe and Africa Regional Championship Tournament, to be played on 20-28 July in Kutno, Poland.

The competition, involving players in the 10-12 age category, is one of several Europe and Africa Regional Little League tournaments at different age levels, but the winners from this one go to Williamsport, Pennsylvania in August for the most iconic of all the Little League World Series events.

Different paths

The two ABUA-GB umpires are coming to this tournament from different paths. 

Both were former players who took up umpiring after injuries curtailed their playing careers.  But for Darrin Muller, this will be his 17th season as an umpire, and he has seen and done it all, umpiring previously not just at Little League and adult Championships in Europe, but also at Little League World Series tournaments in the United States.

For Blake Taylor, however, who only became an umpire in 2013 and moved up to the National Baseball League in 2014, this will be his first Europe/Africa Little League tournament.  The two umpires submitted their applications to the Little League Europe and Africa Region in November and received news of their appointment earlier this month.

The letter from Beata Kaszuba-Baker, Europe and Africa Region Director, said: “It is a sincere pleasure to recognize your commitment and service to Little League with this prestigious honour and to have you as a member of our Europe and Africa Regional team this year.”

Darrin Muller said, “It is an honour to be selected, and I enjoy the Little League tournaments because they do it the right way – it’s all about the kids.  And as umpires, we get treated with a lot of respect in Little League.  This is the sixth time I’ve done a Europe and Africa Little League tournament, and I really enjoy it.”

“I’m looking forward to being involved in Little League baseball at a higher level,” Blake Taylor added.  “I’ve really enjoyed umpiring at the UK Little League Qualifiers, but I want to expand my horizons.  I’ve heard so much about this tournament, and now I’ll get to be there.”

“The great thing is that you get to work with umpires from other countries,” Darrin Muller said.  “The camaraderie is great and we get to share experiences and bring ideas back with us.  And umpiring at this tournament can lead to other opportunities.

Labour of love

The honour of being chosen to umpire at a European Little League Championship comes at a cost for British umpires, as they have to pay for their flights to Poland.  The town of Kutno, headquarters for Little League in Europe, with four well-appointed competition diamonds, bleacher seating for up to 5,000 fans and a range of other facilities, is about 150 km west of Warsaw.

Once there, the umpires will be housed for free in dormitories and meals will be provided, but transport costs can mount up.

For Darrin Muller, however, the experience is worth it.

“With the kids, it’s always a teaching opportunity,” Darrin said.  “Of course, you call the games correctly, just as you would with adults, but if a kid makes a great play, you can congratulate him or give him a high-five.  You’re more involved with the players.  And you get a huge amount of respect from the parents.”

“When you’re umpiring Little League,” Blake Taylor said, “you get to know the kids and you can show your appreciation to them.  If you have a young catcher in front of you, you can help and encourage them during the game.  And the parents know that you’re there to look after their kids and make sure that they’re ok.”

Moving forward

Little League baseball has been growing in the UK, with record numbers of teams at the UK Little League Qualifiers each of the past few years.

“You see the same kids coming back each year now,” Blake Taylor said, “and it’s like you get to watch them grow up.”

Darrin Muller said: “We’re definitely going in the right direction.  I think we’ve had three teams – at Major, Junior and Senior level – get to a European final; we just haven’t managed to win one.  But we’ll get there one day.

“In Kutno, you’re not allowed to umpire games involving teams from your own country.  But I’ll happily watch the final from the bleachers if a British team is playing in it!”

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