BANGOR — The baseball world has come to Eastern Maine for the last nine years through the Senior League World Series held each August at Mansfield Stadium.
Now two veteran umpires from the area will get a chance to work in another part of the world — in part because of a relationship forged at the SLWS.
Chris Parker of Bangor and Troy Lare of Hermon will leave next Thursday for Guam where they will umpire in the Asia Pacific Little League championships, a regional event for players ages 11-12 that begins July 9 and runs for seven days with the winner advancing to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., Aug. 18-28.
“This is a great opportunity to work in an international tournament with 11 different countries involved,” said Lare, a volunteer Little League umpire for the last 30 years. “We’re going to have a really good time, but it’s about the kids. It’s not about us going there but we’re going to see some good baseball and have the best seat to watch some good games.”
Both Lare and Parker, a 32-year volunteer Little League umpire, have worked major events before.
Parker umpired in the 2009 Little League World Series, and also has worked at the Little League Softball World Series in 2001 as well as a Little League softball regional in 2000 and a Little League baseball regional in 2004.
“This is probably my last trip, my fond farewell,” he said. “I’ll keep umpiring, but this is probably my last big trip.”
Lare previously worked a Senior League baseball regional in 2006 and a Little League baseball regional in 2009.
Parker also has served as umpire-in-chief of the Senior League World Series while Lare has been an umpire crew chief for the series, and their friendship with Kevin Masnayon, an umpire from Guam who worked the 2005 SLWS in Bangor led to the opportunity for them to be assigned to this year’s Asia-Pacific championships.
“Originally I put in a request to do the Europe-Mideast-Africa tournament in Poland, and that looked promising for a long while but it fell through,” said Parker. “Then a couple weeks later in early May, an e-mail pops up from Kevin saying he could bring two umpires from the mainland to work the Asia-Pacific 11-and-12 regional, and he asked if we’d like to come over.
“He sent it to about 20 of us, but by the time that night was over and the clock struck midnight, Troy and I had already responded to him and said we’re in if he’d take us. Then before you know it there was a letter from Kevin’s district administrator saying, ‘Congratulations, you’re invited to the Asia Pacific regional in Guam.’
“Kevin had such a good time when he was here in Bangor, and he promised us if he ever had a chance to pay us back he would.”
Parker and Lare will pay their transportation costs, but the host committee will house Lare in a hotel while Parker will have more personal accommodations — his 25-year-old son Sean is stationed with the U.S. Navy in Guam.
“The bonus for me and my wife Lori, who’s going with me, is my son has been stationed in Guam with the Navy for the last three years so we’ll stay with him while we’re there,” said Parker. “This a big bonus for us.”
On the field, the biggest challenge facing Parker and Lare may involve communicating with some of the participants.
For while players and coaches from Guam, a U.S. territory, speak English, not all of the other teams in the field — which includes Australia, Chinese Taipei, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand — do so.
“I think baseball has a universal language,” said Lare. “If there are going to be some issues with rules, then we’ll need an interpreter to go through the coaches, but an out is an out and a strike is a strike. I think you just need to have patience. You have to be patient with the kids and you have to be patient with the coaches.”
Parker did admit that hand signals occasionally can mean different things to different national teams, but he added that Little League officials do a good job of teaching uniform signals to umpires from around the world.
“You find a way,” he said. “You find a medium to get the message through.”
And while the chance to communicate with baseball people in another part of the world will make this trip special for Parker and Lare, it’s the common bonds among Little Leaguers both near and far that ultimately has made umpiring an unpaid labor of love for them during the last three decades.
“It’s the kids that keep me in it,” said Lare. “I love being around the kids and watching them smile and be happy about playing the game. The younger kids are a lot more respectful to us as officials because they want to learn, and we can help them learn to love baseball.”