The boys of summer have pretty much wrapped up play, locally speaking, for another year on the diamonds – but they owe at least some thanks to a very self–assured young lady in helping to keep them on the right track these past few months.
Just 14 years of age, Rheanna Crepeault is developing quite the reputation in local umpiring circles, displaying the kind of drive, initiative and commitment to improvement that will keep her in good stead as she continues to look for opportunities.
A multi-sport athlete through school activities, Crepeault was initially attracted to baseball as a player, earning a spot on the traveling Shamrocks after just a couple of seasons. “When I was a kid, I remember thinking that I wanted to be the first female in Major League Baseball,” said the eldest of two kids in the family.
“As a girl, I did have to work harder than the boys to be seen; they are stronger and faster and all that. It took a lot of practice, but once I dedicated myself, I was able to stand up and show myself.”
Though she has not discounted the notion of continuing to play competitive ball, it’s clear that doors of officiating are beginning to open for the well spoken teenager. “Honestly, I just wanted to get some extra money to pay for things initially,” she said. “I’m not the oldest or most experienced umpire, but I’ve had a lot of opportunities thanks to my boss, David Niro.”
And the man who has worn the blue jersey for Baseball Ontario for some 16 years now has no issue justifying his decisions. “She was the first umpire that I can ever remember who was really pro-active in terms of her umpire development,” said Niro, the umpire in chief for the Sudbury Minor Baseball Association.
“She’s seeing the plays and can make her decision very quickly, just like we would see as a senior official. She’s got great baseball sense, so she anticipates the play which helps her get into the right position to see the play at a better angle.”
Moreover, she benefits from outstanding communication skills, something that both she and Niro acknowledge can go a long way in their field of work. “It’s a very important skill and it doesn’t just involve umpires – it involves all officials in all sports,” said Niro. “The majority of our job, especially at higher levels, is managing people.”
“Her ability to explain what she saw and explain the rules to coaches is phenomenal, especially at her age.”
It’s also given her both the confidence and grounding to excel in a world where constant interaction with older adults is a given. “You have to be approachable,” said Crepeault. “I’ve made mistakes, my brother has made mistakes before, I’m sure David has made mistakes before.”
“We’re only human.”
“Allowing the coaches to come and see you, to talk to you, is important.”
Where many a young official has quickly packed it in, unable to deal with the demands of unrealistic coaches and parents, Crepeault has tapped into areas of strength, both personally and in her network of contacts to maintain a healthy outlook on her role.
“The community of umpires is so welcoming,” she said. “There are always going to be parents who don’t like your calls – there are a lot of 50/50 calls. Usually, I deal with that really well. Obviously, you don’t want to be changing your call the first time a coach comes to talk to you – but being loud helps.”
“Everyone likes a loud umpire.”
There is no doubt that Crepeault possesses a very workmanlike approach to her job as an umpire. It shines through the discussion, even as we examine every facet of the most thankless of tasks at the ballpark.
“Even though you can’t know every rule, you try and know your material,” she said. “You try and study, then you should be good on the field.”
With plenty of experience under her belt both on the bases and behind the plate, Crepeault made it clear where her preference lies. “I definitely like behind the plate more,” she said. “You get a lot more action and I generally feel more in control of the game.”
Still, Crepeault has been sidelined for a few weeks now after taking a pitch off her facemask while working behind the plate, reminding her, once again, the critical element that is proper positioning.
“You kind of have to trust your equipment – and make sure you are in the right spot,” she said.
“If I am not in the right spot, I probably am going to get hit. If I’m not putting my hands behind my knees, my hands could get hit. I used to flinch a lot, but I’ve practiced staying still. David helped me with that and my dad helped me with that.”
While Crepeault would love to become a role model, some day, to the next wave of young female umpires, she did have one of her own, this summer, benefitting from the chance to work with Level 5 veteran Lisa Turbitt from Burlington.
“She mentioned that she wanted to umpire with me, so I was over the moon,” said Crepeault. “It was really exciting.”
Crepeault will be completing her second year of the three year requirement to graduate from Level 2 next summer, with all signs pointing towards another promotion for the following summer.
“She would then have an opportunity to work at high level tournaments, national games,” suggested Niro.
And in the world of female baseball, that would ber awfully darned close to putting her in “A League of Her Own”.