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Jim Fitzpatrick: Making the journey through the sports world
by Damian Tromerhauser
Apr 15, 2012 | 1788 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Nathan Orme - Mendive Middle School teacher Jim Fitzpatrick has gone from player to coach to umpire.
Tribune/Nathan Orme - Mendive Middle School teacher Jim Fitzpatrick has gone from player to coach to umpire.
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For Jim Fitzpatrick, baseball and sports in general has been a part of his life dating back to his earliest childhood memories. Picking up a bat and ball from a young age and playing baseball through his college years at the University of Nevada, Fitzpatrick remained involved with the game as a coach. Now after spending many years playing and coaching baseball, the current fulfillment he gets from the sport is by calling balls and strikes on the diamond.

“Baseball has been a part of my life since I can remember and now I get my baseball fix through umpiring the high school games,” Fitzpatrick said. “I get out there two or three times a week and I get to be a part of it without having to deal with some of the things that the coaches have to deal with after the game. There’s no win or loss to worry about. I can just walk away. There’s no parents to deal with after a game if their kid didn’t play or their kid got pulled out or some of those things that go with the sport of baseball. I really enjoy the umpiring. Growing up and playing, I’d umpire Little League and stuff like that, so it’s always been something that I’ve enjoyed.”

Part of the reason that Fitzpatrick takes so much pleasure from enforcing the rules of baseball is because as a former coach himself, he knows what current coaches are looking for from the blue.

“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, I could never umpire,’ but coaching long enough, I know what the coaches want and expect out of the umpires,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think that helps me be a better umpire by just knowing what they’re looking for game wise. I go out there and work hard. They don’t need a big show. It’s not about the umpires. It’s about trying to make the game as fair for the kids as possible. I think the coaches appreciate that. I get satisfaction of calling a good game. Being able to get out there and do a good job, then walk away unnoticed.”

Another part of his role as ump that Fitzpatrick takes joy in is getting to catch up with former teammates and players.

“There’s a few guys that played for me that are coaching now and it’s always good to see them,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s great. There’s a few coaches around that I coached with or played with in college. Its really a kick to see all the same people, and see what they are doing. Pretty much every school I go to I know one of the coaches, one way or the other. It’s very satisfying to be able to see those guys.”

Fitzpatrick was an assistant coach at Reed before took the head coaching reigns for a season. The lone season as the Raiders skipper was as an interim, which allowed Fitzpatrick to test the waters of being a head coach.

“It gave me a chance to see if I wanted to pursue that a little bit down the road,” Fitzpatrick said. “It was fun and it was a learning experience. I realized the district probably gets more bang for their buck from their baseball coaches than any other position. The coaches take care of the entire field pretty much year round. They’re the ones mowing it, dragging it, overseeing it. They basically are the caretakers of the field besides being the head coach. Overall it was a pretty good experience. I just realized the time commitment was maybe a little bit more than I was willing to commit to. Sometimes it’s good to be an assistant coach.”

Aside from being the assistant baseball coach, Fitzpatrick also coached the Raiders’ girls golf team for six years before stepping down in 2005. Along with those coaching roles, Fitzpatrick also sits on the Middle School Athletic Leadership Committee while also coaching basketball at Mendive Middle School, where he teaches.

“It’s a kick,” Fitzpatrick said. “At that age they are still willing to go out there and put out an effort and have fun. They are willing to try different things and every day is different. People think that middle school teachers are a little bit off their rocker. Every day is different though. You never know what the mood of those 12-, 13-, 14-year-olds are going to be from day to day. At the same time that’s one of the best things about coaching varsity level sports was that I got to see kids at a more mature level who are more focused and more driven to be successful at their sports. It was a nice balance for me.”

For Fitzpatrick, he said he is involved with so many youth sports because he feels a key learning experience for kids.

“I think that they learn a lot of values especially putting aside their individual self to become part of a team,” Fitzpatrick said. “When they do that and when a whole team is able to do that, it shows what a team, and in the bigger picture a group, can really excel beyond what the pieces of the team would lead you to believe they could get to.”

It is that reason that Fitzpatrick feels it is crucial for kids to participate in sports and why he remains in such an active role. Despite all of the volunteer time that is required, whether it be coaching or umpiring, Fitzpatrick enjoys every day of it.

“I am just able to pass on my love of sports and competition that I grew up with and the respect I had for my coaches throughout my life,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s kind of like a payback. Sports got me up to college and got me my education so it’s a way of paying back my coaches indirectly I guess.”
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