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Steve McDaniel officiates championship

An umpire from Pike County was part of the officiating crew at Cool Ray Field for the AAAA state championship series featuring LaGrange and North Oconee. Steve McDaniel of M&M Office Supply in Pike was selected to be on the crew after nearly 40 years of umpiring. He started making calls behind the plate and the field when his sons Adam McDaniel and Travis McDaniel were small and played at the Pike recreation fields. His daughter Tammy Hatchett also played in Pike.

“I started umpiring when my boys started playing baseball, which was around 1984-85. That was back when we would actually volunteer to umpire. We’d coach a game and then we would go umpire a game for another coach and then they would return the favor,” said McDaniel. “I coached and umpired for many years and have enjoyed it. It’s something you have to love doing. You don’t get rich doing it. I just love ball. I keep telling my wife I’m going to grow up one day but until then, I’m going to keep it up.”

When the Pike County Umpires Association was started he and other locals umpired Pike County High School games and other area schools in Lamar County. He umpired with the Diamond Group for around 30 years and has been with the Central Georgia Officials Association for a few years.

A few years ago, he volunteered again to get behind the plate and this time it was to help a family support a young mother going through a battle with brain cancer.

“I just reached out to guys who I umpired with back when we started like Joe Parks and Bobby Harrison.”

He has umpired many semi-final and playoff games but this was his first state championship.
“North Oconee won the championship in three games. It was a great experience,” he said.
Even though it was his first state championship, he was well prepared as he and other umpires are required to complete training camps and playoff camps each year where they are evaluated and considered for post-season umpiring jobs.

“At our training camps, we go through drills and trained about what to do in certain situations,” he said. “We go over the rules and mechanics and we have to pass tests. We go through camp each year to be playoff eligible. I guess after 30 or so years of umpiring, they decided to give me a chance at the championship.”

In addition to camp training, umpires are also evaluated during live games throughout the year. McDaniel said a common misconception is that a tie goes to the runner.

“Realistically, there is no such thing as a tie. It may only be milliseconds of a difference but technically there is no such thing as a tie,” he said.

Heckling fans haven’t kept McDaniel from doing what he loves and he said doing his job well helps.

“You just focus in on the job at hand. When we walk out on the field, we are in control of what happens on the field. At the high school level, we have an administrator handle fans who get out of control,” he said. “But generally, the higher up you go, the better the parents and coaches are. It’s easier to call high school or college games than to call a rec game because there’s not as much crazy stuff happening.”

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