To Canyon Country resident Garth Sanders, it felt like a reality show.
For a week earlier this month, he umpired seven games at the Little League Softball World Series in Portland, Oregon, and during each game, evaluators watched and noted his every safe, strike and out call as they worked to decide which umpires would officiate the semifinals and championship.
In the end, Sanders received the tournament’s highest honor as far as umpires are concerned: He was selected to call the championship game from behind the plate.
“They said in the end there’d be 11 upset umpires and one happy guy,” Sanders said. “I was the happy guy.”
Sanders, 52, has been on Canyon Country Little League’s board of directors since around 2006. He began umpiring for the league around the same time, drawing on knowledge from a stint as an official in the mid-1980s.
“It was,” he said, “like riding a bike.”
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Then, in 2012, his ascension to last week’s World Series began.
First, his Little League district, District 40, nominated him to umpire the western regional tournament in San Bernardino.
Again, evaluators tracked his every move. Again, he passed with flying colors.
Deemed fit to work a world series, the region submitted his name annually for what he calls the “golden ticket.”
Year after year it didn’t come. Year after year he bided his time.
Then last November, he got a call at work from his wife.
A letter had arrived from Little League Baseball and Softball. Sanders knew it was about the time the golden tickets were set to go out. His hopes soared; his heart fluttered higher.
He was in.
“It was pretty awesome,” Sanders said. “I did everything short of doing a ridiculous dance in the middle of work.”
Sanders traveled to Portland for the tournament, which started on Aug. 9. Three of the seven games he worked were broadcast on one of the ESPN networks. His family watched on TV.
The best part, he said, might have been when he was first announced to the crowd as a representative of the entire western region. He’d been selected to work with umpires from across the nation and across the world.
After returning to the Santa Clarita Valley, Sanders said he plans to remain on the Canyon Country Little League board for at least another year while his daughter still has eligibility.
He’s listed as the league’s chief umpire. It’s not hard to see why.
Registration for Canyon Country Little League fall ball is currently open at CCLL.org.