Blackville umpire steps on to international stage

Political unrest in Colombia almost cost Brian MacRae his first international assignment.

Instead, the turmoil in the South American country has simply caused the long- time softball umpire from Blackville to rearrange his itinerary.

MacRae will make his debut on the international softball stage next week in Hawaii as a member of the officiating crew for the prestigious Hawaii Cup women’s softball tourney in Honolulu.

“It should be a great event,” said MacRae, who’s been calling balls and strikes for 20 years. “It has the top five women’s teams in the world with Canada, the United States, Australia, Japan and China.

“I’m very excited and I’m really looking forward to it.”

The veteran official has umpired eight national championships and had his performance evaluated for his Level 5 (international) accreditation during the 1998 national senior men’s championship.

“There are 3,000 softball umpires in Canada and only about 60 have their Level 5 that allows them to umpire at international tournaments,” said MacRae. “Each year, all certified officials apply to the Softball Canada officiating committee for the major national and international assignments.

“There are a number of international tournaments every year, so what you hope is that you do a good job so that you’ll be considered for other assignments.

“In my case, it’s my first international assignment, so it’s important to do a good job.”

MacRae was originally given a tournament in Colombia, but the event was cancelled because of the unstable political climate in the region and he was given the Hawaiian gig instead.

“No, it’s certainly not a bad change at all,” he said. “It should be a very good event with a strong field.”

MacRae is the only non-American umpire on the 10-member officiating roster and he expects he’ll handle an average of two games per day during the five-day tourney that begins Thursday, Independence Day in the United States.

A strong performance is important in order to secure future international gigs, and there’s one assignment in particular that MacRae admits having an eye toward.

Women’s softball made its Olympic debut at the Sydney Games and instantly became the biggest plum up for grabs for umpires and players alike.

“There’s no question that in most minds the Olympics would be the ultimate assignment,” he said. “I guess that’s where I’d ultimately like to be someday.”

MacRae also explained it’s been a banner year for N.B. officials. Two of his colleagues – Nancy Morrison of Saint John and Gabriel Babineau of Moncton – have been named to the umpiring crew for the women’s world championship in Saskatoon in August.

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