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Major Milestones for Five ND Umpires in 2017

By Walt Stack, 10/22/17, 10:45AM CDT


Wide range of accomplishments for Erdahl, Hamkens, Beech, Birkemeyer, & Healy

The following collection of articles has been derived from the Fall 2017 edition of "Softball News"....

Naomi Erdahl qualifies for International Softball

One of North Dakota’s finest umpires, male or female has finally reached her long time goal of qualifying to work International Softball.  Naomi Erdahl started her umpiring career in Minot under the watchful eye of Luther Heaton, Deputy Umpire in Chief for Minot and Northwest North Dakota.  She also had help from the late Bobby Larson and the current DUIC for fast pitch Lyle Rader, now living and umpiring in Wahpeton. 

For the past several years, she has headquartered in Bismarck and currently works as a Recreation Specialist for the Mandan Parks and Recreation Department.  She has played slow pitch softball for several years but has gravitated to fast pitch as an umpire.  She has worked as an umpire in Major College Women’s Fast Pitch for the past few years including umpiring in the Big Ten Conference and other top rated softball conferences. 

In June of this year she attended an Umpire Certification Seminar in Irvine, California where she umpired five games under two of the top  women  umpires in the country.  Her goal was to qualify to work International Softball and she was evaluated each game on the many aspects of umpiring at the top level of the sport. Just a few of the categories on which she was judged were “composure, control and demeanor” stance behind the plate” reacting quickly and correctly to any situation” plate mechanics” handling coaches and players” in all  18 categories.  Her final overall score was 79.5 out of a possible 80.0!!!

Needless to say, the umpire community in North Dakota is especially proud of how well she did and is looking forward to seeing her working international softball on television.  Naomi has worked hard at mastering her craft and all umpires should recognize the added work and study she went through to reach her goal.  Best wishes from the “Blue Fraternity”. 

Bismarck Umpire works in Hall of Fame Stadium

Tom Hamkens of Bismarck has reached one of his goals as a softball umpire when he worked the Men’s Class B Slow Pitch tournament in Oklahoma City.  The tournament was played in the Hall of Fame stadium.

Hamkens has been a softball umpire since 2005 when a couple of his buddies talked him into trying umpiring after playing for 22 years.  He has lived and worked in Bismarck since 1983 and is married and the father of two sons.  He has worked a number of National tournaments in the state and was eager to work in the iconic stadium in Oklahoma City.  He credits state UIC Mike Wolf and two of his Bismarck deputies , Elliott Gerhardt and Terry O’Clair for his rise up the umpire ranks.

Hankens umpires both fast pitch JO girls and adult slow pitch and has a couple more goals he’s like to reach:  Umpiring the Armed Forces championship and umpiring the Border Battle between teams from the United State and Canada. 

Wahpeton umpire earns elite status
Paul Beech Joins Select Group of Umpires

Paul Beech of Wahpeton joined a special group of softball umpires this Summer when he achieved Elite status as a softball umpire.  This is the highest level for amateur umpires and is a highly sought after goal.

Beech is modest about his rise in the umpiring ranks starting as a parent who was asked to help out in the Junior High game in which his daughter was playing.  That was his only umpiring experience until five years later when the school Athletic Director approached him and reminded him of the one game he had umpired.  He began umpiring fast pitch softball but soon switched to slow pitch and under the mentoring of Deputy Umpire in Chief Lyle Rader soon caught the umpire fever.  He has attended three National Umpiring Schools, has worked several hundred games, half a dozen McQuade tournaments and enough National Tournaments to earn his status as an Elite umpire. He quickly credits several of his fellow umpires who have had an influence on him to become the best umpire he can at all levels of com-petition.  The addition of Beech will raise the number of North Dakota umpire who have achieved Elite status to sixteen.  

Bismarck Umpire Works Men’s Supers
Ben Birkemeyer Earns Top Assignment

Since moving to Bismarck, Ben Birkemeyer has advanced steadily in the ranks of softball umpires.  His six weeks spent at an Umpire School run by former major league baseball umpires has helped his rapid advancement along with his ability and personality.  A native of Ada, Minnesota, Birkemeyer graduated from the University of Mary in Bismarck, moved to Minneapolis where he got excellent tutoring from Minneapolis Umpire in Chief Paul Kraimer and another well-known and respected Minneapolis umpire Alec Holman as well as Charley Johnson of Hitterdahl, Minnesota, a veteran umpire and clinicians.

Birkemeyer spent some time in Grand Forks before moving out to Bismarck where he quickly advanced to working state and national tournaments in upper level softball.  He also umpires baseball and fast pitch softball and officiates football, both high school and college and basketball.  He continued to get ad-vice and mentoring from state UIC Mike Wolf and two state deputies, Elliott Gerhardt and Terry O’Clair.

He recently worked the Super Division of Men’s Slow Pitch softball in Oklahoma City in the USA Softball Hall Of Fame stadium.  This is the highest division of slow pitch softball.  Only five teams were entered in the tournament and Ben and his fellow crew members only worked three games each but at the highest level.  Scores in this Division average over 30 runs per game and each team is allowed 16 home runs until they become outs.  In the championship game, the winning team scored 49 runs!!.  Jimmie Derrick of Georgia was the umpire in chief for this event.   This was the second opportunity for Birkemeyer to work in the Hall of Fame stadium, having worked the Championship Series, Class A Division last year.  

Pat “Rock” Healey Retires as DUIC in Grand Forks

One of the longest serving Deputy Umpires in Chief in USA Soft-ball has announced his retirement effective with the close of the 2017 season. Pat “Rock” Healey has been a registered umpire in North Dakota for 43 years and a state Deputy Umpire in Chief for 27 years. Most of his early years in umpiring were spent in the fast pitch game in a very competitive Grand Forks men’s league. Like many others in the state he moved to the slow pitch game when fast pitch died out in most of the state.

“Rock” was a familiar sight in and around the Grand Forks softball complexes serving as the city Umpire in Chief and Umpire Scheduler for 22 years. His replacement is Gerald “Shorty” Payne, also a familiar figure around the Grand Forks diamonds. “Rock” thanks everyone who were supportive and became great friends through umpiring softball.

I don’t know how he got his nickname or who gave it to him but “Rock” is certainly an apt name since that is what he has been to Grand Forks and North Dakota softball for a lot of years. We’ll miss you, “Rock”.