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'Play ball'

Cape Coral umpire to be calling balls and strikes this week at Little League World Series

August 13, 2019
By CJ HADDAD ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Getting to the Little League World Series isn't just a dream for kids. It's for adults, too.

With the magic set to start this Thursday in Williamsport, Pa., Cape Coral will have a representative with a front row seat to the action -- umpire John Joy.

Joy has been a volunteer umpire for 15 years, working in Florida's District 9 -- that encompasses all of Lee County -- and said getting the nod to be part of a 16-man crew that will call the balls, strikes and outs for the 73rd LLWS is an honor.

Article Photos


Umpire John Joy calls a local game behind the plate.

Joy is the first umpire from District 9 to be assigned to the LLWS.

"Being called to Williamsport is such an honor," Joy said. "It's the pinnacle for a Little League umpire. They pick 16 of us from around the globe, and to be one is a complete honor."

Joy got the letter from Little League in January letting him know he was selected to take part in the extravaganza that is the LLWS.

"My heart leapt into my throat," Joy said of opening the letter that told him he was part of the umpiring crew.

Being an umpire came by chance one day while going to his then 6-year-old son's Little League game.

One of the umpires that was scheduled to call the game could not make it, so Joy was asked to step in.

"I had my hot dog and sat down to eat, when one of the umpires told me his partner called off," said Joy. "I said, 'sure.'"

Fifteen years later, Joy will be umpiring on the grandest stage in Little League baseball.

When he is not behind the plate or on the basepaths base, Joy works as an IT/social media specialist for the United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee counties.

The process for selecting umpires to call LLWS games is rigorous. It begins with a recommendation from the district administrator to umpire in a regional tournament.

Joy got his recommendation while umpiring the 2014 Southeast Little League Baseball Regional in Warner Robins, Ga.

After receiving a World Series recommendation, umpires must indicate that they wish to be considered further. Those who meet the qualifications are screened annually by Little League International and regional staffs to be selected for the big tournament in Williamsport.

An umpire can be selected for a World Series assignment once every four years.

Thousands apply every year and only 16 are chosen to take the field in Williamsport.

Little League does put on seven major tournaments each year around the country, ranging from the "junior" to "senior" levels, as well as softball. Volunteer umpires are chosen for those tournaments as well.

Joy holds the game of baseball near and dear to his heart, and attributes his time on baseball diamonds across the region to that fact.

"I just love the game," Joy said of what keeps him coming back year after year. "I like to see the kids improve their skills over time as well. It's all just for the love of the game."

What does Joy think sets him apart from other umpires?

"I just have a really good knowledge of the game," said Joy. "I constantly read the rule book."

Another admirable attribute is that Joy doesn't like to be "part of the game." Sure, he's there to call the balls and strikes, but, the best umpires are ones that are hardly noticed.

"I don't try to insert myself into the game," Joy said. "I like to enforce the rules and keep control, but not insert myself. The best umpires are ones that are not seen."

If players, coaches and fans don't have anything to harp on the umpires about, that's usually the result of a well-called game.

Joy was born in Pittsburgh, but moved to St. Augustine, Fla., when he was four, and then relocated to Cape Coral in 1991.

He said his son, who was the reason the door to umpiring opened for him, thinks that his dad getting to go to Williamsport "is pretty great."

"I'm most looking forward to being on that historic field," said Joy. "Looking up onto the hill during the game behind the plate is a memory I want to cherish."

In early May, Joy attended an orientation at Little League headquarters in Pennsylvania to meet his fellow crew-members to work on mechanics and even officiate games for local teams on the fields they will once again work this week.

Joy is joined by umpires from all over the world, including China, Germany, Puerto Rico and Quebec.

"It's going to be a great experience and learn from everyone," said Joy. "Though we may be from different parts of the world, a single thread -- the game of baseball -- runs through all of these kids."

Eight teams representing the United States, and eight international teams will battle in brackets to decide which is the best in the world.

Honolulu, Hawaii, is the defending champs, though this year a team from Wailuku, Hawaii, will try to keep the title in the state.

The final will be played Aug. 25 at 3 p.m. All games can be found on ESPN and ABC.

For more information, visit

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj



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