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Charlottetown’s Michael French is at the top of his game

October 25, 2018

Charlottetown, PE - - Charlottetown’s Michael French is at the top of his game



Michael French and his good friend, Ron Campbell, from Saint John, N.B., umpired the Canadian senior men’s championship game together on Sept. 2 in St. Croix, N.S.

ORIGINAL STORY by Jason Malloy - Guardian

Charlottetown’s Michael French is at the top of his game

Michael French is a well-known softball umpire in Prince Edward Island.

Michael French is a well-known softball umpire in Prince Edward Island. - Jason Malloy

He has reached the highest level an umpire can attain in Canada and is looking at inspiring others to get involved

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Michael French has had a milestone year on the softball diamond.

The 52-year-old Charlottetown umpire attended the Softball Canada senior men’s national championship in St. Croix, N.S., from Aug. 29-Sept. 2.

“I had the honour of being picked to do the plate in the championship game,” he said of the plum assignment. “There’s only one plate, so only one person can get it.”

Michael French and his good friend, Ron Campbell, from Saint John, N.B., umpired the Canadian senior men’s championship game together on Sept. 2 in St. Croix, N.S.Michael French and his good friend, Ron Campbell, from Saint John, N.B., umpired the Canadian senior men’s championship game together on Sept. 2 in St. Croix, N.S.

During the week of ball in Nova Scotia he was evaluated by supervisors. They wrote their reports and recommended French receive his level five, the highest certification an umpire can earn. Softball Canada agreed and recently made it official. French is one of 59 level five fast pitch umpires in the country. There are also 20 slo-pitch level five umpires.

French never set out to reach the top level of the blue-shirted officials when he made the move 18 years ago from player to umpire. And for the first half of his umpiring career, he was satisfied with hitting the field and doing his job.

But the late Frank Hughes, then the province’s umpire-in-chief, saw something in French and suggested he could reach another level.

“He pulled me aside and said, ‘Hey, you can do a lot more here’,” French recalled. “Frank was my inspiration.”

French went on to do the 2009 Canada Games in Summerside and made concerted efforts to get better. It meant travelling throughout the Maritimes as the senior men’s game faded in most parts of the region.

He went to nationals, took training and was evaluated every couple of years.

“That’s when I changed my focus,” he said. “I wanted to learn more and really raise my game.”

The work has paid off as evident by the recent advancement in the certification program. The next rung to reach would enable him to do international competitions.

Softball P.E.I. president Chris Halliwell was pleased to see French, who is the province’s umpire-in-chief, obtain the top level. It is estimated French is the first level five umpire in Prince Edward Island in 25 years.

“It’s great. It gives us a level of professionalism in that role,” Halliwell said. “He puts the extra time in to get his levels, do the training and goes to the conferences and clinics all across the country.”
Halliwell has attended eight national competitions as a coach and has dealt with multiple umpires along the way. He called French approachable and professional.

“He knows the rules, but he’s also a good game manager and communicator with the coaches,” Halliwell said. “He’ll let you say your piece, he’ll give you an explanation.”

French is hoping by sharing his story others might get involved.

“Hopefully, I can inspire someone to do it just like Frank Hughes did for me,” he said.

This summer, Softball P.E.I. began a mentorship program where an umpire between the ages of 13 and 18 was partnered with an experienced member to do games. It provided the 11 young umpires involved a chance to continue to learn and grow while working games with their veteran colleagues.

“We’ve found it to be a huge benefit in development of those umpires,” French said.

Umpire Michael French flips the coin to determine home team during a Prince Edward Island under-14 girls' softball game this summer. Umpire Michael French flips the coin to determine home team during a Prince Edward Island under-14 girls' softball game this summer

 

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