- June 16, 2010
BRADENTON — On any given night throughout the spring, summer and fall, Glenbrook resident Guy Vilt can be found tucked under the shade of the old oak tree. Everywhere he looks, balls are flying and bats are swinging, as the newest wave of Braden River Little League hopefuls warm up.
It’s there under the oak tree where Vilt also meets with his fellow umpires before the start of every game to change into his uniform. And when the final out has been called, the group returns to the tree to recap the night’s games.
“I enjoy hanging out with my friends — my fellow umpires,” Vilt said. “We’re like a union or a sorority. We hang tight.”
A native of Illinois, Vilt began umpiring 18 years ago. After spending two years volunteering to coach a minors Little League team, Vilt and his wife, Melody, learned they were expecting their first child.
At that point, Vilt decided he no longer had time to coach; but wanting to still be involved in some way, Vilt decided to come out and spend two to four hours a week umpiring.
“It worked out for me,” Vilt said. “It clicked. I just really enjoyed it. I always feel good when I come off the field and someone says “Good job,” and it’s coming from the team that lost.”
Over the past 18 years, Vilt has gone from spending two to four hours at the ballpark to umpiring eight or nine games a week. And that doesn’t include the time he spends under the oak tree or at Applebee’s with his fellow umpires after the game.
“I’m gone every night pretty much,” Vilt said.
Vilt spent the past month umpiring the District 26 Little League All-Star Tournament and the sectional tournament in Fort Myers.
Now, he is on his way to his next umpiring job — the Little League Baseball Southeastern Region Tournament. Vilt, who left today for Warner Robbins, Ga., expects to umpire about 10 games throughout the course of the tournament, which begins Aug. 5 and runs through Aug.12.
Vilt put in his paperwork to umpire the Southeastern Region Tournament last year. He then went through an approval process, umpiring the district and sectional tournaments where he was evaluated and critiqued on his work on the field.
In November, Vilt learned he was eligible to umpire at the next level, but it wasn’t until March 1 that he learned he would be umpiring at this year’s tournament — a feat rarely obtained by an umpire in his first year of eligibility.
Initially, Vilt planned to cut down his umpiring schedule to spend time with his daughter, Taylor, who will be leaving for Florida Gulf Coast University later this fall, but that all changed when he received his congratulatory letter in the mail.
“I was very shocked,” Vilt said. “It’s nice to know this hard work did pay off. I didn’t set out to go this far. It just kind of happened. But when you spend six days out at a ball field something is going to happen.”
Following the region tournament, Vilt will submit his paperwork for what he hopes will eventually lead to a Little League World Series recommendation — although he won’t be eligible to umpire the tournament for another five years.
In the meantime, Vilt will return to umpiring District 26 games along with Cal Ripken Little League, Manatee Adult Baseball and travel ball games.
For Vilt, it’s simply a love of baseball that keeps him out on the field. Growing up, Vilt and his friends would go out into pastures and play baseball. With farmers for neighbors, the boys gathered up tractor discs and used them for bases.
Vilt went on to play for his local Little League organization and high school team before hanging up his glove in 1986. But even though he was no longer playing, Vilt never left from the game.
“I just think it’s because that’s what I grew up with,” Vilt said of his love of baseball.
And with more than two decades behind the plate, Vilt couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
“I love it,” Vilt said. “I don’t know what I would do without it.”
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected].