Florida District 26 Little League’s Guy Vilt was selected to umpire the 2015 Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa.
| 6:00 a.m. June 22, 2015
BRADENTON — Six months ago, Guy Vilt, Florida District 26 umpire and chief received a phone call from Tom Haines, director of umpire development to the Operations Department at Little League International in South Williamsport, Pa.
The call could only mean one thing — Vilt was headed to the Little League World Series.
Vilt was one of 16 umpires from across the world selected to umpire the 2015 Little League World Series Aug. 20 through Aug. 30. It’s the most prestigious honor bestowed upon a Little League umpire.
Umpires typically wait more than a decade before they are considered for the Little League World Series — if they are even considered at all. Vilt waited only four after umpiring the Southeastern Regional Tournament in 2011.
“I usually have a lot to say, but all I could say was, ‘Thank you. I appreciate the honor,’” Vilt says. “Then, I thought to myself, ‘Oh my God,’ because this wasn’t supposed to happen this year. I was shocked, to say the least. I can’t believe it. It’s what every volunteer Little League umpire works for."
News of Vilt’s selection quickly spread across Florida District 26, which covers Manatee County’s five ballparks.
As the district umpire and chief, Vilt rotates around to all of the Little League fields. Over the past few months, players have been offering their congratulations and telling Vilt how they’re going to enjoy watching him on television.
“That was really huge,” Vilt says. “It gave them a hope that they can get there (too). If you work hard, good things happen.”
Vilt attended the 2015 Little League World Series Umpire Orientation in mid-May, marking his first trip to South Williamsport, and he’s already preparing for his second.
Vilt will work as part of a six-man volunteer umpire crew in South Williamsport, and he will be evaluated after every game. The only games Vilt won’t be able to umpire are those involving a team from the Southeastern region. The trip will cost Vilt roughly $5,500, but he says he wouldn’t change it for anything.
“It’s everything I’ve worked so hard for,” Vilt says. “I don’t do it for that reason, but in the back of your head it’s always there and it keeps making you work harder.”
Vilt typically umpires at least five games during spring and fall seasons. In addition, Vilt also will umpire the District 26 Little League All-Star tournament, which began June 23 and runs through July 2, at Palmetto Little League. The winners will go on to play in their respective sectional tournaments with the Majors players hoping to follow Vilt all the way to Williamsport.
Vilt began volunteering in the Little League program 33 years ago as a coach at Bonfield-Limestone Little League in Illinois where he played as a kid. Vilt, who didn’t have a child in the program, coached for 11 years before deciding to branch off into umpiring in 1994.
“You had a different view of the game back then,” Vilt says. “You were kind of allowed to help coach the kids. You got to do double duty back then, which was kind of neat.”
Vilt started out umpiring for his former team before eventually moving to Bradenton where he joined the Florida District 26 umpiring crew. In 2011, Vilt became the league’s district umpire and chief and also was assigned to umpire the Little League Southeastern Regional Tournament in Warner Robins, Ga.
Two years later, Vilt assumed the role of assistant district administrator for Florida District 26 and also was chosen to umpire the Senior League Southeastern Regional Tournament.
Vilt attends two to three clinics a year in Warner Robins, meeting with other umpires from across the Southeastern region to educate himself on the rulebook and bring new information back to Florida District 26 and its 36 umpires.
“I built this from nothing,” Vilt says. “You can put in as much time or as little time as you want. I feel the rules and educating the guys is important. I put in a lot of time to make sure we are doing things the way Little League meant them to be.”
During his volunteer Little League career, Vilt had never been to South Williamsport until May. Vilt promised himself a long time ago that he would never go until he got the call.
After staring at his phone for a while, Vilt finally answered. Haines initially began telling Vilt about the blustery weather they were having in Pennsylvania, as was typical for the area in early December. Vilt patiently listened to the weather report for a city some 1,150 miles away before asking what he could do for Haines. It was then that Haines gave Vilt an early Christmas present.
Vilt decided to keep the news a secret for the next three weeks until he could surprise his daughter, Taylor, and his parents on Christmas. He wrapped up three identical packages each with a copy of the formal letter he received, a Little League World Series T-Shirt and a golden ticket, which is what umpires call it when you are called up to the Little League World Series.
Once Vilt’s daughter and parents realized what the gifts meant, he shared his news with the rest of his family and friends.
“It was the hardest secret to keep, but I chose to create it,” Vilt says. “It was killing me not to say anything, but it was worth the surprise.”