Umpire Aficionado Living the Dream in Myrtle Beach

It’s a slow time of year for Minor League Baseball, but that doesn’t mean that nothing is happening. Something is always happening. Today’s something is out of Myrtle Beach, as the Pelicans have announced that they are helping one of their employees “fulfill [a] lifelong dream.”

justin1

That staffer is Justin Fletcher, an intellectually challenged autistic individual who began working with the club as a custodian in 2014. As you may be able to infer from the above photo, the “lifelong dream” in question is Justin’s desire to be an umpire. To that end, the Pelicans are sending him to Vero Beach tomorrow. On Wednesday and Thursday, Justin will attend classes at the Major League Baseball Umpire Training Academy. Some snippets from the press release:

Fletcher…. [is] the first person at the Vocational Rehabilitation of South Carolina to earn a custodial certification. Following his morning and afternoon work at TicketReturn.com Field, Fletcher attended nearly every home Pelicans game, quickly displaying a love for the Carolina League’s umpires by imitating the men in blue in the stands behind home plate.

justin2

“Justin has always said for years now he wants to be an umpire,” said his father Allan Eoff. “And when he found out that (Pelicans assistant general manager) Mike Snow and the staff of the Pelicans were helping his dream come true, he was ecstatic. From that day on, it’s been baseball every day, outside, inside and in his sleep. His mom and I even hear him calling balls and strikes in his sleep. He also only asks for gifts that would outfit an umpire.”

As part of his two-day training, Fletcher will receive a mask, chest protector and shin guards while also spending time in the classroom to work towards completing his umpire education.

“(Pelicans general manager) Andy Milovich told me about this young man at their ballpark who just loved umpiring and loved talking to the umpires that visited Myrtle Beach during the season,” said Minor League Baseball Director of Umpire Development Dusty Dellinger. “After meeting Justin and hearing others tell stories about him dressing up in his umpiring shirt and mask and making calls from the seats behind the plate, I knew we had to bring him to the academy for a few days and give him a taste of what umpiring is really like. I hope he enjoys the experience.”

An alum of Socastee High School in Myrtle Beach, Fletcher was able to meet a few of his umpiring idols prior to games during the Pelicans’ 2015 championship campaign. 

justin3Here’s a video of Justin in action, which displays the degree in which he is able to emulate his Major League umpiring heroes.

He’s like a 21st-century Mark Grant.

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: