Lake Wales Volunteer Umpiring at The Little League World Series
by James Coulter
Being an umpire is by no means the most popular occupation in the world of sports, but like any hard job, someone has to do it.
For the past 21 years, Lake Wales resident Danny Gill has been tasked with the big responsibility of making close calls during little league baseball games, with his ultimate decision pleasing half the crowd while aggravating the other half.
“There are no second guesses,” he said. “You make the call, it’s your call…Not everyone is going to like it. 50 percent will like it, 50 percent will not like it.”
Managing to keep calm under such pressure has allowed him to umpire little league for as long as he has, with this year allowing him to be the second person from Polk County selected to umpire the Little League World Series.
Little League was founded in 1939 with the first World Series held in 1947. The headquarters has always been in Williamsport, PA which will be the site for the 71st World Series being held August 16-26. Gill will be one of 16 umpires selected from around the world to call the games.
“It is a tough road to get to the World Series,” he said. “I am the second umpire from our county to ever be selected, and little league has been going on for the past 79 years.”
As a young child, Gill played in the Lake Wales Little League program. He has always loved the game and has continually been involved as a coach, volunteer and for the last 20 years as an umpire.
As a little league player, he played many positions but mainly catcher and third base. While not one single moment stands out to him, he fondly remembers playing the big games with the city and league championships on the line.
Currently, when not serving as a licensed funeral director and co-owner at Marion Nelson Funeral Home and Johnson-Nelson-Gill Funeral Home in Lake Wales, he’s been volunteering for the local little league for the past 30 years. Gill started umpiring 21 years ago when his oldest son was 7 and the league asked for volunteers to call the pitching machine games. “They wanted parents to help umpire games, and that is what got me started,” he said.
Going from a local umpire to someone umpiring at the Little League World Series is quite a tough road to travel, which requires several recommendations and evaluations on all levels and divisions.
However, for someone to rise in the ranks and be selected for such a major task, especially as the second person to do so in the 64 years Little League has been in Polk County, is quite the proud accomplishment.
“I am completely humbled and honored to have been selected, and I am hoping to represent LW little league and our county well,” he said. “It is an unbelievable feeling to know that I have been selected after all these years.”
Overall, the greatest reward for him will be the sheer serendipity that he has received being able to play and volunteer for little league baseball for most of his life.
“I loved the camaraderie and the simplicity and the game itself,” he said. “I just thoroughly love the game of baseball, so being a part of it and still being involved in it brings me a lot of joy.”
Lake Wales Little League is proud & honored to announce that Danny Gill has been selected as one of 16 umpires for the 2018 Little League World Series in Williamsport Pennsylvania. Way to represent Danny, as a lot of work and volunteer hours went into this honor. We are proud of you.