When amateur umpire Renaldo Cockrum received an invite from Gerry Davis, senior umpire consultant for the Little League World Series (LLWS), to attend the newly formed Umpire Identification Camp, it was one step closer in the Bristol resident’s quest to officiate a LLWS playoff game in Williamsport, Pennsylvania – a dream he’s had since 2014. Cockrum’s work on the field and behind the plate brought him to the attention of Davis, having officiated at various eastern regional LLWS playoffs, most recently in July at the 50/70 Intermediate East Regional in Delaware. A 1994 Portsmouth High School graduate, he attended Rhode Island College where he played basketball for two years and since 2006 has been calling high school and college baseball and basketball matchups. His affiliations include Newport County Officials Association for baseball and basketball, Collegiate Baseball Umpires, and the National Association of Sports Officials. When not wearing the uniform, Renaldo is a residential instructor for Life Incorporated, a service providing care for people with disabilities.
Making the Team: My best friend’s son was playing in a Little League game and there was no umpire so my friend jumped in. One of the guys there said my friend should come to a meeting [to learn about officiating], and asked if he could bring me. That was 2006. It was pretty much natural for me because I had a sports background. To get on the high school board there is a two-year class. There are camps and clinics. If I had known about this career path earlier in my life, I would have pursued the Major Leagues. To get into the Majors, you have to start young and put in 10 years in the Minors before moving up.
Pre-Game Ritual: During the anthem, I’ll say a little prayer to myself to bless the game. There is a lot more preparation for a baseball game between the equipment and having to be at the stadium an hour and half before to check in for the college game. For high school basketball, if I have a 6pm game, I leave by 4pm and there’s a clock, so I know when it will be over. You definitely have to drink a lot of water and keep the body in shape.
Warmup: I started my chase in 2014 with the regionals in Delaware, another regional in 2016, and the Little League Senior World series [ages 15 to 18 year olds] in 2018. In 2022, I was an umpire in Bristol, Connecticut for the East Regionals for the LLWS and in July I was in Delaware for the 50/70 Intermediate East Regional.
Starting Lineup: I got an invite from Gerry Davis, former Major League umpire who is now the head of all Little League umpires across the US, to attend a camp last April where they work with those who are interested in being LLWS umpires. They only invite 25-30 umpires from the east region who are on the radar. I’m hoping I’m on the shortlist to go to Williamsport next year. At the very least, I’ll probably get another regional to officiate.
Boys of Summer: I am wrapping up the Cape Cod Baseball League (CCBL) and New England Collegiate Baseball League (NECBL). Cape league players are on their way to getting drafted or have already been drafted, turned it down to compete again in NCAA baseball. But there’s a small skill gap between the two. A player may be with CCBL one summer and NECBL the next.
Spoilers: There has been a real change in fan behavior since I started. You definitely have to have patience and thick skin. I’m confident because I know the game and what I am doing. You would think once things came back after COVID, the fans would just be happy to have sports back, but I think they are crazier than before. We all have jobs out there to do – refs, players, coaches, and fans. The problems start when the line starts crossing. If you’re a player, you play; if you’re a coach, you coach; if you’re a fan, you celebrate your team – and let us do our job. After a game, regardless if they won or lost, sometimes someone may say that was a great officiating game, which feels good.
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