STELLARTON – Jim MacNeil thought he was just going to throw out the first pitch at the Brian Jarvis Memorial Fastpitch Tournament last Friday.
But his devious umpiring buddies had something more in store for him.
MacNeil, who has hung up his umpiring cleats after more than 60 years of calling balls and strikes, was presented with a plaque marking his years as an ump (with an umpire’s mask affixed to it) and a Toronto Maple Leafs floor mat for his truck (he’s a diehard Leafs’ fan)
“It was a beautiful honour, it surprised me,” says the 86-year-old New Glasgow resident, whose subtle wit is well-known to those who are familiar with him.
“I’m grateful for it.”
It took gentle nudging from a couple of family members for MacNeil to finally decide that it was time to hang up his chest protector.
“My wife Margie didn’t want me driving after dark anymore. And my youngest son – we’re fishing buddies and umpiring was taking up too much of our fishing time.”
MacNeil said he will miss umpiring, but plans on getting out to watch games as much as possible.
“I always liked being around the kids, especially, and I liked ball all of my life. I played it for 60 years.”
Sonny Campbell is umpire-in-chief for the northern Nova Scotia region (Pictou, Antigonish and Guyborough counties) and believes that thousands of children and adults have played in games that were umpired by MacNeil.
“Jim’s gone through a lot of generations, a lot of people will remember him,” Campbell said.
“I mean, he goes back to when they wore the bow tie and the white shirt umpiring. So, he goes back a ways.”