Longtime Maui official Davidson dies at 68

Fred Davidson, 1948-2017

Fred Davidson is presented with a lei by Masayo Sutton while being honored during the state high school baseball tournament on May 7, 2016. • The Maui News / ROBERT COLLIAS photo

Fred Davidson, a three-sport referee in the Maui Interscholastic League for nearly two decades, was remembered by colleagues and friends as a caring official who brought a strong sense of calm to all fields of play.

Davidson died on Wednesday after a long battle with cancer. He was 68.

Barry Helle, the general manager of the Wailea Blue Golf Course and the radio voice of the MIL, remembered a ceremony at the 2016 Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I state baseball tournament at Maehara Stadium where Davidson was honored.

“One of my favorite moments was watching the HHSAA on state-wide television before that 2016 championship game,” Helle said. “I talked to Fred and he was extremely proud of that moment. He’s not the kind of guy that seeks out notoriety or exposure or anything like that, but that meant a lot to him. He was very proud.”

Davidson umpired numerous state baseball tournaments, including two Division I championship games from behind the plate.

Fred Davidson

“He made my life easy, there was never a hesitation on a call, he was always in place or in the right position to make a call, whether it was behind the plate or out on the field,” Helle said.

Davidson had a quiet command on the field.

“His strike zone was so pure, and on the money. There wasn’t any fancy, showboating kind of thing to it,” Helle said. “It was just a very clean job and ultimately right. In all my years of broadcasting I don’t think I’ve ever second-guessed a strike or ball call that Fred Davidson made. Freddy had the purest strike zone of anyone I ever saw.”

Helle described Davidson as a “gentleman’s gentleman.” Davidson, who was originally from Texas, worked at the Wailea Gold and Emerald golf courses, where he also had a special way with people.

“He treated everybody with respect,” Helle said. “There weren’t any highs and lows. He’s such an even-keeled guy, he just made everybody relaxed, made everybody feel good about whenever they were in his presence.”

Lionel Montalvo, Maui County Deputy Fire Chief, officiated baseball and football with Davidson for many years. Montalvo was head coach for the St. Anthony High School baseball team from 2000 to 2005 — Davidson officiated several of Montalvo’s games.

“Fred was always willing to teach and help the younger officials,” Montalvo said. “He was never the type to put anybody down. He came in to our association, football and baseball, with a lot of knowledge and experience and he was always willing to share what he had.

“It was my pleasure to be assigned the state tournaments with him. My first game in the state (baseball) tournament I was behind the plate and he was one of my base umpires, which made me feel comfortable.”

John Turzer, who refereed basketball and football with Davidson, considered Davidson his “best friend.”

“We were two of the few haoles here working basketball, baseball, and football,” Turzer recalled. “We worked all three. Fred was a great, great football and baseball official. Fred was not only experienced, but he was just a nice guy to work with, he was a fun guy to work with.

“He knew the rules, he knew how to communicate with the players, and the coaches, and the fellow umpires. He quickly gained their respect. That’s the big thing. When you come to Maui from the Mainland, you know, you’ve got to earn your stripes. Fred earned his stripes.”

Davidson’s ex-wife, Donna, took care of her former husband for the last few months, Turzer said. Davidson’s brother and sister visited from the Mainland recently for a week.

Turzer said memorial plans for Davidson are pending and will be announced soon.

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com