Maui umpire to work LLWS

Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to officiate Williamsport event is crowning jewel for Perez

Umpire Jaime Perez talks with Maui High School pitcher Mikito Barkman during a Maui Interscholastic League game last year. Perez will represent the West Region when he works the Little League World Series, Aug. 15-25 in Williamsport, Pa. The Maui News file photo

It came as a surprise, but Jaime Perez got the news he has been waiting a lifetime for last week.

His wife, Debbi, and Mark Bernstein, the Umpire in Chief for the Little League West Region, caught Perez off guard with an announcement that he has been selected to work the Little League World Series when the 2019 event makes its run from Aug. 15-25 in Williamsport, Pa.

The letter from Little League International arrived in the mail on Jan. 5.

“It’s one of those things that everybody waits for — and my wife knows I had been waiting for it,” Jaime Perez said. “She had been told to make it special, so she hid it from me. We went on a short weekend cruise this last weekend with a lot of Little League people.

“The umpire chief for the region happened to be the host, so he and Debbi worked together to make this a special memory. … When they announced me, it just completely blew me away.”

Perez

After numerous regional assignments — including twice to Poland for the Europe/Africa Regional –and the 2012 Senior World Series in Bangor, Maine, under his belt in a near five-decade umpire career, this is the crowning jewel for Perez.

“This will be my second World Series,” Perez said. “This is the one I’ve been waiting for … I’m really at a loss for words.”

Perez will represent Hawaii Little League District III (Maui County) and the West Region in Williamsport. According to Little League International, Perez is just the second Hawaii umpire to be chosen for the LLWS — the first was Cliff Yaguchi of District VII on Oahu, who worked the 2010 event.

“Jaime is a key part of Little League here in Maui County,” District III administrator Ernest Delima said in an email. “As you know he also umpires (Maui Interscholastic League) and any other league that asks for his kokua.”

Perez, 60, has been working on the field since he was a 12-year-old former player in California. He has lived on Maui for the past eight years and works every level of play. A 28-year career with Apple in California has afforded him the ability to enjoy his passion.

“You’re volunteering your times to umpire the games during the regular season,” he said. “Then we’re volunteering and paying our own way to go and participate in any of these tournaments that we get selected.”

A total of 16 umpires are selected for Williamsport each year, 12 from the U.S. Perez provides training for umpires several times each year — he is set for a session on Lanai this weekend — and works games from youth to high school throughout the regular season in Maui County.

“I give credit to any umpire that wants to go out there and do it for free,” Baldwin High School coach Shane Dudoit said. “As much as coaches get on the umpires, we have got to understand that they are giving up their time. For Jaime to be selected to the Little League World Series, it’s because of the time he puts in to the kids.”

Dudoit, who led Baldwin to last year’s Division I state title, also puts in his time working to develop the game through the All-Pono Foundation. Dudoit sees Perez at all levels of youth play throughout the year.

“He is always in command of the game with the little kids,” Dudoit said. “He’s got that good big uncle kind of mentality. He is always helping the kids.”

Umpires are allowed to do the Little League World Series just once, but Perez says he will continue to work behind the plate or on the bases as long as he is needed.

“I’ve attended the World Series to watch friends umpire it over the last few years, I think it’s been four times in my lifetime,” he said. “I don’t know that I can put into words what I’m anticipating out there. It’s just a fantastic opportunity to go out there and watch the cream of the crop of these kids from each region play this game at such a high level.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.