When Canada is known for having some of the best softball umpires in the world, it’s a big deal to be chosen as Canada’s “Umpire of the Year.”
Hope resident and school teacher, Aaron Poulin got the call on Oct. 5 that he had been chosen from amongst seven nominees for this year’s award, sponsored by Home Run Sports (HRS).
“I was Softball BC’s ‘Official of the Year,’ back in 2010 — but this was indeed an honour,” said Poulin, Monday.
Softball Canada’s national director of umpires, Jeff Whipple said via e-mail, “We are so proud to be able to recognize Aaron for his leadership over the past year, both on and off the field. Just like the athletes who play the game, elite officials must work hard to maintain their skills and abilities. Aaron continues to focus on maintaining his place as a world-class official and is recognized by his peers, not just for his abilities but also for his personal work ethic.
“Aaron’s work in representing Canada on-field at the recent World Championships in Surrey is matched by his continued off field support of his colleagues as a leading national level instructor and evaluator. His influence in our program will be realized in the success of others for many years to come.
“Softball Canada’s umpire development program is a global leader. Being recognized as the HRS Umpire of the Year serves to identify Aaron for his role as part of a select group of elite umpires worldwide,” said Whipple.
Poulin got his start in softball while growing up in Ladysmith, south of Nanaimo.
“I played a little bit in my Grade 12 year,” he said. “We put a team together for the BC Summer Games but we didn’t qualify.
“I played a few more years in Ladysmith, then I went to UVic in 1987 and started umping in men’s and women’s ball in 1988. I’ve umped ever since.”
Poulin got his first teaching job in Quesnel in 1992 and he worked the northern diamonds in his spare time. The move to Hope in 1993 gave him easier access to games in the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, the B.C. Interior — and down into Washington State for college women’s games.
Poulin figured he’s now officiating 75 to 100 games a season.
“The college stuff starts in February and into May,” he said. “SFU has been in the NCAA league for the last four or five years. Regular ball goes from May to July, then in August, it’s the western or national championships.”
Poulin also serves on Softball BC’s officiating development committee, helping mentor young officials.
Among his international assignments, Poulin worked the Pan Am Games in Toronto in 2015, the 2012 Junior Men’s World Championships in Argentina and the 2016 Women’s World Championships in Surrey.
“I was the off-field official for the final game, where the USA beat Japan 7-3,” Poulin said. “After the plate umpire, it’s probably the second busiest job. You deal with all the changes in line-ups and it helps the countries that have language issues.
“We tried it first at the Pan Am games, “ he added. “It really speeds up the game. It cuts almost 30 minutes off the men’s games.”
Poulin will receive his award on Nov. 12, in Whitehorse, Yukon. You might not think of Whitehorse as a softball hotbed — but the long summer days helped them host the 2014 World Junior Men’s championships and they’ll also be hosting the World’s Men’s championships in 2017.
Poulin will be travelling on his own, as others in the family are headed east at the same time.
“Lenora and Arden are going to New York for Arden’s 16th and Lily will be doing sleepovers with friends,” said Poulin. “I won’t even be there for 24 hours. I’ll land at 1 or 1:30 p.m. and the flight home is at seven in the morning on Sunday.”