The thrill of advancing to play at the Little League World Series isn't solely reserved for an All-Star team.
Just ask Lee "Batman" Batterman, who had his reservation for Williamsport, Pa., verified at the start of the year, well before the Ocean View Majors All-Star team earned its spot Saturday.
Batterman will take the field this week as a tournament umpire. The Fountain Valley resident, 67, is one of just 16 umpires selected to work the World Series. Ten U.S. and six international umpires make up the 2011 crew working Williamsport.
"Like every umpire who sets the World Series as a goal, you wait and wait and wait to one day get that letter that tells you that you've been selected," he said. "I was thrilled when I found out."
Batterman said he came home one day in January to find his wife, Lauri, in the driveway, waving an envelope that contained the good news.
His wife's demeanor, he said, tipped him off.
"She was waving that envelope around with a big smile on her face," he recalled. "I think she was more thrilled than I was. We were both very happy. But it took me about four or five times to read that letter to have it really sink in."
Like Ocean View Little League — which has played in three Western Regional finals in 12 years but got its first championship Saturday in San Bernardino — Batterman has paid his dues to get to the World Series.
Batterman has been in the umpire business for many years — "I'm taking credit for 28 or 29 years," he said. For 23 of those years, he has been working games in District 62, which is home to Little League teams at Ocean View, Huntington Valley, Robinwood, Seaview, Costa Mesa American, Costa Mesa National, Westminster and Challenger League. For several of those years, he said his "standard" working partner in games was Gary Pitcher.
"We used to joked around about it, 'Pitcher and Batterman,' when we were introduced at home plate before games," he said.
Batterman credits his taking part at the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring in 1998 for advancing his game. Evans, a 28-year umpire veteran in major league baseball's American League, runs one of two qualifying schools for umpires wishing to work in the professional ranks.
"I didn't attend Jim's academy with the intent of becoming a professional," Batterman said. "Rather, I went there to increase my skill level and knowledge, as well as add to my resume. That academy literally changed me and I give credit to Jim and his staff."
Batterman also said that the support from District 62 chief administrator Mark Groh was instrumental in getting him to Williamsport.
"Mark has been an excellent district administrator and a good friend," he said of Groh, who will also be attending the World Series. "He really encouraged me to go after the World Series and deserves a lot of credit for my getting there.
"This is about a 10-year dream come true. When you umpire in Little League, it's game by game and the years start adding up. People who give their time to Little League tend to get rewarded for their service."
Groh said Batterman works an average of 30 District 62 games per year.
"Lee has been one of the more dedicated umpires in District 62, who travels throughout the Western region and does outreach programs through umpiring,' Groh said. "He's long overdue for this (World Series) assignment."
Nine years ago, Batterman said he was "very honored" to be on the ground floor in the development of the Junior Umpire Training Academy. The week-long, live-in academy in San Bernardino is open to youth ages 13-17. The academy is sponsored by the Western Region, whose headquarters are in San Bernardino. Five graduates of the program have gone on to professional umpiring careers and the academy is the only Junior or youth program sanctioned by Little League Baseball, Batterman said.
"Our mission all along has been to have graduates of the academy run the program," he said. One such graduate, John Mette, is a co-host instructor with Batterman at the academy.
The Little League World Series opens Thursday and concludes with championship-game action Aug. 28. Batterman said that he will work "two to three" games per day, in the first week of the tournament. Six umpires — one at each base, one along each foul line and one behind the plate — constitute the umpire lineup for a series game.
Batterman said that it's a "first" for a qualifying team (Ocean View) and an umpire from the same district to be participating in the same World Series tournament.
"I can work any position but behind the plate if Ocean View is in the game," he said. "Traditionally, if a team from the West is playing in a game, an umpire from the West will work another assignment.
"This is all about the kids and I'll be very content on whatever assignments I'll be given. Generally, you find out what game you'll be working the day before a game."
Batterman, who has created a "trading pin" for the 2011 World Series, was about two hours away from Williamsport on Monday afternoon, on the stretch drive to reaching his umpiring dream.
"I'm just so honored and thrilled to be here, be a part of the Little League World Series," he said. "I can't wait to work that first game.
To follow Lee Batterman's 2011 Little League World Series experience, visit his blog at http://www.batmanladybatstravels.blogspot.com.