Dedication, hard work pays off | News, Sports, Jobs

Seeing my dad referee a baseball game isn’t new, but seeing him referee a baseball game on ESPN in the Northeast Regional Tournament, a stone’s throw from little league baseball mecca, is something that I’ll never forget.

For years I watched my father, Larry Hawthorne, work hard for something he thought would never happen. Watching him go officiating games from my old Little League home ground in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania to ESPN proves that hard work pays off.

It was early January when my dad received an email from a Little League Baseball email address. My parents had just moved to Warren to be closer to my son and I was going to them to pick up my son from my dad. When I walked in and sat down, my dad had this weird smile on his face. He handed me his phone. The first thing I read was: “On behalf of the Eastern Region for Little League Baseball and Softball, I am pleased to inform you that you have been selected to officiate the 2022 Eastern Little League Baseball Tournament.”

I like to brag that I was the first to know.

When he first got the email, he didn’t want to be hopeful, for some reason, but I could tell he was excited. Whenever my dad repeats something multiple times in conversation, it’s a big deal. I couldn’t count the number of times he said “it’s going to be cool” Where “if it works, it will be great”.

“You work for it, you know you’re qualified for it, and you put in the time for it. It worked for me. Keep applying and I hope you are lucky enough to receive the call,” he said.

The week of August 6 through August 12, my dad was in Bristol, CT, working regional games for the 12-year-old teams vying for a shot at Williamsport. He was at second base for his first game at 10 a.m. on August 6.

As my 14-month-old son ran around my living room, my younger brother and I stared holes in my television in hopes of catching a glimpse of our father, the man who spent most of his adult life refereeing of sports, on the ground in Connecticut.

Then it happened – a routine outing to center field but the camera angle showed my dad jogging to make sure the player caught the ball.

My brother and I screamed “FATHER” as excited as we could be and started clapping each other’s hands with such ferocity that I thought about grabbing an ice pack for my palm. Even my son started clapping as we watched our hero on TV.

We rewound the live playback to get the best possible picture for him as a keepsake, but those images pale in comparison to the events that unfolded later that night.

At 7 p.m. my wife, son and I were walking through the Eastwood Mall. I loaded up the ESPN app on my phone and watched as my dad got into that all-too-familiar position behind the plate for a prime-time game between Connecticut and Rhode Island.

When he called me the day before when his homework was handed in, he spoke candidly about his thought process after seeing his name next to one of the tournament’s biggest games.

“Don’t (explain). It is more or less that,” he called back. “They were the two teams closest to Bristol so it would have been the most congested. I had some nerves but it all goes away on the first pitch.”

If it’s an amazing feeling to see him on TV, hearing the announcers shout at my dad as the camera zooms in on a close-up of him wiping sweat from his face and a graphic listing his name with the other three umpires is a indescribable feeling.

My dad, the man who introduced me to baseball when I was a little older than my son is now. My dad, the man who spent hours and hours coaching his two sons in a sport that would have a hold on my family. My dad, the man who’s worked his cock for everything he’s ever had in life, has finally had his time in the sun.

My family’s fascination with baseball is the only real consistency in our lives. Whether we were playing, watching, coaching or refereeing didn’t matter. We were seduced by the sport from the start. My mom kept the scorecard for as long as I can remember, actually winning a game with my 9-year-old team as the other team knocked out of order, resulting in the final. My father trained me for a few years, then my little brother, who needed it more than me. I even helped my dad coach whenever I could.

No matter who he had on his team, his philosophy was always to put kids first and help them improve day by day. When he could no longer coach his sons, he turned to refereeing.

Even when he was a referee, the children always came first. He coached the children, albeit subtly, as best he could. If a pitcher was struggling and was taken out of play, my dad would be the first to cheer him up.

He’s just the man he is.

It doesn’t matter the skill level or whether or not he knows the kids on the pitch. As long as an effort is made, my father does everything he can to help the children get better.

With a regional tournament under his belt, my dad is about to be called up to referee in Williamsport. Something he had long dreamed of since our first visit to the World Series in 2008. In fact, as we made the 4.5 hour drive home that year, he lamented how cool it must have been to work on these games.

Little did he know it was only a matter of time before that comment would soon become a reality.

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