By NATHAN WHALEN
Special to the News-Times
Longtime North Whidbey Little League umpire Rita Cline ventured to Poland last summer to help officiate games as part of the Little League World Series.
She spent two weeks in July in Kutno, which is in central Poland, to officiate games for the European/Mediterranean/Africa region in an 11-team tournament.
“The thing about Little League baseball is how much it is a community sport,” Cline said. “These are life-long friends I make.”
Teams participating in the regional tournament came from the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Israel, Ukraine, France and Poland, Cline said. A Czech Republic team qualified for the World Series.
She was one of four umpires from the United States to officiate in the tournament along with officials from participating countries.
Cline has been an umpire with the North Whidbey Little League for 26 years.
She said her “biggest joy is umpiring Little League baseball here in Oak Harbor. I enjoy those kids so much.”
“It doesn’t mean I don’t bring some level of umpiring to that local league. I just love it,” Cline said.
She noted the volunteer nature of all the people who are involved with Little League. The North Whidbey Little League season starts in April.
She started traveling as an umpire in 2005 when she helped officiate a regional Little League tournament in San Bernadino, California. She has also traveled to a state tournament in Georgia and regional tournaments in Illinois.
She said she is applying to travel again in 2024, but she won’t hear if she’s been accepted until January or February.
“I really would like to go back to Europe,” Cline said.
For more information about North Whidbey Little League, go to northwhidbeylittleleague.org.