- Associated Press - Monday, November 7, 2016

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) - It was bittersweet from the start. When Elmer Deschaine was informed by the Southern Connecticut Diamond Club that he was the 2016 recipient of the Andrew Gassira Award for a distinguished 53-year career as an umpire, it was a moment both joyous and sad. Just one year ago Deschaine’s great friend and mentor, Ralph Bernardini, received the same award posthumously.

But as the date approached for the awards ceremony last Wednesday, more than a few hearts were broken as two revered officials were lost. First the great John Bellino died unexpectedly, followed by the loss just days later of Russ Hansen after a long illness. Both were officiating colleagues and friends to Deschaine.

The always-affable Elmer could not bring himself to celebrate amid the sadness.

Local umpires rallied. They marched en masse into Bellino’s wake. Deschaine, a pallbearer for Bellino, delivered a heartfelt eulogy at a reception that followed the funeral. He told the mourners that he felt “kind of empty” to lose a dear friend who was “the heart and soul of our Central Connecticut (umpiring) board.” Deschaine said, “I will dedicate the award to John Bellino,” the man who wore uniform No. 5.

With nary a dry eye in the room, Deschaine concluded, “Rest in peace No. 5, until we meet again.”

At the Diamond Club banquet the evening after Bellino’s funeral, Deschaine was left speechless - yes, Elmer speechless - when Bellino’s wife and son, Joe and Fran, attended the dinner.

“I could not believe that they came to support me,” Deschaine said later, “after all that they had been through.”

The people in blue, or in striped shirts, take our abuse play after play, inning after inning, minute by minute, and we forget what they do, how many games they cover, how far they travel, and also, how dedicated and loyal they are to the cause, to the game, and to each other.

Deschaine’s career, as just one example, dates back to 1963 when he umpired grammar school games. “I was a substitute teacher,” he said, “and I needed a few bucks. I was paid $5 a game. Each team gave you $2, and change.”

Deschaine has now completed 53 years as an umpire, is in his 43rd year as a soccer official, and will soon start his 53rd year as a basketball official.

“When one season ends another begins,” said Deschaine, 77, son of a lumberjack and a man who is in the best shape of anyone, in any room. “I don’t know when to quit, I love it so much.”

None of this would have happened, he said, without the support of his wife of 51 years, Marion, the daughter of another sports legend, Bill Tracy.

“Where would I be without Marion?” Elmer asks, and he said that the work ethic comes from his father, a Maine lumberjack. “We would get to a job site to cut trees before the sun came up. I would say, ‘When we going home dad?’ and he’d say, ‘Don’t worry, the sun will be going down.’”

It is easy to forget that Deschaine played Division I basketball with Gonzaga. One can imagine that a tree or two was felled in the great northwest back in the day.

We have noted that Deschaine is worth the price of admission when he works the plate. He chases baseballs to the backstop, serves as a bat boy for both teams, and he’ll grab a mitt to warm up a pitcher to speed the game along. He said that he doesn’t get work behind the plate from some coaches. “They think I am showing up their catcher,” Deschaine said. “I hustle. It is a force of habit. If they want to think about slowing me down, I would defy it.”

And he adds, “I believe that God has a sense of humor. Why else would the son of Herbert and Hilda be called Elmer? I’ve taken a ton of harassment for that. But things have turned out alright. I guess I was in the right place, at the right time.”

And once again Elmer, you made the right call.

___

Online: https://bit.ly/2e5Mo15

___

Information from: Republican-American, https://www.rep-am.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide