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Best European Baseball Umpire Arnoldas Ramanauskas Interview 2014 02 25
When and how did you find out about baseball?
In 1986 while reading Sovietskij sport about the inclusion of baseball in the Olympic games. Until then I have read the rules in the encyclopedia, but I did not understand anything.
Have you ever played baseball?
I played for Utena Lituanica in 1988-1989 as the first-baseman. I have not gotten a strikeout in official games in Lithuania. The only time I was struck out was in Tallinn.
When did you start umpiring?
The first time I umpired was in Kaunas in 1988. I remember that one of the teams was Kaunas "Era", whose pitcher was one of the most experienced coaches today, Virmidas Neverauskas. I could see from his face, that he was not happy about my umpiring. In 1989, I attended an All-Union baseball umpire seminar where me and four other Lithuanian umpires were selected to umpire in the USSR championship.
Where did you get to umpire? Best known championships?
1989 First USSR baseball championship, including the finals in the Moscow and Kiev areas. 1992 - 2013 every two years European Group B championship, European Cups, European junior, cadets, and juvenile championships. 2005 Little League World Series in the U.S. 2008 World College Championship in Czech Republic.
Biggest incident while umpiring.
In 1992, European Group B baseball championship in Germany. I was assigned as the first base umpire in a semi-final game between Lithuania and Germany. I was trying to be objective, but when the German pitcher made a slight mistake that other umpires did not mind, I could not resist so I gave him a balk (in baseball terms - pitcher's mistake). That let the Lithuanian national team score and keep the pressure in the game, which though they lost, we can call one of the most memorable games in the Lithuanian baseball history because Lithuania was close to surprising everybody by beating the tournament host. I say jokingly, that I also earned one run for Lithuania.
How does your family feel about umpiring? Do they tolerate it or no?
My wife is always happy when we can spend the weekends and holidays together, but she understands that my passion for baseball will not go away. Sometimes me and my family go to the games together. Younger three year old son does not forget to offer to play baseball almost every evening.
Why is baseball not popular in Lithuania?
Lithuania does not differ from the whole Europe. Baseball community is not big in the whole continent. This is because of the traditions. Europeans like other games more. Unlike the U.S., Central America, and Asia, you can barely see baseball on television in Europe. This limits the chances of getting to know this beautiful game.
What troubles Lithuanian baseball?
Biggest problem - no baseball fields in Lithuania, that is why we cannot organize serious international tournaments and popularize baseball. Also it is hard for the baseball enthusiasts to convince municipalities to give more funds to the baseball clubs and facilities because municipalities are so inactive. Clerks still think that basketball and soccer teams in the third rated Lithuanian league are more important than having a European level baseball team with the same money.
What game would you like to umpire in?
In the World Championship, especially somewhere in Asia or Central America because there are ten thousands of fans watching the game and the atmosphere is different.
How did you find out that you was voted the best European baseball umpire of 2013? Did you know about it?
I found out about it when I got a message from the Lithuanian Baseball Association general secretary E. Matusevičius who at that time was attending a European Baseball Confederation congress in Prague where the nomination was announced. I did not believe so I checked Facebook right away where it was already announced in the European baseball umpire group. I was not expecting it or anticipating, because usually this title goes to the member of the European baseball country leaders - Italy, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Spain.
Are there any other good baseball umpires in Lithuania?
There is four of us that umpire in the official European games, but I have a lot more experience. A baseball umpire has to be improving all the time, participate in the international umpire seminars and camps, usually from our own pockets. I think somebody from Lithuania could repeat my success if they had enthusiasm.
What else do you do besides umpiring?
Baseball is a hobby, a purposeful spending of free time so I make money by providing accounting services to small businesses. By the way, I play beach volleyball and do swimming all year round. With a couple other enthusiasts we started propagating slow pitch softball which is an excellent way to spend time outdoors with your family.
What would you change in baseball umpiring if you could?
I would impose yellow and red cards because now when warning or removing a player you have to yell loud and wave your arm so I am a little bit jealous of other sports referees that use cards.
How much longer do you plan to umpire for and umpire good?
Age for the baseball umpire is not a crucial factor as in soccer where there is a set limit. As long as I can see and my knees can bend nothing should prevent me from umpiring good and the experience should only help. I am definitely not quitting any time soon.
Is baseball going to become an Olympic sport again?
I would very like it to. Even though, the nature of the game does not change if it is in the Olympic games or not, sports officials view towards Olympic and non-Olympic sports is different. That is why there is so much effort put in by the world baseball and softball communities to bring it back to the Olympics. Latest events show that it could be very real and that Tokyo Olympic games will have baseball and softball.
What would you like to wish for Lithuanian baseball?
More new enthusiasts, and more enthusiasm to current enthusiasts.
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