Most people wouldn’t want a job that involves standing in the heat for hours and being yelled out on occasion by parents in different languages.
Babe Ruth League National Umpire Association member Ken Pennington, of Springdale, Arkansas, has umpired over 3,800 games in 38 years because he enjoys it so much.
Pennington, 61, has long been involved with Babe Ruth League as an umpire and Baseball Commissioner. He is a repeat selection by Babe Ruth League, Inc. to work the World Series after years of developing a reputation for competency and fairness.
This past August, Pennington was part of an eight-man umpiring crew selected for the Cal Ripken Major/70 World Series. “I felt honored and privileged to be part of the crew,” said Pennington, who also worked the Cal Ripken World Series in 2014 and 2008. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the kids and, as an umpire, you get to bond and meet new people from all over the country. Plus, it keeps me in shape.”
Pennington grew up near Ray Winder Field in Little Rock, Arkansas, and got his start as an official by umpiring softball games. He added baseball and football and now works mostly high school and junior high games involving Class 5A teams and below in Northwest Arkansas.
Pennington has seen the good, bad and ugly during 38 years as a referee and umpire in youth sports. The vast majority of his experiences have been good, but he’s had to eject a few coaches from games during his long career.
“You hate when it comes to that,” said Pennington. “We all know sometimes that a game can get real exciting and you really have to say something or do something bad to get ejected. That’s my last resort. I want to keep all the coaches and kids in the game.”
He takes a similar approach with unruly fans.
“Umpires should never recognize the fans, not even turn around,” Pennington said. “If you do, then they’re in your head and that’s not a good thing. We all have to remember this is not about me and it’s not about you. It’s about the kids, and there’s a 99% chance he or she is not going to be a professional athlete. So, get that out of your head and let the kids enjoy the game and have fun.”