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Assignment of a Lifetime

OTTAWA – As Canada is gearing up for the World Baseball Classic, it will not only be the players who will get the chance to represent their country.

Corrie Davis of Sherwood Park, Alberta and Stéphane Dupont of Mascouche, Québec will both get the opportunity of a lifetime as they will both be participating in the WBC… as umpires.

The two longtime Canadian umpires will be on the field in San Juan, Puerto Rico officiating in the first round of Pool D action of the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

In the inaugural event in 2006, there were no Canadian umpires. This time around, 15 international umpires, including Davis and Dupont, have worked with Major League umpire supervisors to refine their skills to prepare for the biggest assignment of their umpiring careers.

“The fact that we have two Canadian umpires working at an event of this magnitude is a testament to the quality of our development program,” says Davis. “I hope that we can be successful at the WBC so that other Canadian umpires will have a chance to enjoy this experience in the future.”

Davis and Dupont went down to Long Beach, California for a week to learn from some of the best umpires in the world. Everyday, their training would begin in the classroom. They were being taught lessons about mechanics and drills before going out on the field later in the day to work on those lessons with former Major League umpires such as Bruce Froemming, Steve Rippley and Larry Young. Then they would umpire live baseball games with the help of the Compton Community College.

“When you’re next to legends like Steve Rippley, Larry Young and Bruce Froemming, it can give you a bit of an inferiority complex,” says Dupont. “But it helped me gain confidence because I realized that ‘hey, I have 27 years experience doing this and I’ve done this before at many different levels.’ And all the Major League umpires were very helpful and inclusive.”

But it was not only on field training for these two Canadian umpiring veterans. They were also taught important lessons about nutrition and exercise from experts such as MLB Director, Umpire Medical Services Mark Letendre. Letendre taught them some new exercises to help cope with the rigours of the profession.

“A neat thing Dr. Letendre taught us was that you aren’t just stretching for today, but you’re stretching and doing these exercises now so you can have a good quality of life after you’re done your career,” says Davis. “It can wear your body down after a while.”

Even with all of this new training, both Davis and Dupont bring a combined 50+ years of umpiring experience to the table.

Davis, who started umpiring at the age of 12, has been in the game for 25 years. He’s umpired numerous national and international tournaments in his career, including the most recent World Cup of Baseball in Taiwan. He has also officiated over 150 games in the pro ranks in the Pacific Coast League

For Dupont, he has been an umpire since 1985 and has also officiated in several national and international events. His resume includes the 1999 Pan-Am Games, the 2002 World Junior Championship and the 2005 World Cup of Baseball.

Both have also been supervisors and instructors to help grow and develop officiating in Canada. In fact, Davis is now the Supervisor of Umpires for Baseball Canada.

“(The MLB Umpire Supervisors) may have been a bit nervous at first, not knowing what they had to work with, but I think by the end of the week we showed them we could umpire,” says Davis.

Both are looking forward to the chance of being on the big stage. Now that baseball has been removed from the Olympics, the World Baseball Classic is easily the biggest international event for the sport with Major League players on the field representing their countries. Both Davis and Dupont hold that same sense of pride when they will take the field in Puerto Rico.

“It is simply an honour to get a chance to represent your country at an event that, I believe, is the most prestigious and where amateur umpires can take part,” says Dupont.

“I am extremely honoured to be representing Canada at this illustrious event,” adds Davis. “It’s going to be amazing to be in that environment…in a huge, sold out stadium, on the field with guys like Alex Rodriguez, Vladimir Guerrero, Carlos Delgado and David Ortiz and working with MLB umpires is going to easily make this the most incredible experiences of my career.”

Davis and Dupont will report to MLB Spring Training in Orlando prior to the start of the tournament to call a few exhibition games in preparation of the big event. They will then report to San Juan, Puerto Rico for Pool D action, which features the Dominican Republic, Panama, Puerto Rico and the Netherlands. Canada also begins play on March 7 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto when they take on the United States.