OKEECHOBEE — The youth travel baseball team the Chobee Dirtbags had a team meeting on Jan. 4 where they offered longtime umpire Darrell Croft to join them on a planned trip to baseball mecca Cooperstown in New York in 2022.
The team is in the initial planning and fundraising stage of the trip to Cooperstown where they hope to play in a tournament and visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Croft has been an umpire for 37 years, helping officiate local baseball and football games for the youth in Okeechobee. When Dirtbags coach Ruben Guerrero learned that one of the requirements for competing in the tournament in Cooperstown was to bring your own umpire, Croft was the first person to come to mind.
Croft was unaware that the team was offering him an all-expenses-paid trip to Cooperstown until the meeting on Jan. 4, when Guerrero stood up and gave a speech on behalf on the parents and youths on the team.
“You’ve dedicated years to baseball and softball in the community,” said Guerreo to Croft. “You’re always willing to officiate our gamed with honesty and integrity as well as a positive attitude. On behalf of everyone on the Dirtbags, I want to invite you on an all-expenses-paid experience to Cooperstown, New York. We can’t think of any other umpire we’d like to honor and show our appreciation to for their dedication to this sport.”
Guerrero mentioned that Darrell has been a fixture of local sports in Okeechobee for so long that he remembers him back when he played in Okeechobee as a youth.
“I think everybody needs to experience one bad call from Darrell,” said Guerrero with a laugh.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Croft, “this is a shock.”
“You deserve it,” replied Guerrero. You’ve been a fixture. When we were talking about it we all just said ‘we have to take Darrell’.”
Croft was appreciative of the offer and said he had to check with his boss (wife) to make sure it was OK.