Pelicans’ employee fulfills field of dreams as umpire

pel-umptrioThe Myrtle Beach Pelicans helped Justin Fletcher achieve a lifelong dream by sending him to the Minor League Baseball Umpire Training Academy in Vero Beach (FL) last week as a VIP Guest.

Fletcher, a part-time club employee with a cognitive disability, spent two days training with fellow umpire hopefuls at the Historic Dodgertown complex.

“I just got to listen to him and hear his passion and his energy and his enthusiasm for umpiring,” said Minor League Baseball Director of Umpire Development Dusty Dellinger. “It was just a real thrill and inspiration for me just to see someone so excited about umpiring.”

When asked how the other attendees and staff interacted with Fletcher, Dellinger replied, “…they love it. They really embraced him, and it goes back to his excitement, and we feed off of that.”

Fletcher, who is intellectually challenged with autism, received a mask, shin guards and a chest protector to complete drills throughout his two-day training. He worked in the classroom to work towards his umpire education and the academy was even able to connect Justin with his favorite MLB umpire, Al Porter, via web cam.

“It’s everything I dreamed about doing, being a Minor League Baseball umpire,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher’s dream of being an umpire dates back to his time at Socastee High School in Myrtle Beach, where he helped keep stats and set up practices for the baseball team. Even though he was working with the squad’s players, Fletcher always dreamed about being a man in blue.

“It’s been baseball day and night and in his sleep. So now, I don’t know if he can really top that,” said his father Allan Eoff. “It just reaffirms to Justin that he has the ability to do whatever he wants to do, and if he puts his mind to it, he can do it.”

The 2015 season was the 17th season for the Pelicans franchise and first as the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. For information on tickets to see the Pelicans in 2016, please call (843) 918-6000, e-mail info@myrtlebeachpelicans.com, or visit www.MyrtleBeachPelicans.com.

Photo by Larry Kave/MB Pelicans

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