As an umpire, Norm Sitzes is normally cool under pressure.
But the man who has seen just about anything you can imagine on Enniskillen’s ball diamond was flabbergasted when Enniskillen Mayor Kevin Marriott named him the Ontario Senior of the Year.
Sitzes, 82, started coaching boys’ fastball in Oil Springs over 50 years ago. He turned to umpiring in the 1960s when he moved to Oil City. Each spring, you can still find Sitzes behind the plate umpiring girls’ and boys’ fastball.
But it is not just his time behind the plate that is impressive.
Sitzes has been part of the leadership of the Central Lambton Fastball Association for the past 10 years and he’s served on Enniskillen’s Parks and Recreation Committee for the past 14 years. He’s also one of the people behind the annual Canada Day Chicken Barbecue.
But Marriott says it is his time behind the plate which most people remember.
Marriott recalls having Sitzes behind the plate when he was a young boy of about 10. He says Sitzes was authoritative but fair. “Norm is very well liked,” he adds.
Marriott and council presented the award to Sitzes at a recent council meeting. As the mayor read his list of accomplishments, it didn’t dawn on the umpire that Marriott was talking about him.
When Marriott called his name, Sitzes smiled broadly and accepted saying “that’s one hell of a surprise!”
Sitzes says umping is “something that gets in your blood,” he says. “It comes naturally.”
Sitzes admits umpires are not always the most popular people on the diamonds. One friend gave Sitzes a glass eye as a joke while he was behind the plate saying “Here, you might be able to use this” Sitzes recalls with a laugh.
“I used to take quite a bit of abuse,” he admits. “But as you go along, your skin keeps getting a little thicker. You learn to look at them, smile and walk the other way.”
Sitzes plans to be on the diamond for another spring saying he wants to round out his career to 55 years.
He thought about calling it quits, but says when his registration letter arrives in the mail “you get the itch” to be behind the plate again.