Norm Sitzes calling it a game after 55 years


Norm Sitzes started umpiring fastball because nobody else wanted to do it. Fifty-five years later he’s retiring from the diamond with hundreds of games and lots memories under his belt.
The Oil City man started umpiring when he was about 29. He had been coaching but there was a need for some umps. “I tried it and I kind of liked it.”
It didn’t take long to realize umping and coaching didn’t mix, so Sitzes turned in his coaching job for the umpire’s mask.
And he was hooked, umping games all over Central Lambton, sometimes nine games in six days. But he loved the action. “It works you up a little bit when you see that runner coming around third, you know you have to be ready, have to be in position to make that call.”
He’s also enjoyed meeting all kinds of people – most of the time. “Through the years I’ve met people from all walks of life. You meet parents, and some you wish you hadn’t have,” he says, half joking. “Sometimes, if the parents would bring the kids to the ball park and leave them there, the kids would do better.”
But Sitzes says he’s also seen some really good fastball. The name of Mark Fraser comes to his lips when asked about those players that were really special. “He worked for Ontario Hydro and they called him the human vacuum cleaner. He played shortstop and if there was anything close to him, he had it. He stuck out like a sore thumb.”
Sitzes was never worried about favouring players saying he didn’t really notice who was on the field. But he would acknowledge a good play. “If you see a real good play, don’t be afraid to acknowledge it and let that girl or let that boy know that was a fantastic play.”
It’s clear Sitzes still loves the game and could talk for hours about it. But he made the tough decision to step away after one game in Oil Springs in August.
At one point Sitzes flipped a ball back to the pitcher and felt a little pop. After his arm turned blue he learned he’d snapped a tendon. Doctors are still treating him for that. And at the same game, he was hit by a pitch. “There was foul tip off the bat over the catcher’s shoulder and I never even seen it coming.”
It hit him hard on the upper chest. “I thought it had killed me, I couldn’t even get my wind or breath. I had to hang onto the fence and everything went black for a minute.”
The game, which was nearing the end, was called so Sitzes could relax.
The incidents made him decide it was time to relax a lot more.
He finished out the regular season last week. He won’t umpire his regular circuit of games in Central Lambton next year.
But he says he’ll likely renew his umpire’s card in the new year, just incase someone is in a pinch and needs an umpire.
“It gets in your blood and then there is no such word as no.”


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