Michelle LaFreniere has had a love of ‘the game’ since childhood. She’s
played softball, coached and umpired, and will now carry that love of the
game to new heights when she umpires at the Little League Softball World
Series this summer. Just 13 umpires are chosen from around the world.
Michelle played in Lynwood, Ill., starting at age 6 in 1977, through Lynwood
Little League. To help make softball available, Michelle’s mom, Donna DeRosa,
volunteered to be president of the softball league. In her teens Michelle
played for a travel team, Lynwood Blazers, playing mainly northern Indiana
teams. She has continued to play in an adult league, slow pitch with other
women and co-ed teams.
She coached Little League softball teams for both her daughters, Sierra and
Kari, sharing her love of the game. Sierra started at Lynwood Little League
just like her mom, and Kari started T-ball, prior to the family moving to
Jackson Twp. Both daughters have competed through Little League, travel play
and at the high school level for Chesterton. Sierra continued on in
competition at Purdue Northwest. Kari is currently on the CHS varsity team
and has committed to play for Indiana Tech, Ft. Wayne.
Michelle began volunteering as an umpire at State Park Little League
starting in 2008, and continues to volunteer with Little League.
In 2010 Michelle pursued qualification as an IHSAA umpire and began calling
games all over northern Indiana, which she loves. She is a member of the
Lake County Athletic Officials Association and is Softball program
chairperson for that organization.
“I get a really positive response from players,” she said. “There are only a
few woman umpires in the region. I like to show them they can do this too.
It’s a huge confidence builder.” She has now officiated in IHSAA sectionals
and regionals and next year will be eligible to officiate at semi-state.
She also volunteers at the Little League level training new umpires. Each
year she coordinates umpires for the Little League Central Region Softball
tournament, which feeds into the World Series.
And, even though she officiated in the Central Region tournament in 2013,
which qualified her for the World Series, she says she “never imagined I’d
get to do this.” The applicants come from all over the world. “The
competition is pretty stiff. Only two are chosen in any particular region,”
she said. Appointment as a member of the umpiring crew for a World Series is
the highest honor that Little League can bestow on a volunteer umpire.
Amazingly, another umpire chosen from the Central Region, Jeff Schoettle, of
Lansing, IL, is a friend of Michelle’s from high school.
Michelle says her parents have always supported her pursuit of softball and
umpiring, transporting her to games all through school and cheering her on.
When her daughters began competing, Donna and Rick DeRosa shared in the
transport and support of their granddaughters’ competitions, which later
allowed Michelle to start her training to qualify as an umpire.
“My parents are there for me and for my kids, always,” Michelle said. “There
is no way I could pursue this without their support.”
The Little League World Series will be held in Portland, Oregon, this year.
Michelle, one of 13 umpires slated to officiate the event, will travel there
by air, arriving early August 7, to get familiar with the fields, other
officials, ground rules, television protocols, and prepare for the
tournament start of August 9.
The last two days of games, August 15 and 16, will be televised on ESPN,
with the semi-finals and finals.