Through the decades he spent umpiring on youth baseball diamonds around Greater Victoria and beyond, Doug Hudlin became a beloved figure for his knowledge of the game, his fairness and the patience he exhibited while helping teach young players the intricacies of the game.
The City of Victoria declared June 11 to be Doug Hudlin Day that year. His family hopes a new charity ball game called Step Up to the Plate, scheduled for noon on June 8 at Royal Athletic Park, will continue to honour him and also help break down barriers and allow more young people to enjoy sport.
The longtime umpire and active community member died in 2014 at the age of 91, but his memory lives on in his family and the many players who encountered him over the years, as well as through his induction into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2017.
“He was called the ‘gentleman umpire,’” says Hudlin’s niece and game co-ordinator, Barbara Hudlin, referring to how generations of players, coaches and parents characterized this friendly, outgoing man. “There’s all those emotions around Doug Hudlin and that day for his family, too, so it’s going to be fun.”
Step Up to the Plate, supported by the Victoria HarbourCats and the City, will see The Hudlins – a team comprised of family members and others who knew Doug well – play the Fernwood Ballgetters. Admission is by donation at the gate, with all proceeds going toward the promotion of sports for children and youth with disabilities, a cause for which Hudlin was passionate.
Asked whether the game will become an annual family reunion of sorts, Barbara expect it quite possibly could, as some family members are coming from out of town to attend.
“Some of them haven’t played ball for a while, but I think it’ll be a great day,” she says. “I’m hoping that it eventually gets bigger, that’s the goal.”
Banners recording Doug Hudlin’s accomplishments and honouring his memory hang on the backstop at Jerry Hale Field, the National Little League park at Cook Street and Hillside Avenue where Hudlin got his umpiring start in 1953, and at RAP during the HarbourCats season.
If you’re keen to watch HarbourCats baseball, check out the first annual Peninsula Co-Op Alumni Game, June 1 at RAP. Past stars of the team, including slugger Gabe Clark, Hayden Jaco, Riley Guntrip, Island products Austin and Connor Russell and former HarbourCats coach and Victoria Seals player Charlie Strandlund, will take on the team being assembled for the 2019 season.
Game time is 6:35 p.m., find tickets online at ticketrocket.co or at the gate.