Richmond Hill resident Sandy Strickland was recently named 2007 Umpire of the Year for District 7 of the Georgia Athletic Officials’ Association.
Strickland has been an umpire for over 20 years and has officiated high school, rec, college and pro baseball and softball games throughout Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and Alabama. District 7 covers Bryan County as well as all of coastal Georgia.
"Sandy is the epitome of a professional," said Tim Stevens with the Hinesville Officials Association. "He works extremely well with both home and visiting coaches and players. When they see Sandy take the field, they know to expect a well-officiated game. His credibility is second to none."
Strickland started officiating over two decades ago in Alabama, where he lived at the time. When his oldest sons Sean and Seth got old enough to join rec leagues, he switched gears and took up coaching. It was Strickland who started up the fall baseball league in Richmond Hill. He also started up the fall and summer programs for the Richmond Hill High School baseball players, which is widely perceived as a strong training ground for the regular RHHS season. Strickland’s son Sean is the current coach of both leagues, as well as the assistant coach for the regular season.
Seven years ago, Strickland joined the Hinesville Officials Association and began officiating throughout the coastal empire and beyond. He has since joined up with the Amateur Softball Association, the Richard Meeks league and the Southeast Intercollegiate Officials.
All of this keeps him very busy as he officiates games four to five nights a week in addition to his fulltime job as general manager of Four Rivers Pac Lease Trucking in Port Wentworth.
"I have to keep a calendar with me to keep up with where I’m going on any given day," Strickland said. "I’ve officiated thousands of games over the years, and I don’t see slowing down anytime soon."
Strickland said he takes whatever games are assigned to him, which could mean officiating a college game one day and a machine pitch youth game the next.
"College games can often be more exciting, but I get more satisfaction out of working with the young kids," he said.
So what motivates Strickland to keep such a busy schedule?
"It’s simple – the love of the sport," Strickland said. "It’s fun to me because I love being around the sport."
Strickland said the job does not come without a few knocks as coaches often get heated with him about calls they do not agree with.
"It can often get confrontational," Strickland said. "A lot of officials drop out from the pressure that is put on them. Just yesterday, I had a coach get in my face over a call. I try to conduct myself in a professional manner. You cannot holler back at them. I’ll often ask them ‘well, what did you see’, but I never change my call. You’ll lose your credibility that way."
"He allows the coaches the opportunity to discuss their concerns and gives them his clear and concise response," Stevens said. "His responses are always professional and clear answers. He carries himself in a manner that is respected by every coach and player he has ever called a contest with. His reputation of being one of our best umpires, always being on time, always displaying a professional appearance and ability to call a great game is unmatched."
All signs are pointing to the Strickland brand of officiating being able to continue long after he retires as his son Scott has picked up officiating - in between playing baseball at Augusta State. His son Sean was also an umpire before taking a coaching position at RHHS.
"Sandy is just a great American and is totally devoted to his family," Stevens said. "His entire family goes together to most events. His wife Sharon and his sons Sean, Scott and Seth are constantly seen with him – and all of them are totally dedicated to the sport."