HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Jaime Perez is a fixture on the field at Little League baseball games on Maui.
"I've been umpiring for 48 years," he said.
The 60-year-old Kihei resident started umpiring youth baseball in California. For the past nine years, he’s worked games on the Valley Isle.
"Being around the youth helps me to stay younger and keep feeling like I'm giving back to the community," he said.
That dedication paid off.
Perez is one of 16 umpires selected for this year’s Little League World Series. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“You only get to umpire the Little League World Series once in your lifetime, with the way the rules are set up right now,” he said.
The 10-day tournament featuring eight teams from the United States and eight international teams is one of youth sports’ most prestigious event.
That’s added pressure on umpires.
"You would hate to have your call decide who moves forward," Perez said.
He will be on the field for several games, but he won’t umpire any that involve Central East Maui.
“They’ll definitely keep me off Maui games,” he said. “We’ll see what it means as far as the U.S. games ― how many U.S. games I get.”
Twelve of the umpires are from the U.S. Four are from other countries. They all want to work in the championship game.
“Although we work together as a team, there’s also a competition, a little bit, to try to get that final spot,” he said.
To make the World Series roster, umpires must pass a rigorous selection process and there’s a waiting list.
“It’s humbling and truly an honor to be able to be chosen. I’m blessed,” he said.
Perez started umpiring games when he was just 12 years old, and got hooked on the volunteer work. He’s an umpire instructor and evaluator. He also runs Little League clinics.
Now he’s finally getting his chance to officiate games on Little League’s biggest stage.