Mercier giving back to the game
Ben Mercier is spending the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games as one of the bosses of the bosses.
The 59-year-old Welland native is one of three umpire supervisors overseeing 12 umpires from 10 provinces.
The supervisors, who report to lead supervisor Chris Wilhem, assign umpires to each game and evaluate their performance on the field.
“We look for things such as their mechanics and rotations on the field. Most do not work the three-umpire system so their mechanics and rotations are different,” Mercier said. “We look for things they do well and provide suggestions for how they can improve their game.”
Following every game, supervisors hold a meeting with each crew to go over their observations.
Darryl Beckett (Manitoba), Jeff Brine (Prince Edward Island), Don Buskas (Alberta), Troy Carmont (British Columbia), Donald Craig (Saskatchewan), Brian Cummings (New Brunswick), Adam De Caire (Ontario), Mathieu Fiset (Québec), Ryan Garland (Newfoundland and Labrador) Blair Hains (Ontario), Kris Hartley (Alberta) and Joel Rodgers (Nova Scotia) are working the Games and are all nationally certified from Baseball Canada.
Mercier, who is still active and often works Intercounty Baseball League games, is in his 49th season of baseball after starting as a player.
“I definitely miss being out on the field,” he said. “Supervising are long games but as a supervisor you are at a level where you have worked many championships so you know baseball so you’re able to provide areas of growth for up and coming umpires.”
Mercier, who is a retired educator, feels it is important not to forget his roots.
“Everything I ever achieved in baseball — I did not go to professional umpire’s school — some of our guys have but more and more umpires have had that opportunity. Everything that I ever achieved has been through Baseball Ontario and Baseball Canada so it’s my turn to give back,” he said. “I have received a lot from individuals that were there before me.”
Mercier, who has worked independent league pro ball, was on call when Welland and St. Catharines were home to New York-Penn League teams and has also done four world championships and two Olympic qualifying tournaments, admits umpires are under more scrutiny than ever.
“At the amateur level, we’re lucky an umpire is still an umpire but there’s more pressure on us today to make the proper call because of what you see in Major League Baseball because of the video review,” he said. “Parents and all spectators are probably more knowledgeable about calling strikes and safes and outs because of what they see on TV.
“The job is harder today than when I started.”
Mercier reports smooth sailing through the first few days of the Games.
“It’s been very quiet. Walking around and sitting and we get to hear some of the fans and quite honestly, it’s been very positive. Some of the volunteers are here every game and they have be saying to me how great the umpiring has been over the course of the week,” he said. “There haven’t been any arguments on the field. There have been some calls that have been questioned but every reasonable question deserves a reasonable answer and things have been done in an appropriate way.”
Mercier took advantage of Thursday’s day off of baseball to play tourist guide to the umpires which included a visit to Niagara Falls and a barbecue hosted by fellow local umpire Dayle Legros.
Action continues Friday with the gold medal game slated for Saturday at Welland Stadium at 7 p.m.
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