“You’re out!” shouted Tyler Agla, as the first baseman caught the throw from the shortstop before the batter-runner reached first base. Clenching his fist high in the air while making the hammer to signal the out, Tyler’s face suddenly beamed with the biggest smile, knowing that he made the right call.
This umpire’s call may not seem like a big event, but for this 20 year old from Orem, Utah it is one of the highlights of his young life. Tyler has special needs and this scenario played out over the weekend at the Special Olympics, held at Lone Peak High School in Highland, Utah. When we think of the Special Olympics, we don’t typically envision the sports officials as also having special needs.
“Tyler has been my neighbor nearly since his birth,” says his officiating partner Michael Leavitt, “and all Tyler has ever wanted to do is umpire baseball and softball. We worked hard to get Tyler trained with the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) this past year and he really looked great in his official ASA uniform this weekend. This is truly a dream come true for Tyler.”
It took a lot of work on Tyler’s part to make it to this point in his officiating career. Tyler was shadowed both behind the plate and out in the field for eight of the softball games over this two day Special Olympics event. When time arrived for the final two upper division medal games, they realized that the replacement official for the games did not arrive at the ball fields. Tyler was asked if he felt like he could cover the field umpire position by himself to which he gave a resounding, “Yes!”
With Michael Leavitt behind the plate, Tyler stood proudly alone out on the field between first and second base waiting for the action to occur at first base. While his partner covered the rest of the field, Tyler attentively watched everything at first base. When a play happened that was too close for Tyler to confidently call, then he looked towards home plate to see the right signal and then Tyler proudly and loudly made the right call.
When Tyler was asked what he liked best about umpiring at the Special Olympics he said, “All of the coaches, players, and fans were so nice to me.”
Tyler has not always been well received when trying to umpire other games over the years. In fact, many coaches and parents have previously complained loudly, feeling that their players were being shortchanged by having an umpire on the field who may not be able to react as quickly or as well as one without Tyler’s unique challenges. It is an unfair part of mortality that those with full use of their faculties often forget to exhibit the traits of love, patience, and kindness to others. Quite the opposite has proven to be true of the Special Olympics.
The fact that rain was lightly falling during the championship games was a mixed blessing to help conceal the watering eyes as many of those watching the events transpiring on the field were overcome as they witnessed the joy Tyler Agla was experiencing on the ball field. After the championship games, Tyler was asked by one of the softball players if he was going to return next year. Tyler responded enthusiastically, “Yes!” Tyler is looking forward to officiating the Special Olympics next year, and he hopes that all who read this will also attend and cheer on those participants who are playing for the love of the game.
Michael Leavitt - Orem, Utah