Keene has umpired for over 30 years

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By Tyler Brown

For many, baseball is a hobby. People who love baseball will do anything to be around it, regardless of whether it puts them on the field or in the stands. This is exactly why Felix Keene became a Little League umpire more than 30 years ago.

“It’s always been a hobby of mine,” he said. “I played all sports growing up, but baseball was my main one.”

Keene, a native of Springfield, graduated from Washington County High School in 1978 and began his umpiring career for Little League in the early 1980s. Aside from his love of the game of baseball, Keene said he got into umpiring to be around the kids and watch them develop into good players. He also wanted to help and teach them as they got older. The knowledge, he added, comes from meticulously studying and keeping track of the rules and procedures to follow during games.

“I’ve always been more of an instructional figure,” Keene said. “If a kid or a coach doesn’t understand a rule or a call, I try to explain it to them with the knowledge I have.”

Keene has officiated games across the commonwealth, from right here in Springfield to tournaments in Glasgow in western Kentucky. Though he sometimes has to travel pretty far from home to umpire these games, Keene said he doesn’t mind because he does it for the kids to have fun and learn, which is what it’s all about. Being able to teach them and give them a better understanding of baseball and how it is played is something Keene feels all kids interested in baseball should understand at a young age.

“That’s what I’m into, being around the kids,” he said. “This is what I wanted to do. I want to just give back to the community and the kids.”

Though these Little League games are for entertainment, Keene said sometimes people get caught up in games a little too much. Sometimes parents and coaches get heated over a call he has made and confront him. These situations require a steady hand and mind, he said, because sometimes if a situation cannot be resolved, action must be taken.

“You’re always going to have that one unruly person,” Keene said. “They’re supposed to, but you have to have a sound mind and body to handle it to an extent.”

His dedication to umpiring has left its mark on many young people. No matter where he seems to go, Keene said he always runs into someone who will say ‘I remember you’ or ‘Are you umpiring our game tonight?’

Even though he may not remember all their names or even realize he officiated a game, Keene said knowing that adults who remember him as a kid gives him so much more appreciation for the opportunity to umpire for so long.

“It’s refreshing,” Keene said. “It tells me they enjoyed having me as an umpire.”