A local legend spent much of his career playing and coaching fast-pitch men’s softball in Canada before settling in the Portland area.
In 1976, Walt Heinrichs, 83, switched to umpiring little league. Friday evening, FOX 12 was there as the local legend called his final ball game.
“I’m just having fun, it’s just another game as far as I’m concerned,” Heinrichs said.
Treating Friday night’s match as just another ballgame was perhaps the best way for Heinrichs to keep his emotions off the plate.
“I guess it’s more emotional talking to you than it is doing the game,” Heinrichs said, laughing.
Putting his emotions aside, Heinrichs has been focusing on making the most accurate calls for nearly 1,000 games in the Raleigh Hills Little League.
“Just to be an ump that long, it’s a big commitment,” Eddie Hodes, a Raleigh Hills Little League player at the game Friday, said. “I can’t imagine being an ump for that long.”
Spencer Hodes, Raleigh Hills Little League president, said Heinrichs means a great deal to the league and will be missed deeply.
“It’s a lot of nostalgia,” Hodes said. “I played Raleigh Hills Little League when I was a kid and Walt had been umping for ten years at that point, so he means a lot to us.”
Since then, Heinrichs has also been delivering advice to players in between strikes, fouls and fly balls.
“He taught me to frame the ball and stuff like that,” Maxwell Campbell, another Raleigh Hills Little League player, said. ‘He taught me how to block it.”
Hodes, however, says Heinrichs does much much more than dole out advice.
“40-plus years of helping these kids become not only better baseball players, but better human beings,” Hodes said. “That’s a big influence on our community.”
Hodes says Heinrichs has always been a crowd and player favorite.
"Whenever we'd play with him, he'd have a really good strike zone,” Sammy Hunt, a Raleigh Hills Little League player, said. “Some moms would be calling it in the left-hander's batter's box against righties, and he would always call it over the plate, and in the strike zone.”
"Some other umpires can be more, I guess, I don't want to say aggressive, but like, less relaxed, and he looks like he's having a good time all the time, no matter what the situation," Ryan Hoffman, also in the Raleigh Hills Little League, said.
Heinrichs Friday left the field with a with a smile.
"Keep your chin up, have a good time and do your best,” Heinrichs said. That’s all I can say.”
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