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August 8, 2001     The Arlington Times
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Murel's there when you need him E Ump, stats man, coach, league prez by Scott Morris The Arlington Times LAKEWOOD -- Maybe you know somebody like Murel Coulter. Behind every team, league or organization is usually at least one person who pitches in doing the jobs that nobody else has volun- teered for. Need somebody to umpire the minor league girls in Little League since 1969. They raised their older kids in Arlington schools, and later, their younger kids attended Lakewood schools after the new district was formed in the early 1980s. From the beginning, the Coul- ters started getting involved in their community's extracurricular activities. Like most volunteers, they got involved to support their kids. "Our oldest son, Erick, was at the age to start playing sports," Murel said. "That's how it started." But long after the Coulters' youngest has grown up, Murel can softball? Call Murel. still be found dusting off home Need someone to safety check' plate for 10-year-old girls playing the league's gear? Call Murel. Need a statistician for the high school team? Murel will do it. Scoutmaster, coach, youth sports president (secretary and treasurer, too), umpire coordinator -- if kids are involved, chances are good that Murel is, too, m some way or another. Coulter and his wife, Connie, have lived in their Lakewood home Little League softball. Although he has officiated and coached the big three in American sports for boys -- basketball, foot- ball and baseball one of Coup ter's most lasting contributions has been umpiring girls' softball games. "When we came into softball, they were always short of umpires," Coulter said. Fifteen years later, Coulter has jet. pin collecting, one of the trade secrets of and 10,000 pins, zippered books, others in compartmen- from thoAr competitors. donned his blue uniform in three Little League World Series in Kala- mazoo, Mich., as well as innumer- able district and regional tourna- ments all over the country. Not bad for a guy who got his three- sport initiation in tiny Estelline, S.D., where he graduated from high school with 15 others. To commemorate their travels, the Coulters have a collection of between 5,000 and 10,000 pins representing the different tourna- ments and leagues. (See sidebar.) "I have four pages of umpires in my little black book throughout the U.S.," Murel Coulter said. "There must be 300 guys in it that I've either worked with or know." Coulter said he noticed from the start that the younger ages were often the hardest to find umpires for, because their unde- veloped fielding skills caused high- scoring games that lasted for hours. "Nobody wanted to [ump] the nine and 10-year-old girls. I said, 'I'll do it.' Those little girls need an umpire, too, not just the big, older ones," Coulter said. Connie Coulter added that the Little League program has come a long way since then. Scores in the 30s are a thing of the past as the coaching has improved and girls have more opportunities to play. To get the chance to call the World Series, iinals, umpires have a sort of unseen competition that runs parallel to what shows up on the scoreboard. Each ump's perfor- mance is evaluated to try to field the best team of blues to call the championship games. Coulter said that he combined one of his dad's favorite expres- sions -- "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" -- with some more specific instructions that a veteran tournament, decided to make a 747 pin~" Coulter others' to ask for multiple pins ff they feel they have a valuable pins Close to the pins A close-up (above) reveals just a few of the several thousand pins Murel Coulter~ family has col- lected during years of traveling to softball tournaments throughout the country. Leagues, tourna- ments, districts, even umpires all have new pins made each year, and a lot of trading goes on between games. SCOTT MORRIS The Arlington Time_ SC01T MORRIll The/~'lir~ton "rimes Murel Coulter shows off his umpire uniform and some of the soft- ball tournament pins he has collected over the years. Coulter has sup- ported Lakewood sports for 32 years. ump gave him early on. "He told me to listen to what that umpiring chief says, where he wants you, how he wants to you call that play," Coulter said. "How you did it at home don't cut it." Now a veteran ump himself, a few of Coulter's anecdotes could help aspiring greenhorns. Baseball culture tolerates a fair bit more arguing from coaches than other sports, but Coulter said he is not bothered by that. "My situation is, I'm a whole lot more than partly deaf," Coulter said with a laugh. "As an umpire, you want to listen to the right things." One coach, frustrated while his team was being routed, once approached home plate and gave Coulter a golf tee. "He told me, 'You call the low- est strikes in the world,'" Coulter said. Coulter said he accepted the tee, thanked the coach, and contin- ued the game. Later, the opposing coach told Coulter that the other coach had probably wanted to get thrown out. "I knew what he wanted and he didn't get it," Coulter said. Another time, a coach came roaring out of the dugout about a judgment call involving a page in the rulebook that the coach appar- ently had never read. "It was in the book -- he didn't know it," Coulter said. "I told him, 'Coach, I wrote that book 20 years ago.' He just went away. His mind went blank." His knowledge of the rule book helped at the World Series in Indi- anapolis one year when a local coach threatened to appeal a call by phone to the district adminis- trator. "I told him, 'Call them. But I am right,'" Coulter said. They called and he was. Coulter has filled another behind-the-scenes role in Lake- wood sports, keeping the statistics for the Cougars football team ever since the high school was created 18 years ago. He has seen them all -- Steve Gower ("all around, the best quar- terback we had"), the Hoidal twins, Jimmy Gwyrm and so many others that the names and games start to blend. "He even tried to quit a few times," Connie said. "I think I'm the only one who's been there forever," Murel said. He still remembers Chris Cox running a punt back 97 yards to seal a playoff victory at Meridian High School. He remembers when Lakewood's first coach, Dick Cardi- nal, was unable to get his team to call a timeout because of the noise in the Tacoma Dome in a state semifinal loss. And don't get him started about the rivalry with King's High School, regardless of the sport. But as big a fan of prep sports as he is, Coulter's heart never left the little guys and gals. At one time or another he has served as president, secretary, treasurer, coach and safety officer of both Lakewood Junior Sports and the Stilly Valley Little League. He filled each of those after- work roles after pounding nails during the day as a carpenter and homebuilder. Even a five-way bypass open- heart surgery did not keep ~ off the field. By the end of the season, Coulter managed to ump a few games. "You gotta enjoy it," Coulter said. "When it quits being fun, I'm not gonna dolt anymore." Lakewood soccer coaches meet in finals in Australia b-- Brian Kin sber--- The Arlington Times AUSTRALIA -- Lakewood assistant soccer coaches Jeremiah Wohlgemuth and Vaughn Vandelac have been coaching on the same sidelines for years, but it took a trip halfway around the world to Australia before they Would face each other on opposing side- lines. The matehup proved to be quite painless. When it was all over, Wohlgemuth's squad edged out Vandelac's team 1-0 in the cham- pionship game and the United States girls teams finished m first and second place at the Australian tournament held at North Harbor Stadium in New Zealand. Both of the U.S. 19-year-old teams played in three games and the championship con- test. They played against teams from New ~ Zealand's Penrose and Whangarei high schools before competing against each other in the final. "Playing against each other was pretty wild actually," Vandelac said. "Going into the tournament I thought both American Igirlsl teams had a good chance of winning, so I wasn't surprised at all to be in the final against them." He added that the level of the competi- tion differed depending on gender and age groups and that the disparity in skills was most apparent when watching the U.S. boys teams get annihilated by the Aussie squads. Vandelac said it became apparent that soccer in Australia is still mainly a man's sport and that the country's boys teams have far better feeder programs than the Aussie's girls teams. "Their opportunities [to play] are far greater than those available in the Unit- ed States," Vandelac said. "The U.S. women are still further ahead of the [U.S.] boys, but the Australian boys teams are just incredible." The coaches' trips also included visits to several cities including Sydney, Auckland and Rotorua. "Playing against each other was pretty wild, actually." VAUGHN VANDELAC week was a difficult task to ask of any coach, but he thought he did quite well. Players were separated into two teams at the beginning of the trip during a training camp held in Sydney. A group of Australian coaches ran the camp and each of the coaches evaluated the players based on their skills and divided them into the teams accordingly, After teams were decid- ed, each squad had three days to prepare for tour- nament play. Lakewood High School defender Robynn Black was one familiar face placed on Vandelac's team. "She's a good player and I was glad to have her," Vandelac said. "I don't think she was ,lean- ing toward one coach's The 14-day tour cost players up to $5,000 team or the other and either one of us depending on what was included, but coach- would have taken her on our team." es traveled free and were only required to Black said making it to the semifinal pay for meals, game and playing in North Harbor Stadium Vandelac said molding players from all in the final was the highlight of her trip. She across the U.S. into a team in less than one added that most of New Zealand's competi- tion was not as talented as the U.S. squads. "[Vandelac] is a very good coach," Black said. "He put us together and got us work- ing as a team. I would have been happy play- ing for either coach. Soccer isn't as big of a deal over there, but all the U.S. teams played very good. It was a good learning experi- ence." After coaching their first games in an Olympic-caliber rugby stadium, the two Lakewood's assistants were invited to talk to the New Zealand press. "The program's athletic director was noti- fied by the local radio station that they were looking to do a story on some of the pro- gram's coaches, so we both volunteered to talk to them," Vandelac said. Vandelac said he learned a lot of new drills and will be trying out many of them when practice begins for Lakew0od's 2001 soccer season on Aug. 20. ~s was my first time with the [over- seas] program, but I thought it was a good experience and a lot of fun," Vandelac said. q'd like to do one of their other trips over to Europe next summer." Australia won't be Wohlgemuth's only trip this summer. He will be going to Hawaii with Lakewood's baseball team in August. !