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Smith: Why our umpire was in Poland

One moment in particular got Sebastopol youth-baseball umpire Les Thayer to sensing that he really was meant to be chosen to help officiate a seven-country tournament in Kutno, Poland.

While manning first base in one game, Thayer found himself strongly drawn to the left-handed kid who played that position for the team from Romania.

He was the best player on the team, despite wearing a glove several sizes too small for him and tennis shoes instead of cleats.

It happened that Thayer had brought to the European Regional Tournament an extra pair of Reebox rubber cleats and the lefty first-base glove his son, Michael, had used through the Seniors level of Sebastopol Little League.

Thayer discovered that both the glove and the shoes would fit the first-baseman. He was all the more certain he had to give them to the lanky, personable kid upon hearing his name: the Romanian version of Michael.

"Talk about a God-sent moment," the umpire said.

He's also liking to tell about the interpreters who were assigned to every dugout to help the players with the official language of the games, Polish. They were all local girls, 15 to 18 years old, and just beautiful.

Thayer said they were most helpful but their presence on the benches had coaches telling their players, in so many words, "Hey, hey, hey, eyes on the game!"

FULL OF DIRT: Folks at Sebastopol Hardware didn't just shake their heads at word that somebody stole the two large redwood garden beds the store had sold to Corona Creek School in Petaluma.


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