Tipping The Cap
While John Tomasi's name might not stand out to many baseball and softball fans, that’s just the way he intended. A lengthy career spanning more than six decades as an umpire featured time as batboy for the 1948 Tacoma Tigers of the Western International League as he dedicated himself to making games function as smoothly as possible while staying out of the spotlight.
Tomasi first donned an umpire’s mask at the age of 14, when Harry Truman was in the White House. Two years later, he spent a summer as batboy for the local Tigers, and that combination of experiences set him on a course that would make the diamond his second home for the rest of his life.
Born August 1, 1931, in Tacoma, Tomasi graduated from Lincoln High School in 1951. By that point, he was already five years into his umpiring career and three years removed from his time as batboy. He got his start as an umpire in the summer of 1946, working for two dollars a game in the old Cub Scout youth softball league in Tacoma. Take inflation into consideration and the pay’s not a whole lot better in the 21st century.
"If you’re in this business for the money," Tomasi said, "you’re in it for the wrong reason."
Tomasi was clearly in it for the right reason, as his contributions to the game stayed out of the frame of fame and fortune but made the game better for all he worked with. Inducted into the America Softball Association Region 15 Hall of Fame in 2004, he spent more than 60 years as an umpire. By the end of his career, he had had served as Chief Umpire for the SMSUA for several years and umpired the 2008 ASA Men’s Senior 50AA Slowpitch West National Championships.
Tomasi served in the army during the Korean War. He moved to Snohomish County when he married in 1966.
He worked high school and recreational baseball league games, as well as fastpitch and slowpitch softball, for more than 30 years before settling into softball exclusively in the late ’70s. Through the years, Tomasi trained and mentored many of his fellow umpires.
Bill Silves, the Umpire in Chief for ASA Region 15, an area that includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska said, "He’s helped a lot of people in their climb to become better umpires without asking anything in return for himself."
In the ’70s, Tomasi fell in love with men’s slowpitch softball and in 1979 he worked his first ASA national championship in York, Pennsylvania. Throughout his career, his goal was to not distract from the game in front of him.
"Well, the good umpires aren’t really noticed," Tomasi said. "You call your game, walk off the field, get in your car and leave."
Tomasi passed away on June 3, 2018.