Red Deer umpire Mike Ozga was named Baseball Alberta Junior Umpire of the Year for 2017, an honour that has only been given to one other Central Alberta umpire since 2003. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Red Deer’s Mike Ozga named Junior Umpire of the Year

Red Deer’s own Mike Ozga has been recognized as one of Baseball Alberta’s best young umpires.

Ozga, 19, was named Baseball Alberta Junior Umpire of the Year and will be presented the award later this month in Edmonton.

Since the award started in 2003, only one other umpire from Central Alberta has been named a recipient, Jeff Chipley in 2006.

“It’s pretty cool, kind of unexpected,” Ozga said over the phone from Calgary, where he attends U of C. “I’d heard of the award, didn’t really know I was in the running for it.”

The award annually goes to an individual who has a minimum Level 2 National Umpire Certification Program (NUCP) certification and has “displayed dedication, a willingness to learn, and has improved their skills as a baseball official throughout the course of the year,” according to the Baseball Alberta website.

Ozga is a Level 3 umpire who has been involved on the officiating side of the game for seven years. He said this summer he worked close to 100 games, almost doubling his total from last year.

He’s also umpired some of the top level minor baseball events in Western Canada including the Bantam AA Western Canadian Championships, Peewee AAA Tier 1 provincials and the Midget AAA Canada Day tournament in Kamloops. He was one of the youngest to work the event on the Canada Day weekend.

“Mike is one of the best umpires at his age and is known throughout the umpiring fraternity in Alberta as an umpire that will quickly progress throughout the NUCP due to his natural abilities and willingness to constantly improve upon his officiating skills both on and off the field,” said Chipley, one of Ozga’s umpiring mentors.

“Mike’s dedication, passion and love for learning the ins and outs of the game of baseball from the perspective of an umpire, working with new umpires along with improving both his skills and the skills of his partners… has led Mike to excel and be recognized as a potential future leader within the Baseball Alberta Umpire Program.”

The young umpire’s advice for up-and-coming men in blue is simply stick with it, work hard and you’ll be rewarded.

“It can get tough at times, if you stick with it and try and get better every game, every time you’re out on the field, then good things will happen,” he said.

Ozga hopes to earn an invite to an umpiring Super Clinic next season, which would likely get him a call for some Baseball Canada Championship work this summer.



Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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