By Britney Appier
Morris native Tom Hesse just can't seem to get softball out of his system.
After many years playing the sport, Hesse began umpiring games in the Morris Men's Softball League.
This summer, he concluded his 41st year in the league as player and ump.
"I just enjoy (softball), it's good recreation," said Hesse. "It's always fun being around people, and I have always loved baseball and softball."
Hesse joined the Morris Men's Softball League as both an umpire and a player in 1967. Always at the ballpark, the then-15-year-old Hesse was asked if he was interested in playing with the local Schmidt Beer team.
Audrey Hendricks, Randy Keiffer and Mic Rose were among his original teammates. At the time, a player of any age could compete so there was no issue with Hesse's tender age.
And teams also had to provide umpires, so Hesse quickly became involved in that end of the game, as well.
Throughout the years, Hesse has played at every position on the field except shortstop. Over time this hobby became a passion.
The thing he most enjoys about softball is the "people and the camaraderie between teams."
"The fun time one can have just being out there is amazing," he said.
Hesse stopped playing softball around 15 years ago. Though his mind says yes, his body just won't let him play anymore, he said.
So, Hesse has replaced his full-time playing involvement by becoming a certified umpire.
One umpire that Hesse looked up to as an example, was Arnie Hennen. Originally a player on Hesse's first team, Hennen was an example to Hesse for how to switch exclusively to umping.
"Everybody liked Arnie," said Hesse. "I learned a lot from him and his (umpiring) skills."
The hardest thing Hesse has ever had to do throughout his many years as an umpire is to eject people from games. For whatever reason it may be, it is still hard for Hesse to make that call.
Hesse stated that throughout his experience as an umpire, he has "developed the utmost respect for any official in any sport. I have a lot of respect for umpires."
Though Hesse had more fun playing than umping, he finds enjoyment in watching new teams and new players. It is fun for him to watch new teams learn the game.
Though umpires are often not liked by fans and players, Hesse does not care about hecklers as long as it doesn't become disrespectful.
After 41 consecutive years of softball, it's a small price to pay for Hesse to be doing what he loves -- being around the game he loves.