In Rich Fetchiet's four seasons as MAC Supervisor of Baseball Umpires, he has assigned the officials to every MAC game, including the MAC Tournament. However, this year, it was Fetchiet who may have gotten the biggest assignment of all as he departs on his 45th birthday, Monday, September 11, to work the Olympics in Sydney, Australia.
The MAC supervisor joins Gus Rodriguez (PAC-10) as the only two umpires from the United States working the Olympic baseball tournament. The 18-man umpire roster includes four from Australia, two from Puerto Rico, and one each from Canada, the Netherlands, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Italy, Taipei, South Africa, Cuba and Korea.
"Having the respect of my peers for my officiating abilities," Fetchiet explained, "and more importantly my commitment to fairness and professionalism, is very important to me."
Fetchiet, who has worn blue for the past 30 years, has traveled across the MAC geography, across the country, to Central America, the Caribbean and Europe, but this certainly is the pinnacle of his umpiring career, which began at age 15.
"I've seen a lot of good baseball," Fetchiet said. "Especially in the last 15 years or so."
Fetchiet's umpiring resume is impressive, as he is the supervisor of the Collegiate Baseball Umpires Association, along with the MAC, Big Ten, Conference USA and MCC. He is the USA Baseball liaison to the Amateur Baseball Umpires Association, where he was on the board of directors from 1997-2000. He worked the plate in the 1999 NCAA Division I College World Series championship game, and was the crew chief for the superregional and regional tournaments that same year. He has worked the MAC, Big Ten and MCC Tournaments, and also worked the 1994 Division III College World Series and the 1995 Division I World Series.
While his NCAA postseason experience is tremendous, Fetchiet also has an impressive international resume. He worked the game between the Baltimore Orioles and Team Cuba at Camden Yards in 1999, the 1998 IBA World Cup of Baseball in Rome, the 1997 IBA Intercontinental Cup in Barcelona (including working the plate in the gold medal game), the 1993 International Baseball Association (IBA) World Games qualifying tournament in Managua, the 1991 Pan Am Games gold medal game in Havana, and the Stan Musial World Series in 1990 and 1991. In 1997, "Fetch" was named IBA International Umpire of the Year.
One of his lasting memories is from the 1993 IBA World Games in Nicaragua, where he worked the plate in the gold medal game between Puerto Rico and Nicaragua.
"It's kind of unnerving being an American working inside a baseball stadium when you can hear sounds of gunfire from the Sandanistas and Contras fighting in the hills in the distance," he said.
To prepare for the Olympics, Fetchiet worked some summer baseball and concentrated on his physical conditioning as well as mental preparations for the long trip and intense competition.
"I feel very fortunate to have done all of these things in my umpiring career," he said. "I just hope others can have the experiences in umpiring that I have had."