By STEVE KRAH
Four decades of making calls for high school games was saluted just before 11 a.m. Saturday, June 16, prior to the IHSAA Class 1A championship game at Victory Field in Indianapolis.
South Bend’s Scott Siler, 58, is to be recognized as the 2018 Interscholastic Athletic Official Association Award for excellence in the sport of baseball.
It’s a nice honor,” says Siler, who became an IHSAA-licensed official in the spring of 1979 as a college freshman and has worked 25 sectionals, 16 regionals, 11 semistates and seven State Finals — the latter the 1A championship game in 2016.
That one was memorable.
Working behind the plate — a few steps from where he will accept his award — an errant fourth-inning fastball struck the big toe on Siler’s right foot.
“The ball hit my foot and went back to the screen,” says Siler. “It hurt a lot. I didn’t realize it was broken until after the game.
“Nobody can believe I actually broke my foot wearing steel-toed shoes. I had a suspicion that was probably going to be my last (State Finals). I didn’t want to come out.”
Thankful it was a four-man crew so he would not have to move as much as in a two- or three-man rotation, Siler gutted it out the rest of the Daleville-Lanesville game.
He went to urgent care the day after the game and had an orthopedist confirm the break Monday.
Siler came back to work a full schedule in 2017 and a few games this spring and plans to retire.
Growing up in Elkhart the oldest child of Dick and Marjorie Siler, Scott would occasionally umpire games for younger kids. He played baseball for his father — an Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Famer — and graduated from Elkhart Memorial High School in 1978. He played four seasons, mostly as a second baseman, at the University of Notre Dame and earned letters in 1980 and 1982.
While in college, he umpired during the summers to earn some money.
After graduation, Siler went into education and coaching. He was an assistant baseball coach to Myron Dickerson at Wawasee High School for two seasons then was head coach for the Warriors for three before serving three as an assistant to Brian Eldridge at Goshen High School.
As he transitioned to his job at Notre Dame, Siler wanted to stay connected to baseball began taking on a larger high school umpiring schedule and also made calls for South Bend Silver Hawks/South Bend Cubs professional games and worked the National Christian College Athletic Association championships.
What makes a good umpire?
“It has to be somebody who enjoys the sport,” says Siler. “You also have to understand the sport well enough to be able to make judgements. You need to know how to anticipate plays and adjust to the different levels.
“You have to have a good knowledge of the rules and be able to apply them well. I always tried to be somebody that would enforce the rules but also use common sense when it needed to be applied.”
Maintaining a good relationship with the people on the field, particularly the catcher, coaches and his fellow umpires, was a big part of his success.
Siler also called on his coaching background.
“I understood the coach’s perspective and how much a coach wants to win and some of the things they’re trying to accomplish on the field,” says Siler. “There’s a time to talk to a coach and a time to leave a coach alone. There are times conversations can stir things up and make a situation worse. You have to be very careful in how you handle those things.”
Many of Siler’s games were worked with either Scott LaPlace or Jon Thompson as a partner. LaPlace will be one of the umpires for Saturday’s 1A, which makes the timing of his award even more special.
Siler has been affiliated with the St. Joseph Valley and North Indiana officials associations during his career, which has also included working football and basketball.
If Siler has his choice, he would like to the home plate umpire.
“The general feeling among umpires is you can get in a lot more trouble on the bases than on the plate,” says Siler. “We were a team. If necessary, we would always get the crew together and discuss it. I wanted to hear from everybody. We’d have a group conversation and a group decision.
“It’s true with every game, but especially in tournament play, you want to make sure you get it right. That’s the only thing that matters.”
An employee of the University of Notre Dame for 27 years, he concurrent instructor in the Mendoza College of Business.
Holder of a mathematics degree from Notre Dame and a masters of art in math education from Ball State University, he has taught project management classes at the undergraduate and MBA levels and change management at the executive MBA level and is currently managing a team in the IT department. Most seasons since 1993, he has helped keep statistics at Notre Dame home football games and has also helped with basketball.
“I’ve always enjoyed numbers and stats,” says Siler. “I’ve always been a rules-based person. I don’t know if that comes from being the first-born (his sisters are Laurie and Julie).”
In high school, Siler played tennis in the fall and helped keep football stats on Friday nights.
Siler is also busy with family, community volunteering and at church. Scott and wife Carla reside in South Bend and have four children — Angela (31), Justin (29), Rebecca (22) and Matthew (14). Scott coaches his son’s Little League team. Siler led the Stakeholder Committee for South Bend Community Schools Technology Initiative.
Scott Siler (left) accepts his 2018 Interscholastic Athletic Official Association Award for excellence in the sport of baseball from IHSAA assistant commissioner Robert Faulkens Saturday, June 18 at Victory Field in Indianapolis. (Steve Krah Photo)
South Bend’s Scott Siler, 58, is to be recognized as the 2018 Interscholastic Athletic Official Association Award for excellence in the sport of baseball. (Notre Dame Photo)