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Updated 10:00 AM February 5, 2007




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Spotlight: Ref sheds stripes for supervisory role

For more than 30 years Richard Fetchiet, the director of external relations and continuing education for the School of Dentistry, watched college baseball and football games from the best seat in the house.
(Photo courtesy Richard Fetchiet)

Fetchiet didn't have front row tickets. He was on the field as a college and international baseball umpire and college football referee.

Now off the field, Fetchiet supervises umpires for nine NCAA conferences, including the Big Ten and the Big Twelve. His work involves training, assigning and evaluating 350 college baseball umpires.

Being on the sideline allows Fetchiet even more time to focus on his career at the University, managing programs that encompass fundraising, alumni relations, continuing dental education, publications and museum operations for the school. He credits any success he's had at his work as "the result of being just smart enough to surround myself with great co-workers." Throughout his 20 years at the University, Fetchiet has found a way to juggle his vocation and avocation. "Everybody has a hobby or leisure-time activity," he says, "I just chose one that regularly subjected me to the scrutiny of coaches, players and fans."

In his days of umpiring, Fetchiet worked many memorable baseball games, including three NCAA National Championships at the College World Series and the 2000 Olympic Games in Australia.

His most interesting experience came out of the 1991 Pan American Games in Cuba.

"While working the plate in a game between Cuba and Puerto Rico in Havana, with 61,000 fans and 400 armed military men in the stadium, I witnessed Fidel Castro and his entourage doing the wave. It was quite a site to see," he says.

Fetchiet started officiating sports while a college student, working his way through the youth and high school levels. He began umpiring and refereeing college and international sports shortly after graduation from Eastern Michigan University, where he studied education and later received his master's degree in business administration.

His football officiating highlights include several bowl games, working at Notre Dame and the first-ever Mid-American Conference Championship Game at Ford Field. His advice to aspiring sports officials is to "be thick skinned, don't take criticism personally, and develop communication and coping skills so as to remain calm and react under pressure with poise and dignity."

This advice especially was valuable in 1999 when he was one of three American umpires selected to work with three Cuban umpires at Camden Yards for a game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Cuban National Team. It was the first and only time a Major League team played another country's national team. It was played under very tight security and broadcast across the United States and Latin America.

Fortunately, there were not any umpire-related problems at the game and it led to the selection of Fetchiet as an umpire at the Australia Olympic Games.

Fetchiet says he feels "blessed to have made numerous life-long friends through officiating and has benefited from sports in many ways," but he feels even more fortunate to be a part of U-M.

"It is not by accident that Michigan and its people are known as the Leaders and Best. Being a small part of this prestigious University is more than I could have ever imagined when I set out to be an educator over 30 years ago."

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