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Photo Courtesy of Terry and Diane Kestner Terry Kestner was among 12 individuals who umpired in the Junior League World Series in Taylor, MI, August 10-16.
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Photo Courtesy of Terry and Diane Kestner Kestner umpires in the Junior League World Series. The Junior League is part of the worldwide Little League organization.
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Elite Ump: WIU Ag Alum Works Plate in Junior League World Series

October 7, 2008


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MACOMB, IL - - Once in a lifetime is something Terry Kestner knows all about. In August, the Western Illinois University alumnus and former WIU agriculture department adjunct instructor got his once-in-a-lifetime chance as an umpire in the Junior League Baseball World Series in Taylor, MI.

"There were 13 umpires in the 2008 Junior League World Series," explained Kestner, who lives in Cedar Falls, IA. "In Little League, you cannot work more than two World Series. I've worked one -- the Junior League -- now I can only work the World Series at one other level in Little League."

Part of the official Little League organization, Junior League baseball is the division in which 13-14 year-old boys compete every summer, according to Kestner. The 2008 Junior League World Series -- which, he noted, "truly is a world series" (this year's competitors hailed from Canada, Curaçao, Mexico, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and the United States) -- was held from Aug. 10-16 and included 23 games, with the championship game broadcast live on ESPNU.

The Learning Path
"Little League is one of the largest youth sports organizations in the world, with somewhere around 2.6 million kids involved," said Kestner. "I really enjoy working with the kids. I think Little League provides a lot of important life lessons -- about winning, losing and good sportsmanship. It teaches kids how to be part of a team and that how you act and what you do can affect the team."

Originally from the Quincy (IL) area, Kestner transferred to Western in 1982 from John Wood Community College. At Western, he was a member of Alpha Gamma Rho (AGR) fraternity. He graduated from WIU in 1984 with a bachelor's degree in agriculture; he liked Macomb so much that, before moving to northern Iowa last year, he spent 23 years working for Farm Credit Services here.

Although Kestner started umpiring slow-pitch softball games while he was in high school, the bulk of his umpiring career was spent in Macomb.

"As an adult, I started umpiring in a slow-pitch league, and then the local umpiring group asked me if I would consider working some Little League games," he said. "It didn't take too long for me to realize I enjoyed umpiring the younger kids' games more than I did the adult-age games."

In a League of His Own
Kestner kept a busy schedule in Macomb as a youth sports umpire, a referee for high school football and basketball games, rural real estate appraiser, active member of the Lions' Club and an adjunct instructor at Western, teaching an ag-finance course for one year and a rural appraiser course for six years. He also was the adviser for WIU's AGR house for 10 years and served on the fraternity's alumni board for 16 years. Kestner served on Macomb's Little League board for seven years and was the umpire consultant for Illinois district 17 for six years as well.

Over the years, Kestner continued to ump, even though as a child, he only played Little League for one summer.

"We lived out in the country, so it was difficult for my family to get me to practice and to games. So, in a way, it's kind of like reliving my childhood. I can't go back and play those baseball years, but I can still be involved in the game this way," he said.

An Elite Group
Becoming an umpire in the Junior League World Series involves proven skills and recommendations at district- and sectional-level tournaments within the Little League organization. It was Kestner's Macomb ties that helped him get to the pinnacle Junior League event.

"Mike Nichols, who owns Swede's Autobody, was the president of the Macomb Little League Association at the time I was recommended for my first tournament. He sent my name to the district administrator, who got me the assignments for the district, sectional and state tournaments. The district administrators are also the ones who recommend umpires for the regional and for World Series tournaments," Kestner explained. "I owe much of my success to the present district administrator, Tim Ward. Early in my umpiring career, Tim helped me improve my skills and encouraged me to attend the Little League umpire school in Indianapolis (IN) that he helped start."

In the company of 12 other umpires, Kestner was involved in 11 games during the weeklong 2008 Junior League World Series.

"I had [the plate assignment in] the game between the U.S. East [Maryland] and the U.S. West [Hawaii] teams," Kestner said. "When the assignments were issued Friday morning, Iowa [Central] was still in the running for the U.S. championship, and umpires are not eligible to work games in which teams from their region play. The best I could hope for was to get the plate for the international championship.

"And that's what I got -- I worked the plate in the Friday evening game between Curaçao and Mexico. And when Iowa lost in the U.S. championship, I was fortunate enough to have second base in the final championship game."

Though Kestner has now worked the Junior League World Series, he is still eligible to umpire in the Little League World Series.

"This has been a goal in life for me, but I still want to get to the Little League World Series in Williamsport (PA)," Kestner said.

With Kestner's commitment, drive and sheer love of Little League, for him, that once-in-a-lifetime just may be possible… again.

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg (WIUNews@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations