Eastern CT’s rising reputation, one Scott Davis at a time
Scott Davis isn’t likely to make many lists detailing the most prominent sports figures here in our corner of the world. He is neither a player, nor a coach. And yet few others better illustrate eastern Connecticut’s rising influence in state high school sports.
Davis, of Norwich, is the CIAC’s Coordinator of Baseball Officials, delegating umpire assignments in the quarterfinals, semifinals and championship rounds of the state tournament. And now just as eastern Connecticut is home to the state basketball finals (Mohegan Sun) and softball finals (UConn), many of Davis’ umpiring assignments are able to showcase the excellence of Eastern Board umpires.
This is significant, particularly for those of us often made to feel the rest of Connecticut thinks Rhode Island starts at the Baldwin Bridge.
“When I got the position with CIAC,” Davis said, “the response from several people I had done games with — I think it was Rad (former gold level basketball official Rich Radicioni) — was ‘wow, somebody in the CIAC office from east of the river?’”
Some background: Davis became an umpire in 1981 while attending Iowa Wesleyan College. He works a full slate of Division I college baseball now, a split schedule between the Big East and Atlantic 10. He not only assigns, but evaluates frequently.
“I’m the most popular guy in the state right up to tournament time,” Davis said, “and then once the assignments come out, I’m one of the most hated.”
That’s because the world of officiating is often catty and political. It doesn’t work with Davis, who takes the job seriously, is an excellent umpire himself and doesn’t tolerate fools.
“In the old days, they would call each assignor and tell them which board was doing which game,” Davis said. “It was up to the individual board assignors to pick the umpires. A lot of times, it meant putting their buddies on the game. I’m not doing it that way. We’re going to put the best umpires on the field. I have one board that writes letters to me, emails me and emails the CIAC office. They’re not happy with me.”
Davis’ travels are significant during the college season, throughout much of the east coast. They are nearly as intense at this time of year traversing Connecticut. Ah, the unspoken usefulness of constant effort.
“I go out and try to see as many games as I can,” Davis said. “I’ll go to Waterbury, for example, with a list of guys I want to watch. I’ll evaluate them and then maybe catch a night game on the way home. I probably see 30-40 games to evaluate. Ninety-five percent of the umpires I assign, I’ve seen. The other five percent comes from people I trust.”
Sports fans at every level aren’t always sure officials are critiqued or whether there are consequences for poor officiating. Davis gets gold stars here for his honesty.
“There are 16 games in the quarters and eight (umpiring) boards in the state,” Davis said. “Some boards in my opinion don’t have more than three qualified umpires to do those games. So I have to make a decision. Do I be a nice guy and spread things out or put the best guys on the field?
“The board that has an issue with me, I tell them to come to Coast Guard (during February scrimmages for training) and see what we do. I tell them ‘make my job harder.’”
Observers who stand along fences and offer unsolicited commentary should understand how diligently umpires, particularly on the Eastern Board, work at this. Davis is part of training sessions for high school umpires every winter at Coast Guard and for college umpires at UMass.
“We train the guys on the plate and the bases. Where to go, rotations,” Davis said. “I even have cell phone out filming guys on the plate. After that, we stress communication. If you have an issue on the field, my main message is get together and talk about it. Even if you ultimately get the call wrong, at least the effort was there.”
Some rhythms of Connecticut high school sports will always dismiss us as an afterthought here, the hayseeds out east who couldn’t possibly know as much as the folks from more urbane outposts. But we’re gaining on them, one Scott Davis at a time.
“My boss at CIAC, Dan Scavone (who does an equally outstanding job assigning basketball officials in the winter) knows the majority of our guys on our board,” Davis said. “He knows the quality of the Eastern Board. In my travels, our board is probably the most united.”
And well represented.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro
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