‘Dedicated’ softball umpire will be remembered

The Milaca Church Softball League season begins in early May and runs through  the playoffs in late August. Games are played four nights a week.

During his 25 seasons as one of the league’s main umpires, Roger Mathison missed three games.

He was dedicated.

On Sunday afternoon, May 20, Mathison, who died Dec. 5, 2011, at the age of 59, was honored at Rec Park for his dedication and other contributions to the league.

The west diamond at Rec Park is now officially Roger Mathison Field. And, a monument just behind the backstop will remind past, present and future softball players of the man who became a Church League institution.

“If Roger were here he would be so embarrassed,” said his wife, Margaret Mathison. “He was a humble man.

“And so dedicated. It doesn’t surprise anyone who knew him that he went 25 years as an umpire and missed so few games. When he did something he stuck to it. He enjoyed being at the games and he enjoyed the people who were part of the league.

“These past few years he’d come home after the final games of the season and say he was retiring as an umpire. I knew better and I think he did, too. When April came around and another season was close, he’d be back at it.

“Most of the time he didn’t get home from umpiring until 10-10:30 at night and he had to be up by 3:30 a.m. to get to his job.”

Mathison called his first games from the front seat of his car.

“One of our sons was playing in the youth league and Roger would park by the fence and call the games,” said Margaret. “He’d call balls and strikes and safe or out. I told him that if he knew so much about it, he should become a real umpire.

“Roger Young, the league director at the time, heard about Roger’s interest and asked if he wanted to be an umpire. He said yes and that started those 25 years.

“He loved all sports.”

Don Stob, the current Church League director, worked with Mathison as n umpire for 23 of those 25 years. They were more than umpires – they were close friends and confidants.

“Roger would usually have one field and I’d have the other,” said Stob. “We never left when the last games of the night were over – we’d always stick around and chat.

“We’d talk about ways the league could be improved for the players or calls we had made or unusual plays.

“And, we’d talk about life…what our families were doing…hunting and fishing…the Twins and Vikings…just about everything. We figured we’d solved most of the world’s problems, but nobody listened to us!”

Stob said Mathison became a great mentor for young umpires coming into the league.

“Roger would answer their questions and give them tips,” said Stob. “He enjoyed helping the young guys out.

“His death has left a tremendous void in my life and in the league.”

League umpires are wearing a special patch this season in honor of Mathison.

Members of Mathison’s family and Stob became the driving force to find a way that Roger could be remembered for his service to the league. It was decided a monument at Rec Park would be appropriate.

Stob received the city’s approval and the project caught fire.

Chris Kotsmith at the Milaca Building Center donated the materials and Bill  Nelsen of Milaca designed and put together the monument, at no charge.

“It looks so wonderful,” said Margaret Mathison. “And, it’s awesome that it’s right behind a backstop where Roger umpired.

“Our family appreciates the great effort by Don and others to make this happen.”

“Roger is missed very much,” said Stob. “But, he won’t be forgotten.”