Matt Bingaman ’06m has devoted much of his life to baseball, and he gets to experience the great American pastime from a unique perspective.
By Jonathan Bergmueller ’20
Ever since he was young, Bingaman has loved baseball, and he played through high school. The oldest of four boys, his parents suggested he step in as an umpire for one of his brother’s high school games. He was just seventeen years old.
Now, after twenty-five years of preparation, Bingaman was selected as one of sixteen umpires for the 2019 Little League World Series.
Calling balls and strikes for his brother’s high school game continued as Bingaman officiated through college. Bingaman said he’s called over 100 games in college, and now does so for high school, youth, Legion, and adult leagues.
When Bingaman opened the official letter from the Little League World Series this January,
the news took his breath away. “It’s definitely worth all those years of work,” he said.
Becoming an umpire for the Little League World Series involves a long application process and years of work. Bingaman has officiated Little League districts, sectionals, states, and regionals to earn his position at the world series. At each level above states, umpires are evaluated to help them improve. When not officiating games, Bingaman attended clinics and training sessions that helped refine his skills.
Bingaman represents the region from Washington, DC, to Maine, as an umpire in the Little League World Series. He said that Pennsylvania doesn’t always send umpires to the state or regional level.
Officiating the Little League World Series is different than other games, Bingaman said. With larger crowds and television, more people are watching and scrutinizing. He is excited to meet and work with the fifteen other umpires from across the world who will become his brothers and sisters in August.
“The people aspect of it is the biggest, best difference between it and anything else,” he said.
Bingaman credits multiple mentors for helping him achieve this distinct honor. Charlie Sherman, Bill States, and Tom Rawlings all served as umpires for the Little League World Series and shared their experiences with him. Beyond their love of baseball, the four of them also have ties to Shippensburg.
Bingaman’s eldest mentor, Charlie Sherman, officiated the world series in 1992. Sherman taught a class at Shippensburg University in the 1960s to show local baseball fans how to work as an umpire. Though the class was not a part of the university’s curriculum, it tethered Sherman to Shippensburg.
Bill Stains is a Shippensburg graduate from Cumberland County who worked as an umpire for the world series in 2001, and Tom Rawlings ’76 worked the series in 2011.
Outside of the baseball diamond, Bingaman works as a special education teacher at Susquenita High School. He earned his master’s degree in educational leadership and policy from Shippensburg University, enjoying the drive to Shippensburg from his home in Harrisburg and often having meaningful conversations with friends on the way. Some of them were also into baseball, Bingaman said. Bingaman balances his passion for baseball with his love for teaching.
As a full-time teacher, he couldn’t dedicate the time to becoming a professional umpire. And being an umpire made it more challenging to pursue an administrative role in education. Many of his friends who attended Shippensburg University are now principals for other school districts. Bingaman’s degree prepared him as a school principal, but that would have meant giving up his pursuit of working as an umpire. That sacrifice, though, placed him closer to achieving his goal of officiating the Little League World Series.
“Money doesn’t matter. Only happiness matters,” Bingaman said. “The opportunity to work at the Little League World Series meant more to me than any monetary reward.”
He said there are always opportunities to reach your goals. “For me, this was a major life goal.”
Jonathan Bergmueller ’20 is an intern for SU Magazine.