Huntley senior Phil Pupillo holds a slightly different perspective than some baseball players toward umpires, probably because Pupillo prescribes to the philosophy of not judging someone until you’ve walked in their shoes.
Specifically, their umpiring shoes.
The Red Raiders catcher has umpired for four years, following in the footsteps of his father, Phil, and knows the best way to enjoy a game is for everyone to get along.
“I call him by his first name instead of ‘Blue,’ ” Pupillo said. “It makes the game more fun and interesting. When you become friends with the umpire, you’re halfway home.”
Pupillo, who recently earned his IHSA patch, has worked mostly Crystal Lake National Little League games. He plans on umpiring travel and park district games this summer before leaving for John A. Logan College in Carterville, where he will continue his playing career.
Getting on a first-name basis early in games with the home plate umpire is something Phil picked up from his father.
The older Phil Pupillo teaches catching at Players Choice Academy in Huntley and building a rapport with umps is high on his list.
“In our teaching, we tell catchers to show respect and make friends with umpires,” Phil, the father, said. “Have a friendly banter back and forth. Find out where his strike zone is. When we first come to the plate together, I try to read the catcher’s demeanor, get on a first-name basis and try to work together.”
The younger Pupillo didn’t get to umpire a lot last season as he was playing an extensive schedule between Huntley summer games and his travel team, the McHenry County Hurricanes 17U team.
“It’s really cool to umpire instead of sitting in a store and running a cash register,” Phil said. “I’m doing something I enjoy.”
Szytz to Rockford: Huntley senior shortstop Matt Szytz will continue his playing career at NCAA Division III Rockford College next year.
Szytz saw similar qualities in Regents coach Bob Koopman that he sees in Raiders coach Andy Jakubowski.
“They saw my video through a recruiting site and I made a couple visits,” Szytz said. “I went to a hitting camp there. Coach Koopman has a good relationship with coach Jakubowski. That made it easy because he trusts in players from coach Jakubowski’s program.”
Szytz offers the Regents some versatility with his ability to play shortstop, second base or third base. He played with the Crystal Lake Bombers last summer and will play with Lake in the Hills American Legion this summer.
• Joe Stevenson covers high school sports for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at 815-526-4513. He also can be reached by fax at 815-459-5640 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.