Memorable 2013 for West Seattleite chosen ‘Rookie Umpire of the Year’

Tomorrow morning, among those who have told us they plan to take the (polar) plunge into Puget Sound, you’ll find Kayleen Dunson – the West Seattleite who is Umpire in Chief for the Seattle Metro Area Softball Umpires Association. She tells WSB her first year in that role has been great “We trained more umpires than ever before … sent 20 umpires to work National and/or State tournaments (and one umpire who got to work the World Cup of Softball), and made everything about umpiring more FUN!” They got regional/national media attention, too. But she’s particularly proud of Shani Neamen, a recruit who won the “Rookie Umpire of the Year” award.

Kayleen shares the story:

When Shani Neamen read about the need for Softball Umpires on the West Seattle Blog in January, she decided to give it a try. She joined the Seattle Metro Softball Umpires Association, went through the top-notch training program, and became a certified softball umpire. She had a blast, and did a great job – and in October she was chosen as the Seattle-Tacoma region’s “Rookie Umpire of the Year.”

(Shani accepting the award from Deputy Umpire In Chief Charles Coburn)

Seattle-Tacoma Umpire In Chief (UIC) Kayleen Dunson (also a West Seattleite) has high praise for Neamen. “Shani was so fun to watch and work with,” Dunson said. “She has a joy for the game, a terrific desire to learn and improve, and a great attitude with the players, coaches and other umpires. She deserves this honor.”

Mike Katz, another West Seattle resident, was in hot competition for the award.

Like Neamen, Katz joined up after reading the WSB article – even though he’d never even seen a softball game!

“Mike was so awesome from day one. He asked great questions, applied what he learned quickly and soon began demonstrating great umpiring ability and game management.” Dunson said. “It doesn’t surprise me that out of our 20 new umpires this year, two from West Seattle were top contenders for Rookie Umpire of the Year.”

SMSUA is recruiting NOW for new softball umpires to begin training in the new year. Go to or email Kayleen at if you are interested!

And if you wonder what it’s like – here’s a Q&A with “Rookie Umpire of the Year” Winner Shani Neamen:

How long have you lived in West Seattle?

I have lived in West Seattle for 10 years and I totally love it. West Seattle reminds me a lot of my small hometown in New Hampshire, the accent is much different but the awesome neighborhood feel is so similar.

What did you like about umpiring the West Seattle girls softball league this year?

I had a wonderful time behind the plate for the West Seattle girls this year. My heart is with a community league. I love watching young women having fun and being active. I will admit I was a bit timid when I heard a girl say “this is my first time playing catcher,” but I had so much fun. The experiences with the WS girls reminded me so much of my own childhood experience on the field – girls laughing, making mistakes, cheering for each other even when they were on opposing teams and the families in the stands having a blast. West Seattle is such a wonderful neighborhood and the league proves that. I hope I can umpire more games next season, my favorite thing to do on Tuesday nights.

What do you do for your “real job”?

I teach math at Showalter Middle School in Tukwila. Can you believe it? I choose to spend my days teaching kids and my evenings and weekends umpiring the same age groups. My experiences from teaching help on the field and my experiences on the field help me in the classroom. This year I was able to help my school’s team by umpiring a scrimmage, many of the girls that play on the team have never played in a live game so this was a big help, plus we had a lot of fun.

What made you want to become an umpire?

I decided to become an umpire because I was looking for something to get me active. I am not much of a gym-goer and this was perfect. I grew up playing the sport and I can’t think of any way better to give back and stay involved in the sport.

What was your first year as an umpire like?

My first year had its ups and down but I am happy to report that it was mostly up. The great thing about Seattle Metro Softball Umpires Association (SMSUA) is that when I did have a tough situation or game, I had so many other umpires to help me and let me know that I was not alone. I enjoyed the camaraderie among umpires and the softball community. I know I did not make the right call every time but I know I was constantly improving and people appreciated it.

Would you recommend umpiring to others?

I am currently trying to recruit my friends to join the group! Spending the spring/summer months on the field, being active and having fun is a great way to spend my free time. I like the flexibility of the position and the support the Umpire Association gives. I had a blast this season.

Anything you want to say about the umpire family?

SMSUA truly is a family – we support each other, laugh with each other and even share meals (mostly junk food and I plan to change that next season). The training program is great – I felt prepared to take the field the first time and continued to learn “on the job” throughout the season because someone was always there to answer my questions without judgment. I know that I would not have had the same positive first year experience with out my brothers and sisters in blue.

SIDE NOTE: Mike Katz, shown above with Shani, made news here for another reason just last month – coming to the aid of an injured officer after a crash in SODO.

1 Reply to "Memorable 2013 for West Seattleite chosen 'Rookie Umpire of the Year'"

  • KatieH January 1, 2014 (5:14 pm)

    Congrats Shani, well deserved!!

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