Westerville’s Mackenzie Hall impresses as referee

Fourteen years ago, Mackenzie Hall wanted to play football, not softball, in his hometown of Glendale, West Virginia. That and watch his favorite Nickelodeon cartoons, “Dora the Explorer” and “SpongeBob Squarepants.”

“My parents forced me on the court, because I didn’t want to play,” Hall said.

Now, at 19, Hall is helping develop softball by serving as a role model for young players in Ohio and West Virginia as a certified American softball umpire.

Hall, who was born in Westerville and had a 14-year career in softball as a pitcher, outfielder and first baseman, began umpiring at age 16, serving as a pitching coach and official for the Little League for third through sixth graders in Wheeling, West Virginia.

“I really enjoyed it,” Hall said. “I loved watching the little girls and teaching them how to hit and helping them play and play.”

Hall admitted that she struggled to earn the respect of her parents and peers because of her gender and age.

Mackenzie Room

“It was very difficult trying to prove myself,” Hall said. “Parents and coaches immediately thought I had no idea what was going on just because I was the young female referee. I had to be on top of every call and make sure I got the right call because that they would be on me if I wasn’t.

In the face of scrutiny from fans and other coaches, Hall said she leaned on her father, Russ Hall, who was certified Ohio High School Athletic Association, West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission and a softball umpire. American for eight years and refereed alongside his daughter for nearly 30 games.

“He watched me on the pitch when I had games. He would watch what I was doing [with] my mechanics,” Mackenzie Hall said. “(It was) different things that other people, other than the referees, wouldn’t notice. And off the pitch, we just talked about the game with each other like we did before. He would ask me about the games and what the decision would be, and then I would do the same to him.

She continued to rise, receiving certification from OHSAA, WVSSAC and USA Softball over the past three years – giving her the ability to officiate high school games and tournaments in Ohio and West Virginia. , as well as all USA Softball sanctioned tournaments.

This allowed her to officiate a recent FastPitchShowdowns.com North American World Series at Lou Berliner Sports Park in Columbus, an event she had attended — and won a championship — five years ago.

Officiating alongside his father for four games on Friday and Saturday, Hall established “a very good relationship” with the participants, according to tournament chief referee Scott Rosenberg. She was supposed to referee the championship game, but it rained.

Mackenzie Hall recalled one particular interaction in the tournament that demonstrated the connection she made.

“I was standing with my two referees on the field, who were both male, and one of the girls playing came up to me and asked me about a jewelry rule,” he said. she declared. “Instead of approaching them, she approached me and pulled me aside. I think she felt more comfortable and knew I would have an answer.

Hall said she recognizes the impact she has on young players, especially given how rare it is for them to see someone like her.

“Sometimes I don’t [notice it], but then I step back and think a lot of these girls have never seen a female referee before,” Mackenzie Hall said. “Seeing me on the pitch definitely brings a smile to their face, and if nothing else, makes them think they can do whatever they want.”

With this achievement in mind, Hall sought to introduce other young women to officiating.

To achieve this, she plans to recruit young umpires through social media and spark conversations about the future of the industry at meetings of the Ohio Valley Girls Softball Umpire Council, where she is a member of the counsel alongside his father since 2020.

Ohio State Softball Commissioner Warren Jones, who has spent more than 50 years in the sport and is a member of the National Softball Hall of Fame, said the fact that Hall and other female umpires take on leadership roles strengthens the recruitment and retention of young softball players.

“We have to push our ladies here and say, ‘Hey, if you want to referee, we’re going to give you the training and put you in the right position so you can be a leader in your sport,'” Jones said.

For Hall, her rapid rise from the girl who rejected softball to the young adult who helps develop the game comes as a surprise.

“I never thought, starting three years ago doing little coaching throwing games, that I would have a say in what is happening with officiating in our region and the people joining our group of referees,” Hall said. “Having the chance to tell other people about ‘Hey, that’s a good thing, and it’s getting bigger. We can get you in here, and we can help you, and maybe you can enjoy it as much as we do. I never thought I would have the opportunity to express myself.”

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