MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (Jan. 7, 2016) - The Myrtle Beach Pelicans are sending Justin Fletcher on a trip to fulfill a lifelong dream of attending umpire school. Fletcher, a part-time club employee, will depart Myrtle Beach on Tuesday, January 12th to attend the Minor League Baseball Umpire Training Academy in Vero Beach, Fla. as a VIP Guest on Wednesday and Thursday.
"Justin has always said for years now he wants to be an umpire," said his father Allan Eoff. "And when he found out that (Pelicans assistant general manager) Mike Snow and the staff of the Pelicans were helping his dream come true, he was ecstatic. From that day on, it's been baseball every day, outside, inside and in his sleep. His mom and I even hear him calling balls and strikes in his sleep. He also only asks for gifts that would outfit an umpire."
As part of his two-day training, Fletcher will receive a mask, chest protector and shin guards while also spending time in the classroom to work towards completing his umpire education.
Fletcher, who is intellectually challenged with autism, began working with the Pelicans during the 2014 season after becoming the first person at the Vocational Rehabilitation of South Carolina to earn a custodial certification. Following his morning and afternoon work at TicketReturn.com Field, Fletcher attended nearly every home Pelicans game, quickly displaying a love for the Carolina League's umpires by imitating the men in blue in the stands behind home plate.
"(Pelicans general manager) Andy Milovich told me about this young man at their ballpark who just loved umpiring and loved talking to the umpires that visited Myrtle Beach during the season," said Minor League Baseball Director of Umpire Development Dusty Dellinger. "After meeting Justin and hearing others tell stories about him dressing up in his umpiring shirt and mask and making calls from the seats behind the plate, I knew we had to bring him to the academy for a few days and give him a taste of what umpiring is really like. I hope he enjoys the experience."
An alum of Socastee High School in Myrtle Beach, Fletcher was able to meet a few of his umpiring idols prior to games during the Pelicans' 2015 championship campaign.
"He would say, 'I am going to be an umpire one day, I want to do that as my job,'" Eoff said. "His mother and I told him if he practices, one day he possibly could. Justin has put a large calendar in his room and marks off the days left until we go to make his dream come true."
The 2015 season was the 17th season for the Pelicans franchise and first as the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. For information on tickets to see the Pelicans in 2016, please call (843) 918-6000, e-mail [email protected], or visit www.MyrtleBeachPelicans.com.
ABOUT THE PELICANS: The Myrtle Beach Pelicans are the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Chicago Cubs and play their home games at TicketReturn.Com Field at Pelicans Ballpark in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The park has ranked in the top four in all of Minor League Baseball by Stadium Journey in each of the last four seasons. The same publication also placed the Pelicans in the Top 100 Stadium Experiences in all of sports in each of the last four years and the best in the Carolina League for four straight seasons as well. In May 2015, TicketReturn.Com Field at Pelicans Ballpark won the 2015 TripAdvisor.com Certificate of Excellence award. The Pelicans are the defending Mills Cup Champions, winning the title in 2015 as well as 2000 and co-Mills Cup championship honors in the inaugural 1999 season. The Pelicans have made nine postseason appearances behind 11 half-season Southern Division championships, including the first half of the 2015 season, as well as five Southern Division titles, most recently in 2015. For more information on the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, please contact the Pelicans at (843) 918-6000 or emailing [email protected].