Home plate umpire Al Mathy watches a play at the plate during Marinette Legion baseball Saturday at Pedersen Ball Park. Mathy was picked to officiate Wisconsin’s state tournament earlier this month. EagleHerald/Jody Korch
Home plate umpire Al Mathy watches a play at the plate during Marinette Legion baseball Saturday at Pedersen Ball Park. Mathy was picked to officiate Wisconsin’s state tournament earlier this month. EagleHerald/Jody Korch
MARINETTE - Al Mathy has refereed hundreds - maybe thousands - of area games in the past 32 years. He had never umpired a high school state tournament.

Until this year, when he umpired the WIAA Baseball State Tournament at Fox Cities Stadium.

"It was just a great opportunity and it was just an awesome experience," Mathy said. "I still can't get over it."

Mathy umpired two Division 1 state tourney games on June 11 and two Division 3 games on June 12. He umped Oconto's state semifinal win and was behind the plate for a Division 3 matchup between Westby and Deerfield.

"Very deserving of being picked to go to state," said John LaCourt, who coached numerous Marinette Marine and Marinette Redbird games that Mathy umpired. "He knows the game of baseball because he played it. He knows the nuances of the game. He's very fair."

Mathy's officiating resume is impressive. He has refereed basketball and football games for years, and he's widely regarded as one of the best baseball umps around. He's the head of the MM&O Umpires Association and helps schedule umpiring crews.

"He does more than show up for the game," Marinette Marine baseball coach Dave Francour said.

Mathy and his umpiring partner, Mike Gardon, have worked numerous American Legion baseball state tournaments. Mathy and Gardon umped the Great Lakes Regional at Spies Field. They, along with Dave Klegin and Vince Burns, umped an M&M baseball game at Fox Cities Stadium. In 2006, Mathy and Gardon worked the Legion All-Star Game at Miller Park.

But Mathy had long been overlooked for state high school tournaments.

Apparently, the WIAA doesn't get up this way much.

Late in the regular season WIAA tournament manager Wade Labecki watched Mathy and Gardon work a game in Oconto Falls.

"A couple of weeks later I got a call saying I was chosen for the WIAA tournament," Mathy said.

He was among 12 umps who worked this year's state tourney.

The players weren't the only ones on the Fox Cities Stadium grass who were nervous.

"Oh, absolutely," Mathy said when asked if he was nervous. "No. 1, you don't want to screw up. Probably just as excited as the kids that are in the tournament. As it goes on you've got to do it just as it's another baseball game."

He worked a four-man crew which also included Green Bay's Roger Van Lanen, Dan Viken of Marshall and A.J. Minick of Bristol.

Gardon has been selected for three previous state baseball tournaments.

"He'll be the first to tell you you're only as good as your partner," Mathy said, "and I have a good one."

Coaches appreciate Mathy's friendly, fair and professional demeanor. Francour said Mathy's selection to state was overdue.

"He's an umpire that's very consistent with his calls behind the plate," according to Francour. "He's very professional. He's very approachable during a game. He'll listen to you, and then he'll tell you what he thinks. The big thing is he's consistent. You know what you're getting when you get him as an umpire."

LaCourt said Mathy knows the intricacies of baseball because he played it.

"He's very fair," LaCourt said. "He's a pitcher's umpire because he will call a consistent ballgame. And, he'll admit to a coach or player that he made a mistake."

Mathy wasn't embroiled in any controversial calls at state, which is closely supervised by the WIAA.

"There were some close calls, and very few of them were contested," Mathy said.

Mathy thanks his wife, Doreen, for her support.

"She shared the (state) experience with me," he said. "She was pretty happy for me, and I was grateful for that."