Butch Minkemeyer thoroughly enjoyed playing slo-pitch softball.
But at some point in every athlete’s life, it’s simply time to stop.
It had been 41 years for Wheeling resident Minkemeyer, but the itch to stay true to the sport lingered even though he no longer played.
At his father’s urging, Minkemeyer decided to join university sports as a sports consultant.
Minkemeyer’s career came full circle on Saturday in Columbus when he was inducted into the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s Officials Hall of Fame.
“Of course this award is very humbling and I was really surprised when I heard about it,” said Minkemeyer. “It just seemed like it came out of the blue.”
Upon opening OHSAA’s letter, Minkemeyer immediately spent some time reflecting and reflecting on the other area officials previously inducted. One name immediately came to mind and that was the late John Howell.
“The best thing about this honor is that I’m being introduced to something that includes John Howell,” Minkemeyer said. “John was my basketball mentor and we became really close friends. To be there with him is really a great honor for me.”
When Minkemeyer, who graduated from Wheeling High School in 1976, dons his white cap to start another football season in August, it will be his 41st season as a prep sports officer. Unlike many officials, he played all three sports – soccer, basketball and baseball – at exactly the same time.
“I just liked all three sports and I liked being at the game,” said Minkemeyer. “I guess my first sport was actually baseball because after I finished playing softball my dad said, ‘Why don’t you go to the umpire?'”
Basically, the rest is history.
Minkemeyer was a mainstay at games throughout the Ohio Valley and indeed throughout Ohio’s Eastern District and much of the state of West Virginia. This is what happens when you are a quality officer.
In fact, he is the only county official selected to compete in a state championship in both states in all three sports, according to Minkemeyer.
In football, he was selected to work on five state championship games between Ohio and West Virginia. He has competed in five state basketball tournaments and has been impressively selected to play more than 20 state-interstate tournaments in baseball.
One thing to keep in mind about Minkemeyer’s baseball act is the fact that for several years he had not made any preparations to focus on work at the collegiate level, where he attended Division I- and II competitions.
“I feel like baseball is my best sport,” admitted Minkemeyer. “The opportunity was there to work on a lot of college games because they used to play more during the weekdays than they do now where there’s a lot of weekend doubleheaders.”
Minkemeyer actually pulled his first college assignment in his first season as a referee. He happened to land a game at West Liberty and then received a call to work on a game at West Virginia University. Basically, the rest is history.
With the start of the football season, Minkemeyer will start his 33rd season as a referee. What makes him most proud of his football career is not the tournament games or state finals, but how long his crew has been together.
“Three of the five guys on my crew have been with me for 25 years or more, which is unprecedented,” Minkemeyer said. “Mark Kerwood, Lance Jacob and Mike Clyde and I have basically been together since I started. We have chosen Bruce Dunn as our referee and he has been with us for a long time. The friendships you make while officiating are absolutely incredible.”
One thing Minkemeyer has changed throughout his career is his approach to his schedule. There was a time when he would do multiple sports on back-to-back days due to overlapping seasons.
For example, one Friday night he was working a regular girls’ basketball game, and the next day he was working a state semifinal soccer playoff game.
“About 30 years ago, I adopted the theory that I wouldn’t do another sport until I was completely done with the previous sport,” Minkemeyer said. “It wasn’t the physical part of it. It was the mental side, and I got to the point where I was like, ‘What on earth are you doing?’”
As for his future in stripes or a blue uniform, Minkemeyer believes he has “four to five years” and “maybe a little more in football” left.
“Officiating all year round keeps you very, very healthy,” said Minkemeyer. “I’ve never missed a game because I was sick. I did need a hip replacement, but other than that I’ve never had any problems.”
Whether you’re talking about the Ohio Valley, Ohio, West Virginia, or the nation, the need for officials is paramount.
Minkemeyer has no hesitation in recommending getting involved to anyone who is passionate about sport and honestly wants to make some extra money.
“It’s a great thing to embark on,” said Minkemeyer. “It’s great practice, it makes good money and it’s good for the kids. And you really make friends for life.”
As a Hall of Famer, he’s well past the point of really worrying or caring about what officials and coaches say or believe. But he recognizes that the way people – mostly fans – act drives officials away.
“Young people aren’t that interested and really think it’s because of how fans treat officials,” Minkemeyer said. “A lot of officials grew up in a different era and never mind when people shout, but younger people just don’t like it when older fans shout at them from the sidelines or the pitch. I just fix the problem because I don’t think they should be there if they’re affecting the game.”
ST. CLAIRSVILLE graduate Kaz Pata (Class of 2009) was hired as the new athletic director at Bradley High School in Hilliard last week. He had spent the 2021-22 school year as Director of Athletics at Amanda-Clearcreek.
The WATKINS Memorial softball team, which was promoted to the Division I State tournament two weeks ago, ranked 19th in USA Today’s final poll. Watkins Memorial is coached by Mike Jellison, a 1998 Union Local graduate.
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