Cuthbertson is honored

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 1, 2007

Staff report

Freddie Cuthbertson didn’t have to call balls and strikes at the recent United States Specialty Sports Association Hall of Fame banquet in Raleigh

All Cuthbertson had to do was step to the podium and accept the USSSA Western Umpire of the Year Award from presenter Kermit Cruse.

“It’s a pretty big honor, something I’m real proud of,” Cuthbertson said. “When they just pick one umpire out of all of North Carolina it means a lot.”

Cuthbertson, a 1979 West Rowan graduate, is known for his work as a youth basketball coach and basketball referee, as well as for umpiring men’s slow-pitch softball.

USSSA (originally the United States Slo-Pitch Softball Association) is still a big deal in the state of North Carolina, which produces teams that compete on a national level.

Cuthbertson was a good athlete and eased into umpiring and officiating while he was still playing.

“I was just snooping around and asking questions at first,” he said. “Then I decided to try it.”

He recalls making his umpiring debut about 15 years ago in Enon’s church league.

Cuthbertson rose through the ranks and has worked numerous USSSA state championships.

It hasn’t always been easy. There have been occasions when umpiring shortages have forced him to work solo in hotly contested games.

“It’s been tough, but I’ve learned along the way and hung in there,” Cuthbertson said. “Guys like Tim White, they would make sure you knew the game. If you made a mistake, they’d let you know it.”

Cuthbertson understands he’s not infallible. But he’s also learned an umpire has to take charge — right or wrong.

“You’re not gonna get every call right,” he said. “So you have to be able to take a lot from people and not let it get to you. It’s all in how you carry yourself.”

Cuthbertson’s advice to aspiring umpires: Hustle and get in position.

“If you’re trying to call a play at third base from the outfield, you’re in for it, and everyone will question how you could possibly see it,” he said. “But if you’re right up on the play, no one’s gonna say that much.”

Cuthbertson’s daughter, Sharika, was a solid basketball player at North in the late 1990s, and he loves hoops at least as much as softball.

He referees high school games in Charlotte and blows a whistle locally in the Rowan County Middle School Conference.

“The middle school games are the hardest because they’re right here where everyone knows me,” Cuthbertson said with a chuckle.

Cuthbertson’s most recent local assignment was a big one. Wednesday’s eighth-grade girls championship game was in capable hands.

“When I first started umpiring and refereeing, I didn’t know what I was getting into,” Cuthbertson said.

“But I enjoy it now, I really do.”