Some people might think Paul Drake III is a bit daffy after hearing him issue the following statement, but those people probably don't know Paul Drake III.
"I just always had an interest, even as a kid, for umpiring," he said. "I've told people if I had a chance to win the lottery or be a professional umpire, I'd be a professional umpire - even though I could use the money."
Drake, 40, has worked for the City of Oregon street department since 1995. Before that, he worked in the city's parks and recreation department.
Drake has also been umpiring baseball and softball games for 26 years.
"Pretty much all I do now is slow pitch softball and some fast pitch," Drake said. "I got out of baseball for probably 20 years. To me, there's a lot more action in slow pitch. I've played on teams here in Oregon. I like to play, but one of the main reasons I got out of it was you had to have at least 10 players to start a game. Sometimes you'd be short a player and have to forfeit, and that was irritating. It was crazy."
There are approximately 39,000 Amateur Softball Association (ASA) umpires in the United States, and Drake is one of the best.
He has been chosen by The Amateur Softball Association of America as one of five umpires selected to the inaugural Border Battle Men’s Slow Pitch (USA vs. Canada) games on July 18-19 at the ASA Hall of Fame Complex in Oklahoma City, Okla.
The umpires were selected by the National Umpire Staff, while Softball Canada nominated one Canadian umpire who will represent Canada.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Drake said. "I was excited to get picked. I know what a big to-do it's going to be. It's going to be on ESPN. I just felt honored to get picked. Whoever put my name in, they have to have confidence in you to put your name in."
The other four U.S. umpires selected to take part in the Border Battle are Darryl Brunson of Harker Heights, Texas, Mike Maisner of Okemos, Mich., and John Personius of Marysville, Wash.
Canadian umpire Stephanie Soucy of Calgary, Alberta, will represent Canada on the Border Battle umpire staff.
ASA Supervisor of Umpires Kevin Ryan was involved in narrowing down a list of qualified umpires for the three Border Battle games. Ryan said 19 ASA staff members submitted names of umpires they thought deserved the opportunity to work the Border Battle.
"Myself and my boss, Craig Cress, got together and reviewed it and decided to pick four umpires from the Eastern (ASA) region, which was Paul, and the Northern, Western and Southern regions. Those are the four territories as divided up by the Amateur Softball Association."
Ryan said he received about 15 names per territory, "and Paul came very highly recommended."
"His evaluation from his past national championships kind of stood him out from the rest of them," Ryan said. "We decided to go with Paul because of his ability to do this caliber of ball. Most of these players are players who have played in the upper division of ASA, and Paul has been (umpiring) in the upper division for years.
"He puts his heart and soul into umpiring, not only in the field but training the younger umpires and putting on clinics. He is what we look at as a complete ASA umpire. Not only does he give when he's on the field, but when he's off the field."
So what makes a good ASA umpire?
Drake said it is a combination of the ability to use good judgement, good mechanics and hustle, and using the proper signals.
"At this level of softball, these are the best U.S. players that America has to offer," Drake said. "You can't go out there acting like a drill sergeant. They'll eat you up. You can't teach common sense. You have to know when to bear down and basically talk to them how they want to be talked to. I won't yell at them and they won't yell at me. You respect them and they'll respect you."
Drake hopes to get at least one opportunity to call a game from his favorite position, behind home plate, at the Border Battle.
"That," he said, "is where 90 percent of the game is."