Deshaies, Dan (2016)
“Mentor, leader, professional, perfectionist, I could fill the page with accolades. Dan is by far the best umpire I have ever had the pleasure of working with, and in all probability the best our state has ever had.”
retired CBUA, WMBU, Umpire and past President
“Little Things It Takes to Make a Good Umpire:
- Get on deck hitters chasing, hustling, for balls behind you.
- Never walk; a steady jog will make you and your partner look like $100.
- Bases: Force plays; find and follow ball, look at feet, listen for ball hitting glove, then find ball before making call!
- Plate Ump: Watch ball leave pitchers hand, get set, let ball hit mitt, take a picture, and make the call.
- Arguments; don’t allow any two on ones, if an ejection get in to help partner, help with dugouts.
- Professionalism; before, during, after the games. Set a presence (perception).”
Passion for a sport produces endless opportunities, especially for a kid who grew up in a small Maine town and made it as a major league umpire, even though it was only for one National League exhibition season.
It all began when Dan Deshaies was 12 years old and playing Little League in Livermore Falls, Maine, his hometown. His team almost folded because they had no coach, so young Dan knew enough to lead his friends as the player coach. After all, it was better than no team at all. Dan says, “I got the boys together, ran practices, scheduled games with local teams, and went out and beat the dreaded league champs, The Chisholm Tigers.” His future was about to become predetermined.
In middle school the guidance councilor called Dan down to his office to ask what he wanted to be when he grew up. Without hesitation, Dan replied, ” I want to play professional baseball.” That set the wheels in motion. The guidance counselor immediately called Dan’s father at work and asked him to come in to help move their conversation forward. And so it did.
In high school, Dan was the starting catcher on the Livermore Falls High School varsity baseball team as a 5 ‘, 101 lb, freshman. He went on to earn letters in five different sports while at LFHS. After graduation in 1973, Dan continued his enthusiasm for sports at the University of Maine at Presque Isle where he played four sports for the Owls, including soccer and wrestling, which had not been offered at LFHS. Again, he repeated his impressive athleticism at baseball by being chosen the starting catcher his freshman year at UMPI, along with being named The Most Outstanding Athlete of the year in his senior year.
Four years later, in 1977, marked the beginning of Dan’s baseball umpiring career. He had graduated from UMPI with a degree in Health/PE/Recreation, but school was not done. He then went to Harry Wendlestedt’s Professional Umpiring school. At the time, several umpiring schools produced 250 prospective professional umpires. There were only twelve job openings nationwide, and Dan got one of them.
The rest reads like a history book, a baseball history book.
1979… Entered the NY-Penn (A) League as a crew chief, worked the playoffs, and featured Don Mattingly’s rookie year in pro ball.
1980-81… Promoted to the South Atlantic League, crew chief, worked leagues all star games, playoff crew chief, named umpire of the year, and featured Lenny Dykstra, Don Mattingly, Jon Gibbons (now Toronto manager), David Cone, and Brett Butler.
1982-83 …Promoted to the Southern League (AA) working as a crew chief, worked the all star game, playoffs, and featured Brett Saberhagen, David Cone, Don Mattingly, and yes all of your favorite, Grady Little.
By 1984 it was off the AAA and the Pacific Coast League. His first two partners were Gary Darling, who spent 30 years as a major league umpire and Jim Joyce who is famous for the call that cost a pitcher a perfect game but who is one of the best umpires in the Major Leagues still to this day. Sitting in the hotel room one day Dan received a call calling him up to San Francisco to work a Dodger/Giant series but his league president told the National League office that if he sent up an umpire who had been there so short a time that other umpires might decide to retire so another umpire got to go up for that series, which was fine with Dan who did not want to disrupt the umpiring staff.
In the fall of 1984 he travelled to Columbia, South America, to umpire in the Colombian Major Leagues. Jackie Gutierrez, former Red Sox 300 hitter, was the hi-light of that league along with umpiring again with Gary Darling and current major league umpire Gary Cedarstrom. They left that country with a police escort swinging billy clubs and machine guns cocked to the air.
Returning from Columbia led to working the exhibition season for the National League in 1985. He umpired games with players such as Pete Rose, Tom Lasorda, Chris Chambliss, Gary Carter, and Bruce Sutter.
Dan’s last year in professional baseball was the 1985 season, working the International League. His first crew chief was John Hirshback, who is still in the Major Leagues now. Mike Greenwell was in the League and the third longest professional baseball game was played with Dan behind the plate for 28 innings in a game at Syracuse, with Greenwell’s team losing 7-6.
Then, his amateur career began in 1986, coinciding with the choice to be a family man and focus his professional career on local sports:
29 State championship games
Four Babe Ruth World Series for 16-18 year olds
29 State Legion Tournaments
State interpreter for rules for high school baseball for 31 years
State interpreter for college baseball rules for 25 years
Currently on the NFHS national baseball rules committee, the next time a person from Maine will be on the committee will be in 32 years
Umpired 6 Div III Regional tournaments and 1 Div III College World Series
When asked for inspirational quotes, Dan cited six principles that he often used to share his wisdom with his fellow officials. These set his mark as a baseball umpire:
1. “You are 50% right 100% of the time.” This is to encourage my partners to have the courage to make the tough calls despite what anyone might think in the game we are going to do. Half of the fans/players will think you got it right, and half will think you missed the call.
2. “I do not like either team or coach today, but will treat all with respect.” If you like a particular team or coach you might not make a call against them that you should on that given day.
3. “Two bads equal a good.” This is said when the two teams might have losing records. It is easy to get up for two good teams but I believe I have been able to get up for the games that might not have teams with good records that day or a lower level game.
4. “It is nothing until you call it.” If you make a call too quick the chances of missing a call increase. See the play, take a picture of the play in your mind, find the ball, and make the call. This is all TIMING and is the biggest part of an umpire being a very good umpire.
5. “You miss more calls/pitches in a three hour game than you do in a two hour game.” This encourages umpires to be aggressive with the strike zone and build on the theory that all pitches are strikes until the ball proves you different.
6. “Have fun today.”I believe no one should officiate a game without being able to smile or laugh with their partner(s) at least one time during that game. It is amazing when it gets down to the critical time in the game and a quick smile/laugh can ease the tension in the game!
“ As you have read, I didn’t get here alone. Thank you to all who been a part of my officiating career. I share this honor with the booing fans, the players/coaches who have endured my missed calls, and most of all my family and friends who never knew until the last minute if I would be at family/friend events due to ‘the beautiful game of baseball.’ ”