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Little League honors longtime umpire Jason Fackler

(Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson)

My personal interaction with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS is very limited in number but enormous in terms of heartbreak. Often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” ALS has the ability to bring down the mightiest of men but it lacks the courage to stand in the way of the most gentle of men.

Jason Fackler is one of those men. An Air Force veteran who was deployed to Iraq three times, Jason is also a longtime supporter of Little League and he forever cemented his love for the children of Tucson by rising from a dad volunteering at his son’s games to becoming a leader and instructor to his umpiring colleagues in a matter of a few years and this is how I first met him – gentle man calling balls and strikes.

My brother, Javier, did an excellent story on Jason’s background and family and that can be read here at this link.

District 12 covers mostly the southern half of the Tucson area including the Vail and Sahuarita communities and the program recognized Jason Friday night moments before the first championship game of the boys Majors Division contest between Sunnyside and Rincon. Sunnyside won that battle 3-2 in a dramatic 8-inning comeback but another important part of the lives of those young boys and their families was witnessing a dozen volunteer umpires take the field to help honor their colleague and his family. One of those umpires was, and is, a young man with the same red hair and friendly disposition as Jason, Sahuarita graduate Chris Fackler.

Chris wants to become a professional umpire and it would be a fitting gift from his father to a future community where Chris might one day master his future craft. Chris had the awesome responsibility of covering first base last night but his arm was called into duty much earlier when he took the mound to throw out the first pitch and Jason was behind the plate to call the strike.

District 12 honored Jason with some very kind words before the game and Western Region Umpire In Chief Mark Bernstein delivered a recorded message for the fans in attendance:

“Little League Baseball and Softball does not exist without the tireless work, efforts and dedication of its millions of volunteers around the world. This includes the often thankless job of the Little League Volunteer Umpire. Calling today’s ceremonial first pitch is a man who epitomizes that dedication. Jason Fackler is a Western Region Instructor, District and League umpire who has not only dedicated his time to assist other umpires to improve but also, and most importantly, has taken the time to be a positive role model for the young participants as they learn the life lessons that will lead them into the future and guide them to adulthood. Without the Jason Facklers in our program those lessons would be tougher to learn. Thank you Jason and all the Little League umpires and dedicated volunteers that take time away from their own to leave this world better than they found it. On behalf of Mark Bernstein, the LLWRUIC and all at the Western Region we salute you.”

One of the biggest words in the statement from Bernstein was “volunteer.” It’s my guess that most still haven’t figured out that the men, women and children who stand out on the playing fields are not paid during All-Star competition and they are also responsible for paying for and providing for their own transportation. One of those legends on the field is longtime umpire Bob Hall. Bob is another gentle giant of a man, complete with a white “Abe Lincoln” beard, and he had the honor of making it all the way to Williamsport to call the Little League World Series in his career.

Like Bob, Jason was said to be on the same projection in his career but ALS put a halt to those dreams. But the dreams of the boys and girls on our playing fields are constant and cannot be taken away. Though hundreds of players and thousands of family members might not know it or even recognize it, Jason had a part in making those dreams come true and the dreams of our children become our dreams.

Chris Fackler covering first base. (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson)

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Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017, a 2019 AZ Education News award winner and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girls wrestling. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019 and he is a member of the Amphi COVID-19 Blue Ribbon Committee. Contact Andy Morales at amoralesmytucson@yahoo.com

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