The difference between Pete Lloyd and other dads who offered to umpire their sons' Arbutus Little League games in 1969 is that the other guys knew when to quit.
He's still going strong 45 years later, volunteering to umpire games for Little League Baseball, the umbrella organization for several age-group divisions from tee-ball for ages 5 and 6 to seniors for ages 15 and 16.
The longtime Arbutus resident is also the umpiring chief for District 4 of the organization, which covers Baltimore city and county, and Anne Arundel County. He supervises 22 umpires and has mentored hundreds of others throughout his career.
Back in the day, Lloyd, known by a countless number of youngsters throughout the years as "Mr. Pete," would work as many as three games per day.
Perhaps as a concession to his age, the 75-year-old now limits his work to two games daily and only one behind the plate.
"The field (umpiring the bases) is less taxing than calling balls and strikes," he said.
Lloyd will be back on a diamond April 26 for the official opening day for the Arbutus Little League.
The day before that, there will be a Challenger League baseball game, part of a new adaptive coed baseball program in the area geared for special-needs kids.
The Little League parade for all participants will be May 10.
Lloyd said his hobby started innocently enough.
"The first game my kids played, they needed an umpire," he said. "One thing led to another."
It also led to Lloyd learning the sport from all angles and permutations, and being aware of many things that most observers of the sport don't grasp.
Besides the obvious skill of learning how to call balls and strikes — "see it, hear it, call it" is his golden rule behind the plate — as accurately as possible, there are other considerations to keep in mind.
The 1955 Catonsville High grad points to field mechanics as an area equally critical to a game being called fairly.
"Umpires have to know where to be and how to get there without getting themselves in trouble," he said.
To that end, Lloyd's crews attended a clinic that ran three hours per session for seven weeks during the winter.
"You literally go through the Little League rule book from beginning to end," said Arbutus Little League Commissioner Butch Miller. "Mr. Pete is just so accessible. He'll help anyone at any time."
If that sounds like an awful lot of time to volunteer, it is.
"It's the hardest hobby I've ever had," Lloyd said. "But it beats licking stamps."
He and Miller are proud to be part of an organization that's not to be confused with regular youth baseball played in recreation leagues, even though Arbutus Little League is affiliated with the Arbutus Rec program.
There are only five local Little League Baseball-sanctioned programs, most of which are in the southwestern parts of the Baltimore metropolitan area.
In addition to Arbutus, Little Leagues can be found in Morrell Park, Forest Park, Laurel, South Baltimore and Southern Maryland.
In order to be a full-fledged Little Leaguer, where you live matters. Residency requirements are strict.
According to the Little League website: "Each local league creates a boundary map of the area that it services and that map is reviewed annually. The map is placed on file with the volunteer district administrator and submitted to the respective region office for approval."
Lloyd likes the uniformity that Little League Baseball provides youngsters.
"You can play a Little League team from anywhere else, and the rules are always going to be the same," Lloyd said about Little League, which started in 1939 in Williamsport, Pa., and has blossomed into an international organization.
While no Arbutus team has ever advanced to the renowned Little League World Series, at least the opportunity is there.
In his 45 years of umpiring, Lloyd has never worked that World Series, which is for the 11-12 age group.
He has, however, worked similar events for other Little League age groups, including one for 14- and 15-year-olds in Bangor, Maine, and one for the 13-14 bracket in Taylor, Mich.
"I've been fortunate, and blessed, to work the upper levels of tournaments," he said of his travels, which almost always include his bride of 56 years, Liz.
During that span, the same good luck and even-keeled demeanor have kept untoward behavior to a minimum.
"It really never has been a big issue for me," the retired NASA illustrator said. "I've only had three adult ejections and one player during all that time."
What he won't tolerate is an "f-bomb" or other inappropriate language.
"If they say it under their breath, well, we can have a discussion," he said. "But if they say it out loud, it's automatic."
Miller said that older Baltimore Orioles fans learned about coach-umpire relations through a unique prism.
"We all grew up watching [Orioles legend and longtime manager] Earl Weaver," Miller said. "But that's not the way we do it."
Lloyd, he said, snuffs out a potential rhubarb with a direct approach.
"He always says, 'Those are the rules. Let's go. Next pitch.' He expects his umpires to know the rules and to be courteous, professional and neutral."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun