A slower pace?

The Dyes have begun slowing their hectic pace. Somewhat.

John used to umpire about 200 softball and baseball games a year, but now averages about 50, he said. However, he has taken on more administrative work over the years.

He serves as fast pitch umpire in chief for the Maryland State U.S. Specialty Sports Association and chairman of the USSSA National Fast Pitch Umpire Committee. In those roles, he oversees a variety of tournaments, both local and national, and updates rule books, among other duties.

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He said the smaller officiating workload is by choice, and that he mainly umpires fast-pitch youth and senior softball anymore. 

"It's more fun working with them rather than the (young) adults," he explained. "It's more an attitude sort of thing than anything else.

"I know age is going to catch up with me at some time," John added of his workload. "I don't see doing this forever, but I don't have any immediate plans."

Although the 200 games she is on track to referee this year would be her most ever, Karen said she is at least considering cutting back.

"I'll drop lacrosse first," she said. "There's a lot more running in lacrosse." She said she also is hoping to get others to take over some of the training she does.

Although neither plays competitive sports anymore, the pair finds time for volksmarching, a noncompetitive fitness walking event popularized in Europe. John, who learned of volks-marching when he was stationed in Stuttgart, Germany with the NSA, is president of the Columbia Volksmarch Club, which sponsors six year-round 10-kilometer walks. Karen is secretary of the club.

'Hard to replace'

If and when they get around to retiring, Karen said they hope to travel more. She said she would love to return to Germany, as well as visit Alaska, where one of their daughters and two of their five grandchildren live, and perhaps even Australia.

That would be exotic travel for a couple whose trips have been largely confined to the various tournaments at which they work.

When the Dyes, both of whom are in the Howard County Community Sports Hall of Fame, do retire, it will leave a gaping hole in the officiating ranks of Howard County and the state.

"Karen's viewed as being at the top," said Pat Troyer, another veteran field hockey official and former coach at Towson High School, who regularly officiates with Karen Dye. "She's well-respected by everyone."

"She's a mentor to youths up and coming to be officials," O'Neill said. "She's been involved for so long. … She knows the game, she knows the rules."

"John's seen as one of the best umpires in the state of Maryland," said Jake Jacobs, who serves as USSSA umpire in chief for the northeast region and has known John Dye for 25 years. "I hope John doesn't slow down very soon because he's going to be very, very hard to replace. I couldn't think of anybody to take his job right now."

However long they continue their officiating careers, the Dyes have built a lifetime of good memories.

"Officiating has given me the opportunity to be involved in sports activities I enjoy," John wrote in an email. "It has allowed me to work … with friends and neighbors, from youth to seniors. It has given me the chance to also work at the state, regional and national level. Officiating keeps me physically active."

"When I first got into officiating, I wasn't sure where it would lead," Karen wrote in an email, "but the friendships I have with officials and coaches, and the development of players in both sports has been very satisfying, 

"Seeing women's lacrosse come into the high schools in Howard County is certainly a highlight of my career.  I always considered myself something of a pioneer, participating in college sports before Title IX was around.  Seeing the growth of women's sports over my officiating career only fueled the passion I have for the games."