Craig Pounds is passionate about softball. When he coached summer league teams, he made it his mission to pass his love for the sport onto the girls.
“I used to tell them there was one thing I wanted from them on the field: I wanted them to love softball as much as I did,” Pounds recalled.
It was his feelings about softball eight years ago that led to Pounds becoming a certified umpire. And that same passion motivated him to be his absolute best on the field.
This year, he was recognized as one of Missouri’s elite.
Pounds was one of 12 officials selected to call the Missouri State High School Activities Association softball state championships. For a man who had watched the final four from the stands for many years, being on the field was a moment of a lifetime.
“I was shaken,” Pounds said. “When I started officiating softball, I made a goal of making the final four. To be able to actually do that really was a dream come true.
“That’s the highest level of what I like to do. It’s just like the kids going to the final four. It’s the same for me.”
Pounds’ love for softball developed in summer league programs in Houston. He coached his daughters, Leah and Hannah, for 12 years. Many times he coached multiple teams during a season. When his youngest daughter, Hannah, became too old for the leagues, Craig wasn’t ready to give up the sport. So he became an umpire.
Now eight years into his career in blue, Pounds remains enamoured with the speed and strategy of softball.
“I’ve learned to be confident. I’ve learned to be humble,” he said. “There is no substitute for knowing the rules. And I’ve learned that I love softball that much more.”
A 1982 Houston High School graduate, Pounds owns an insurance agency in Cabool. His afternoons are many times cut short to leave for a softball game. The furthest trip from his office is 72 miles to Van Buren. From his Houston home, it is 75 miles to Iberia. The radius covers about 150 miles.
Pounds had been in the top 25 percent of state officials the past four years. This season, his scores –– based on ratings of coaches whose games he officiates –– landed among the elite in Missouri.
Pounds worked four games at the state championships. He was on the field for the Class 1 and 3 semifinals on Oct. 24 as well as the Class 4 championship the following day. And he was behind the plate for one of the tournament’s best games.
Portageville and Northe Platte battled for 11 innings in the third-place game of Class 2. It was also a record-setting game as Portageville junior Taylor Tiffany struck out her 391st batter of the season to set a new state record.
Pounds presented the game ball to Tiffany.
“It was the most fun I’ve had yet calling ballgames,” he said. “I worked with some great officials and had some really good teams.”
That’s the highest level of what I like to do. It’s just like the kids going to the final four. It’s the same for me.”