(LEX 18) — Baseball fans might spot a familiar face if they’re watching the Little League World Series on ESPN this week. That’s because one of the umpires is from Anderson County.
Kenton Bottoms grew up playing Little League baseball but didn’t become an umpire until he was 40 years old.
Two decades later, and after a rigorous selection, Bottoms has earned the highest honor possible for a Little League umpire.
“I’m 60 out here with these little kids having the best time of my life,” Bottoms told LEX 18 from his hotel room in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
You’ll typically find him at the American Legion Park in Lawrenceburg but this summer he’s stepping up to the big leagues of youth baseball. He’s one of 16 volunteer umpires chosen for the prestigious tournament, which is back this year after the pandemic impacted games in both 2020 and 2021. Some of this year’s umpires are from as far away as Curaçao and Australia.
For Bottoms, and the best 12-year-old baseball players in the world, this is the pinnacle of America’s pastime, although players represent nearly every continent.
“How much fun am I going to have today when I get to the park?” Bottoms said. That’s the question he’s asking himself daily right now as he calls high-pressure games airing on ESPN.
“We work hard, and we want the kids to decide those games, bottom line,” he said.
This is the first time he’s umpiring in front of a crowd of more than 18,000 people. He’s also gotten the chance to meet professional players and trade pins with his name on them – creating unforgettable moments and a surreal experience for the small-town umpire from the Bluegrass.
“I'm here, I'm in the middle of this,” he said. “I'm part of this.”