Minkemeyer Enshrined in The OHSAA Officials Hall of Fame
Butch Minkemeyer thoroughly enjoyed playing slo-pitch softball.
However, there comes a time, in every athlete’s life, where it’s simply time to hang it up.
For Minkemeyer, who resides in Wheeling, that time came 41 years ago, but despite not playing anymore the itch to remain involved in sports remained.
So, at the urging of his father, Minkemeyer decided to enter high school sports officiating.
Saturday, in Columbus, Minkemeyer’s career came full circle when he was enshrined in the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s Officials Hall of Fame.
“Obviously, this award is very humbling and I was truly surprised when I found out about it,” Minkemeyer said. “It just seemed like it came out of the blue.”
When he opened the letter from the OHSAA, Minkemeyer immediately spent some time reflecting and thinking about the other area officials who have previously been inducted. One name came to mind immediately and that was the late John Howell.
“The best part of this honor is that I am being inducted to something that John Howell belongs to,” Minkemeyer said. “John was my mentor in basketball and we became really close friends, so to be part of this with him is really a huge honor for me.”
When Minkemeyer, who is a 1976 graduate of Wheeling High School, puts on his white cap in August to begin another football season, it will mark his 41st season of prep sports officiating. Unlike many officials, he got into all three of his sports – football, basketball and baseball – at the same exact time.
“I just liked all three sports and I liked being around the game,” Minkemeyer said. “I guess my first sport was really baseball because after I was done playing softball, my dad said, ‘why don’t you go into umpiring?'”
Basically, the rest is history.
Minkemeyer has been a mainstay at games throughout the Ohio Valley and actually throughout the Eastern District in Ohio and much of the state of West Virginia. That happens when you’re a quality official.
Actually, according to Minkemeyer, he’s the only area official to have been selected to work a state championship in all three sports in both states.
In football, he’s been chosen to work five state championship games between Ohio and West Virginia. He’s worked five state basketball tournaments and impressively he’s been selected to work upwards of 20 state tournaments – between the two states – in baseball.
A thing to keep in mind about Minkemeyer’s baseball number is the fact that he was out of prep umpiring for a few years to focus on working at the collegiate level where he worked Division I and II contests quite regularly.
“I feel like baseball is my best sport,” Minkemeyer admitted. “The opportunity was there to work a lot of college games because they used to play more during the week as compared to now where it’s a lot of weekend doubleheaders.”
Actually, Minkemeyer drew his first collegiate assignment in his first season as an umpire. He happened to land a game at West Liberty and then received a call to work a game at West Virginia University. Basically, the rest is history.
When the football season begins, Minkemeyer will begin his 33rd season as a referee. One thing he’s most proud of about his football career isn’t the tournament games or state finals, but how long his crew has been together.
“Three of the five guys on my crew have been with me 25 years or more, which is unheard of,” Minkemeyer said. “Mark Kerwood, Lance Jacob and Mike Clyde and I have been together basically since I started. We picked up Bruce Dunn as our umpire and he’s been with us a long time, too. The friendships you make in officiating are totally unbelievable.”
One thing Minkemeyer has changed over the course of his career is his approach to his schedule. There was a time when he would work multiple sports on back-to-back days as seasons overlapped.
For instance, he worked a girls basketball regular season game on a Friday night and the next day he was working a state semifinal football playoff game.
“About 30 years ago, I adopted the theory that I am not working another sport until I am totally finished with the prior sport,” Minkemeyer said. “It wasn’t the physical part of it. It was the mental side, and I got to the point where I asked myself, ‘what in the world are you doing?'”
As for his future in stripes or a blue uniform, Minkemeyer believes he has “four to five years left” and “maybe a little longer in football.”
“Officiating year round keeps you very, very healthy,” Minkemeyer said. “I’ve never missed a game because I was sick. I did have to have a hip replaced, but other than that, I’ve never had any issues.”
Regardless if you’re talking about the Ohio Valley, Ohio, West Virginia or the nation, the need for officials is paramount.
Minkemeyer has no hesitation that he recommends getting involved to anyone who has a passion for sports and, quite honestly, would like to make some extra money.
“It’s a great thing to get into,” Minkemeyer said. “It’s great exercise, you make decent money and it’s good for the kids. And you genuinely make friends for a lifetime.”
As a hall of fame official, he’s well past the point of really worrying or caring what officials and coaches say or believe. But, he does realize that the way people – mainly fans – act is what is driving officials away.
“Young people aren’t as interested and they truly believe it’s because of how fans treat the officials,” Minkemeyer said. “A lot of officials grew up in a different time and never bothers them when people yell, but younger people just don’t like it when older fans are screaming at them from the sidelines or the court. I simply get rid of the problem because, in my opinion, if they’re affecting the game, I don’t think they should be there.”
ST. CLAIRSVILLE grad Kaz Pata (Class of 2009) was hired last week as the new athletics director at Bradley High School in Hilliard. He had spent the 2021-22 school year as the athletics director at Amanda-Clearcreek.
THE WATKINS Memorial softball team, which advanced to the Division I state tournament two weeks ago, finished ranked No. 19 in the final USA Today Poll. Watkins Memorial is coached by 1998 Union Local graduate Mike Jellison.