My Umpire

By: Angela Hamlett Cotie

My dad spends his day telling people they struck out. Someone is going to win, someone is going to lose, and it is his job to point it out. Such stark contrast to how I was raised, but he is an umpire- not just any umpire, but a favorite in the community I grew up in outside of Washington D.C. A part time gig he started when I was young, that in his retirement, has become a cherished job.  Fans light up when Coach Lew is behind the plate, and everyone in town, young and old, knows Mr. Hamlett.  As we celebrate the Day of the Girl, I have been thinking a lot about the men in my life that supported and sparked my “do anything” attitude and it all comes back to Coach Lew, Mr Hamlett, Dad. Until writing this, I did not put all the little pieces together. Coach Lew had a little girl playing second base on the boy’s baseball team- me. Not to prove a point on equality, but because I could. When I needed a part time job, he hired me as an umpire, and when a man made a comment that a girl could not ump a boy’s baseball game, he pointed to the parking lot and told him I was the umpire, respect it our get out. 

When I chose architectural engineering as my college pursuit, I never was told a discouraging word, and when a professor told me I was not a “good fit,” my parents stood behind me as I kept pushing through, keeping my head up and staying true to myself.  As my career progressed and life moved on, my biggest fans are my family! My dad drove his 22-year-old little girl to Houston to build a stadium and I knew leaving me, 1500 miles away from home to work on a construction site, horrified him.  He never said a negative word (except that the August weather was like Hell), he reminded me I could do anything, and no matter what, he would be on his way to me if I needed him. When I was named one of the top 20 under 40 for ENR magazine in Texas his pride was almost embarrassing. “This is my daughter, she is one of the best engineers, a boss lady, and she is beautiful!” How many holes of humiliation I could climb into, yet, I am so lucky my biggest cheerleader is a man!  A man that encourages my heart, my mind, reminds me I am a good mom, an incredible builder and ALWAYS his little girl. 

My Dad, Lewis Hamlett, was celebrated a few weeks ago by a coach who recognized that the umpire was doing something dynamic. He was not calling out the failures but celebrating the successes!  Players were getting encouragement, lessons, and a patient umpire that smiled and made jokes.  Coach Lew was making sure that for every player, softball is fun, and he knows that young women are fragile. Each time I talk to him he tells me, “I used you as an example today to this young woman on the field. She reminded me a lot of you.  I told her Girls Can Do Anything, my daughter builds buildings in Texas!” So, on a day that celebrates Girls, I want to also celebrate all the men that encourage, support, and let us play second base.  Thank you for never letting me doubt what I have inside or let me apologize when I share it.

Thank you, Dad, for letting me know a strike is ok, and for standing behind home plate saying, “GIRLS CAN DO ANYTHING!” while I, and a countless other girls, keep swinging away!
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