Aerial view of campus with Williamsport, the Susquehanna River and Bald Eagle Mountain as a backdrop

Lycoming College alumnus prepares to umpire 2022 Little League World Series

Lycoming College alumnus prepares to umpire 2022 Little League World Series

Download Image: Web

Lycoming College alumnus Phil Levesque ’00 is excited to finally take his place on the field at Lamade Stadium in South Williamsport, Pa., later this month. Levesque was originally selected to umpire the 2020 Little League World Series, but the games were cancelled due to the pandemic. He had the opportunity to participate in 2021, but decided to postpone his involvement. His wait is nearly over, as Levesque prepares to umpire the games held August 17-28.

“The pageantry surrounding the Little League World Series is a huge part of the experience,” Levesque explains. “When you think of the Grand Slam Parade through the heart of downtown Williamsport, the MLB Classic at Historic Bowman Field, the Opening Ceremonies, the Challenger Division Exhibition Game, and the Little League Home Run Derby, having the opportunity to take in the full experience was a big reason for my decision to wait until this year. In addition, not being able to share the experience with family and friends during the pandemic, nor experience the energy of the crowds, were key factors.”

Levesque started umpiring Little League Baseball and Softball in his hometown of Sanford, Maine, in 1992. His father was coaching his younger brother’s minor league team, and there was no umpire for one of their games. “I was ‘voluntold’ to be the umpire,” quips Levesque. “I umpired a few more games that season, but I only had a very rudimentary understanding of the rules, and really had no idea what I was doing out on the field.”

The following spring, Sanford Little League offered an umpire clinic taught by a father-son duo, Jack and Ron Leary, from Newburyport, Mass. “When Jack introduced himself at the start of the clinic, he informed us that he had just umpired the Little League World Series in 1992, and he was going to be an instructor at Umpire School at Little League Headquarters in South Williamsport during the summer of 1993,” says Levesque.

Levesque was intrigued and inquired about the requirements for attending the Umpire School. Much to his disappointment, participants needed to be at least 18 years old, and Levesque was only 14 at the time. Leary, however, later informed him that an exception could be made, and that the Sanford Little League would even pay his registration fees. “I just needed a way to get to Williamsport,” explains Levesque. “Conveniently, Jack would be driving to Williamsport from Newburyport, and he agreed to be my ride. My parents drove me from Sanford to Newburyport, and Jack and I set off for the week-long Umpire School.”

During that week, Levesque had the opportunity to study the rules of Little League Baseball and Softball while also getting out on the field to learn how to umpire in game situations, saying it was an incredible experience. Off the field, he had the opportunity to explore the greater Williamsport area. While touring town, Levesque saw a sign for Lycoming College. He had recently completed his freshman year of high school, so the subject of college and possibly studying science was on his radar. Learning from his local guide that Lycoming had completed construction on the new Heim Science Building, his interest was piqued.

During the late 1990s, Levesque began coaching Little League Softball in Sanford, Maine, where a number of wonderful people with and against whom he had an opportunity to coach. “I learned a lot from them both about the sport and how to coach,” he says. Shortly after he moved to Nashua, N.H., in 2001, he began umpiring and serving on the board of directors for Nashua Little League, as well as coaching baseball players from nine to 12 years old as the manager of the Athletics.

Levesque maintained close involvement with Little League while a student at Lycoming, volunteering as an usher during championship weekend at the Little League World Series, as well as during finals week at the Umpire School. “I was honored to be invited to participate as an instructor covering softball rules in the classroom and ninety-foot baseball diamond umpire mechanics on the field,” he says. He spent his summer breaks in Maine coaching and umpiring.

When his son, Jeremiah, was born in 2004, he started to grow up around the game. “When Jeremiah was old enough for t-ball, I occasionally helped at his practices but primarily continued to coach the Athletics,” Levesque recalls. “We had several fun practices between his Blue Jays t-ball team and the ‘big kids’ on the Athletics. When Jeremiah started to play in the minors at eight years old, I made the move to coach at the minor league level for two seasons until he advanced to the majors, and I started coaching the Athletics again.”

“Coaching Little League was an incredibly rewarding experience,” he continues. “Outside of elementary school teachers, I am not sure anyone has the ability to provide kids in their community with an organized opportunity to grow as citizens and build memories that will last a lifetime the way that coaches in youth sports do. In that way especially, Little League builds and fosters communities.”

Levesque says the idea of community is at the heart of his time at Lycoming and his involvement with Little League. “While attending Lycoming, I was fortunate to receive academic preparation from caring, engaged, and immensely talented faculty who did much more than enable me to be successful in graduate school and beyond. These were not teachers going through perfunctory motions; they genuinely cared about their students and the Lycoming community. Being a good coach and umpire similarly takes a high level of commitment and a lot more effort than just showing up to do it well.”

Levesque continues by saying how much he loves the spirit embodied by the College’s statement I am Lycoming. “The concept that Lycoming isn’t somewhere you are, but rather something you do is one that resonates with me.”

From an early age, Levesque was encouraged by family to become involved in community through volunteerism. As a result, he has met and continues to meet amazing people who have experiences and interests that are often quite different from his own. “It is as much the camaraderie as the actual volunteering that keeps me coming back,” he shares.

His volunteerism extends to currently serving as president on the Alumni Association Executive Board and formerly chairing the Alumni Council for Fraternity and Sorority Life at Lycoming College, where he earned his bachelor of arts degree majoring in both chemistry and history in 2000. In 2006, received his doctorate in analytical chemistry from the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Today, Levesque is vice president of technical operations at SOTIO Biotech Inc., a company dedicated to developing the next generation of cancer immunotherapies, at its Cambridge, Mass., location.

When asked what he loves most about Little League, Levesque didn’t hesitate with a response. “When President George W. Bush was inducted into the Little League Hall of Excellence during the Little League World Series in 2001, he spoke about his Little League playing days in West Texas. He remarked that he never dreamt of becoming President of the U.S., but he did dream about making it to Williamsport to play in the Little League World Series. He went on to talk about Little League coaches teaching kids about more than how to throw and hit, but also about the value of working with somebody to win for something greater than yourself. That perfectly sums up what Little League is about, and the mission statement of Little League succinctly captures what I love most about it: Little League believes in the power of youth baseball and softball to teach life lessons that build stronger individuals and communities.”

WNEP interviewed Levesque and other umpires in a news segment on August 23, 2022, which can be viewed here.

  • Umpiring at Fenway Park

    Umpiring at Fenway Park

  • LL play at the plate

    LL play at the plate

  • Action shot - calling a strike

    Action shot - calling a strike

  • Jeremiah school project on LL

    Jeremiah school project on LL

  • 2022 Umpiring at LLWS Orientation

    2022 Umpiring at LLWS Orientation

  • 11 yo Eastern Region Tournament

    11 yo Eastern Region Tournament

  • 2017 NLL Athletics Team Photo

    2017 NLL Athletics Team Photo

  • 2017 NLL Athletics - Jeremiah and Phil

    2017 NLL Athletics - Jeremiah and Phil

  • 2016 NLL Rays Team Photo

    2016 NLL Rays Team Photo

  • 2014 LLB Eastern Region Umpires Group Photo

    2014 LLB Eastern Region Umpires Group Photo

  • 2014 LLB Eastern Region Tournament

    2014 LLB Eastern Region Tournament

  • 2009 NLL Champion Athletics

    2009 NLL Champion Athletics

  • 1998 LLB Certificate of Appreciation

    1998 LLB Certificate of Appreciation

  • 1993 LL Softball Maine State Tournament Indicator

    1993 LL Softball Maine State Tournament Indicator

  • Umpiring during a pandemic

    Umpiring during a pandemic