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‘I definitely wear it with pride’: Scheurwater representing Saskatchewan in MLB

Umpire Stu Scheurwater speaking to China's team manager, Dean Treanor at World Baseball Classic.
Credit: Canadian Press

Written by: Matt Johnson for Sask Sport

Stu Scheurwater remembers Dec. 21, 2017 vividly.

He was spending his lunch break with his parents, hanging out at their house in his hometown of Regina. A minor league umpire, Scheurwater was keeping busy in his offseason, helping out his father Doug with some work for his electrical contracting business. As an ump, Scheurwater was always advised to have a backup plan — his trade of choice was electrical, just like his father, and he was in the midst of becoming a journeyman electrician.

It was on that afternoon, surrounded by both his mom and dad, that he received a call from Joe Torre, long-time New York Yankees manager and now MLB executive vice president of baseball operations, and Mike McKendry, MLB vice president of umpire operations, that forever changed his life.

After 11 years in the minor leagues, Scheurwater was told he would become one of 76 full-time umpires in the MLB.

“To have them experience that call — a life changing call for me, was pretty cool,” said Scheurwater.

Those 11 years weren’t easy. After beginning his foray into professional baseball in 2007, he did his fair share of hopping around — Gulf Coast League, the Arizona League, the Northwest League, the South Atlantic League, the Carolina League, the Arizona Instructional League, the Texas League, the Pacific Coast League and Arizona Fall League.

The long nights in league-rented minivans. The 15-hour drives from Springfield, Missouri to Corpus Christi, Texas with crew members trading off roles behind the wheel, guiding through highways in the middle of the night in order to get to their game on time the next day. Those are days and nights Scheurwater is certainly happy he’s done with.

“Every day of the year was a grind,” said Scheurwater.

For the last six of those 11 seasons, he had the taste of the MLB. The bright lights of big league ballparks, the jam-packed bleachers. Yet those years were arguably the most difficult. Walking on eggshells, every game was an audition. An opportunity to show he belonged.

“You didn’t want to ever screw up. That could be the end of your journey,” said Scheurwater.

With only 76 full-time positions, opportunities were not plentiful. Typically, one position would make itself available each offseason, and usually only thanks to a retirement. Despite this, and his backup plan, Scheurwater was committed. It was a dream he needed to see through.

“Every day you walk on that field, it’s still something else, man. It’s something that I’m definitely fortunate enough to get the opportunity to do — to be an umpire as my career. There’s no doubt about it.”

Stu Scheurwater

“You just have to give it your all and just keep grinding until your name is called. Fortunately, mine was,” said Scheurwater.

After taking that call on a Thursday afternoon, he drove across the city and broke the news to his wife Daniella. With the promotion figuring to soon break on social media, he wanted to deliver the news face-to-face, before hearing it through Twitter — a memory Scheurwater acknowledges is still certainly a vivid one.

The husband and wife agreed that he needed to be told he wasn’t reaching the big leagues, and the end of the journey wouldn’t be the two of them deciding it was time to give up on the dream. The decision would have to be made for them. In an eight-month span, they would typically only see each other once during minor league all-star break for a few days, before Scheurwater would fly back south to complete his season.

His appointment to the MLB was every bit Daniella’s dream as his own.

“She was in it for the long haul. She’s always been my number-one fan. She’s very career driven as well, so she knows what it takes to get what you want,” said Scheurwater.

“For her to grind through the minor leagues, just like I did — it’s not just me, there’s no doubt about it — to get there and say, ‘We finally made it’ was definitely sweet.”

While he’s now been in the major leagues on a full-time basis since the 2018 season — Scheurwater still remembers his firsts. His first MLB Postseason assignment in the Divisional Series. His first-career MLB game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles back in 2014. His first ejection. And of course, Opening Day at Chase Field in Phoenix in 2018.

“Working up to the big leagues I had 250+ games [in the Major League] before that, so was it another game? Yes. But it had a lot more meaning,” said Scheurwater. “My parents flew out for it. They’d been to games of mine before, but [for them] to be at that first official game on Opening Day was pretty cool.”

In a sense, Scheurwater is a trailblazer — a Saskatchewan one at that.

He’s currently the only Canadian among the 76 full-time umpires and is believed to be one of only three Canadian umpires ever at the MLB level. He’s also the only MLB umpire to ever hail from Saskatchewan.

“It’s really cool. I definitely wear it with pride. Being born in Saskatoon and raised in Regina since I was four-years-old — my foundation was built here in Saskatchewan. All my tools [as an umpire] were all developed here,” Scheurwater said, who played for the Regina Prairie Thunder of the Canadian Junior Football League.

“It started with clinics in Regina — all of that represents our programs like Baseball Sask and Baseball Canada have to offer. They’ve given me the tools to build the right foundation and to run with it.”

Regina remains home for Scheurwater and his wife. It’s where he spends his offseason and where he typically spends his four scheduled weeks of vacation during the MLB season. In a given year, he typically works between 120-130 regular-season games, plus 15-20 spring training games, then if lucky, the postseason. In 2023, he worked his first World Baseball Classic, where flew to Japan for group stage action.

Despite the long, gruelling season and the stress of perfection that comes with the profession hanging overhead, this is still a dream come true.

“Every day you walk on that field, it’s still something else, man. It’s something that I’m definitely fortunate enough to get the opportunity to do — to be an umpire as my career. There’s no doubt about it.”