The greatest compliment an umpire can receive is being chosen to work a state tournament game.
Three area umpires - Donnie Madzia, Lance Jacob and Butch Minkemeyer - will have the chance Thursday at 4 p.m. inside Huntington Park in Columbus for the Division III semifinal baseball game between Orrville (18-11) and Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (28-2).
For Madzia, an administrator in the Harrison Hills School District, this will be his maiden voyage as an umpire, while Jacob has worked a pair of state championship games and five semifinals. Minkemeyer will also be umpiring his first state tournament game in the Buckeye State, but he is a veteran of the West Virginia SSAC high school tournament.
"I'm really excited," Madzia said. "I was scheduled to do a (D-II regional final) game last year at Gant Memorial Stadium in Zanesville, but it was the Harrison Central game. I had to be moved off of that for obvious reasons and I did the Waverly-West Holmes game instead.
"But to get a state tournament game, that's pretty exciting," he added. "They (the OHSAA) emailed me some time ago and asked if I would be interested, and I accepted."
To receive such recognition, umpires are voted on by coaches and the Eastern District Umpires Association.
"This is a huge compliment," Madzia added. "The further you go, the higher level you get to."
He said he got into umpiring 13 years ago because of his love for the game.
"I've always had a passion for baseball," he allowed. "I coached at Cadiz and Harrison Central as an assistant for 17 years under Mike Miller and Mike Saffell.
"I wanted to stay connected to the game I loved, and this was the best way."
He credits his fast rise to fellow arbitrator Jim Little, also from Cadiz.
"I learned an awful lot from Jim," Madzia stressed. "We've worked a lot of high school, American Legion and OVBL games together. He's very professional and knows the rules."
Jacob, a Martins Ferry businessman, agreed with Madzia on getting the call.
"It's very much an honor," he said. "I feel fortunate and am really looking forward to it."
He said the arrangement of all three local guys working the same game is rare.
"That doesn't happen very often," he noted. "They tend to put the district umpires together because they work well together, but you don't see that much at the state level."
Jacob and Minkemeyer are no strangers to each other. They have worked 20-plus years together on the same football refereeing crew. In fact, they worked the Ohio Division IV state championship football game last season between Youngstown Cardinal Mooney and Clarksville Clinton-Massie. Jacob also worked the 2011 Division I title contest in which Cleveland St. Ignatius rolled past Pickerington Central, 34-13, at Canton Fawcett Stadium.
"I'm glad that three local guys are getting to do an Ohio state tournament game," Minkemeyer said. "I'm happy for the other two guys."
North can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org