Mark Luther makes a point of keeping the programs from baseball tournaments he umpires.
A member of the North Dakota American Legion Baseball Hall of Fame, Luther has seen an array of talented ballplayers in his 35 years manning the basepaths.
The programs serve as a reference and allow him to keep an eye on the careers of countless players he has seen at the youth, prep, college and semi-professional levels.
Minot Umpires Association member Scott Collins signals an out at home plate in a 2011 American Legion state tournament game in Bismarck. Photo courtesy of The Bismarck Tribune.
Luther's list of players to track will grow this year after he works the 13-year-old Babe Ruth World Series in Williston. Luther, 57, will join Scott Collins as the two members of the Minot Umpires Association selected to work the first national tournament in Williston since 2003.
The tournament will run Aug. 17-24 and host eight regional champions from around the country, the North Dakota state champion and Williston's team.
Luther umpired the 2003 tournament and will be making his third appearance at a Babe Ruth World Series. Collins is making his debut.
"Some of the kids that stand out, you track them as far as their careers go," Luther said.
Luther remembers a team from Baton Rouge, La., competing in the 2003 World Series. He said the team came from a parish that had recently experienced flooding and the players' trip to Williston had been in doubt.
"Six to eight kids on that team were either drafted or (Division I) kids," Luther said. "Even as 15-year-olds you can gauge them on ability if they're throwing 70s to 80s."
Luther and Collins, 44, listed the facilities in Williston as another perk to being selected. Luther described Ardean Aafedt Stadium as one of the best facilities in the upper-Midwest and likened it to reputable minor league ballparks.
"It's always a nice field, but when they get a tournament like that ... even the teams that come in, you watch them react and it's kind of an eye opener for them," Luther said.
Williston Baseball and Williston Parks and Recreation will put nearly $350,000 in upgrades to Aafedt Stadium and Grondahl Field prior to the World Series, according to the event's website.
"North Dakota always seems to do a nice job putting on regional and national tournaments," said Collins, who has umpired for 15 years and worked a U-19 regional tournament. "It's gonna be really fun. It's always neat to be able to do something one step further. It's a big deal."
Collins said host cities are guaranteed at least a couple of area umpires and he and Luther applied for the spots.
Luther is looking forward to the high level of baseball and maybe seeing a few more reactions from first-time visitors to western North Dakota. One reaction he remembers was that of a Babe Ruth official from New Jersey.
"He told the story of how he got off the plane in Minot and was making the trip," Luther said. "We're driving from Minot to Williston and everything is brown and wheat fields ... He said he walked in (Aafedt Stadium) and said, 'This is the most beautiful sight of green I've ever seen in my life.' "