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GUEST COLUMN: Anderson County native Howard Sullivan was a unique official that everybody liked

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By Larry Vaught

Danville Advocate-Messenger

Being a basketball official or baseball umpire normally is a thankless job. Ask anyone who has ever officiated.
However, Howard Sullivan of Mercer County was unique. He was an official/umpire that everyone liked.

“Even when you didn’t agree with him, it was hard to be mad. He was that likeable,” said former Danville and Boyle County baseball coach David Camic.

Sullivan, 64, lost a battle with lung disease recently. His funeral was July 8 with burial in the Spring Hill Cemetery and I know there were numerous coaches and officials there to pay a final respect to Sullivan.

Boyle County High School principal Will Begley is president of the Lake Cumberland Umpires Association — and proud to call Sullivan a friend. He refers to him as a “great man” that will be missed.

"Howard had a knack for relating to coaches and players,” Begley said. “He truly loved being involved in the game of baseball and got me started 20 years ago. I worked over 100 games with him and was honored to work with him during his last game in 2009. 

“He told me every time I saw him since that he missed it. I can assure you that area baseball misses him more."

Sullivan, an Anderson County native, loved getting others involved in the work he loved. That’s why he spent over 25 years as an official and umpire.

He was good at the jobs he loved. In 2009, he was named the 12th Region umpire of the year. He was also the first — and still the only — umpire from the 12th Region inducted into the Kentucky High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. That honor also came his way in 2009

“He worked 23 district tournaments, 21 regional tournaments, three semi-state tournaments and the KHSAA state baseball Tournament in 1996,” Begley said.

Sullivan, a Kentucky Utilities transmission supervisor, normally had a smile on his face during games. Camic doesn’t think he ever had to eject a coach from a game. Instead, he went out of his way to listen to any coach who disagreed with his call — and often gave the coach a pat on the back after hearing all the coach had to say.

“I remember one time when he called my catcher out on strikes,” Camic said. “When he went back out behind the plate, Howard told him he was sorry (for calling him out). The kid couldn’t believe it. But that was Howard.”

Yes, that was Sullivan, a deacon at Burgin Christian Church. The No Muffins Sunday School class at the church served as honorary pallbearers today at his service.

If you were ever touched by Sullivan, you can make a memorial contribution to Heritage Hospice, POB 1213, Danville, Ky., 40423 or the Burgin Christian Church, 300 West Main Street, Burgin, Ky., 40310, in his honor.

Or even better, just remember this kind, unique man when you are at a game and maybe disagree with an official. Instead of yelling, just think of Sullivan and no matter how bad the call might have been, you’ll smile.

(This column appeared in the Danville Advocate-Messenger on July 8. It is reprinted with permission.)