Who was Steve Austin, and why does he need a memorial?
Born and raised in West Michigan, Steven J Austin was a man with a passion for service to his country, his community, the youth sports community and the close knit family of baseball and softball sports officials in Michigan.
Steve served in the United States Marine Corps and later as a clerk for the United States Postal Service – a career which lasted more than 40 years. He gave his time generously to his co-workers and enthusiastically held several different union positions over the decades. He served the communities in which he lived as part of several Jaycees chapters in West Michigan. Even as his family grew, he always found a way to give his time and efforts when needed. The father of a large blended family, Steve also made time to coach, to serve as board member and executive board member for many of the sports in which his children participated. He also served as a leader in a local Scout troop and as a volunteer for the area’s community television station.
Steve found his true calling when he began to umpire youth baseball and softball in 1999. The next few years, he became involved in several sports official associations, working hard to improve his skills and become a top notch official. He umpired all levels of play from youth to college ball, sometimes traveling across the states to umpire games. He then served as a board member on these same associations and became one of the area umpire-trainers.
When Gil Thompson of One Ten Sports came knocking, he knew he had a once in a lifetime chance to really make a difference. As an Umpire in Chief for the organization, Steve had an opportunity to help gather a West Michigan corps of youth sports officials like no other. He challenged topnotch officials with whom he’d served over the years to become even better and serve a youth program which brings in millions of dollars to the West Michigan economy (as teams and their families travel from all over to stay in the area and play baseball). He, along with his umpire associates, succeeded, but it wasn’t quite enough for Steve. He wanted to see more officials get training and become involved. His family and his umpire associates would often hear him lament that the cost of becoming a sports official keeps new people from joining, and he strove to find ways to help bring new people into the sport.
When he was diagnosed with cancer, Steve rose to the challenge gracefully. Rarely missing a beat, he dealt with his illness with few complaints; he served on the field as long as he could physically, and then off the field until his passing in the fall of 2018. He lived long enough to see the start of this grant program take shape, and to personally award the first Steve Austin Umpire of the Year award, passing on the torch of his passion for excellence to those who respected and admired his service to the legion of sports officials in the area.
This memorial fund, which his family and sports official friends have started in Steve’s honor, will help new officials with funds for training and equipment needed to serve the youth programs as an umpire for baseball or softball. By supporting this cause, we’ll be following through on Steve’s passion to make a difference here in Michigan communities which benefit from these youth programs.
We hope you’ll join us in supporting the Steve Austin Memorial Fund. You can make a donation directly, become a sponsor, or support the fund by coming out to the ballpark and enjoying a great day of baseball.