Joe Bill Davis named Missouri Umpire of the Year

Tuesday, April 18, 2017
In this June 20, 2013 file photo, umpire Joe Bill Davis calls a runner safe during an American Legion baseball game between Sikeston and Poplar Bluff at VFW Memorial Stadium in Sikeston. Davis was named the Missouri Umpire of the Year by the National Federation of High School Officials Association. (Brent Shipman, Staff)

SIKESTON, Mo. -- Officials on any stage are expected to be fair, honest and knowledgable about the sport they are covering. For many coaches and athletic directors around the area, high school official Joe Bill Davis fits that mold, on and off the field, perfectly.

For those reasons and many others, Davis was named the Missouri Umpire of the Year by the National Federation of High School Officials Association.

"It was a shock, exciting and it kind of blew me away," Davis said. "I had to read that letter a couple of times just to be sure. It's just pretty neat."

Davis said he's honored and humbled by the recognition and it has allowed him time to reflect on his officiating career. The most important thing to him is the relationships he's made over the years with coaches, players and colleagues.

"The neatest thing is still being around the sport and being a part of it," Davis said. "I've got a lot of calls and Facebook messages from a lot of people around the area. Some from quite a while back that I haven't talked to in a while. The people I've met through officiating, whether it be coaches or players, the relationships I've formed over the years that's pretty neat. And of course, I've got a lot of partners around here that I've done a lot of umpiring with and that means a lot to me. That's the biggest part -- the people involved."

Davis, who was elected to the Southeast Missouri Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004, has been asked by the Missouri State High School Activities Association to call seven baseball final fours during his officiating tenure. His first trip was in 1988 and his most recent was in 2014.

Although there are many highlights to recount, one moment stood out for the diehard St. Louis Cardinal fan during the 1997 state final four.

"Fort Osage had a kid by the name of Albert Pujols," Davis said. "Of course, I didn't have any idea who he was at the time, but I sure knew he wasn't your average high school player."

Davis has been a fixture for high school sports in southeast Missouri for the better part of four decades. This season marks his 36th year as a baseball, basketball and volleyball official.

"Joe Bill is just a staple for officiating in the area," Charleston athletic director and head baseball coach Michael Minner said. "You always see him on the big games. He's just one of those guys that goes with sports in southeast Missouri. He does a tremendous job."

"Joe has umpired more big games than anybody in southeast Missouri," Notre Dame baseball coach Jeff Graviett added. "Very professional and one of the best around for sure. Well deserved honor."

Many other coaches agree.

"Joe Bill is a model of professionalism and a great example for the SEMO area," Sikeston baseball coach Brett Kolons said. "He works to the best of his ability and does a great job. We're lucky as a region to be able to have him."

Davis is known among area baseball coaches as being a reliable and consistent presence either behind the plate or in the field.

"In my opinion he's consistently one of the best umpires in baseball," Jackson baseball coach Bryan Austin said. "He's the same everyday and as a baseball coach, we want a guy who's reliable and someone who isn't about himself. It's never about him. He's into the game for the kids and always puts that ahead of himself. It's fantastic for him to get this award because it's hard to find quality officials like him. It's a passion of his and, as a baseball coach and I know other coaches do as well, I appreciate the time and sacrifices he's made. He's done a fantastic job for our area."

"He's one of those guys that you never have to question whether or not he's being fair," Minner said. "You know when he shows up, you've got a pretty good official that day because he's put in a lot of time and he loves the game and loves being around the kids and does so much good. What a solid honor for him that speaks volumes for him and a lot for our area that has guys who do a great job."

Minner praised Davis from an athletic director's standpoint as well. He said no matter when it's scheduled or what else may come up, Davis will be there. Other AD's completely agreed and added that he's an exceptional example for other officials.

"He is always very professional and reliable in dealing with school personnel, coaches and fans," Sikeston athletic director Andy McGill said. "He is a positive role model for younger umpires. He also respects everyone involved with the game and promotes good sportsmanship... It's a well-deserved award to recognize Joe Bill."

Davis, who is a station manager at Withers Broadcasting, said he has no immediate plans to retire from officiating.

"I'm still enjoying it," Davis said. "I feel good, nothing hurts. I've been very fortunate, heath-wise. So, right now, I don't have any plans of giving it up."

That's good news for a lot of coaches to hear.

"I'm proud to call Joe Bill a friend and I know that we're going to try to get a few more years out of him," Minner said. "We'll certainly continue to use him. He's fun to be around and we're thankful to have him in our area."

Davis will receive the Umpire of the Year award June 3 prior to the Class 5 state championship game at T.R. Hughes Ballpark in O'Fallon, Mo.

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