By the time she was 9 years old, Isabel Graham had earned a black belt in mixed martial arts and, with a younger brother around, has always enjoyed being in charge.
So it seemed like a natural fit when she began umpiring in Arlington Little League earlier this season.
Out of an officiating roster of dozens of teenagers and a handful of adults, Graham is currently the only female ump in the league. (An older female umpire is out with an injury.)
But the 14-year-old Graham, an eighth-grader at St. Thomas More Cathedral School, said that her gender has never been an issue for anyone as she takes charge of games at the AAA and Majors levels for children up to the age of 12.
“At this age the players don’t actually know that it’s different, so they treat me like anyone else,” she said before a recent game at Fort Scott Park. “The only people who know it’s different are the parents, so the moms always give me a smile.”
Graham combines her umpiring with playing travel softball for Arlington Sage, and also plays basketball during the winter. She was introduced to umpiring by her friend and St. Thomas More classmate Nicolas Lopez-Riveira, now in his third season overseeing Little League games.
And she seems to have taken to the umpiring quickly. She said it is very similar to playing catcher on her softball team, as she is in charge and sees a lot of action behind home plate.
“It’s exciting, but I guess I’ve seen her in so many things where if she’s not in charge, she’s at least constantly aware of what’s going on,” said her father Michael Graham. “I’m not surprised that she enjoys it, mostly because of the interest in softball and baseball. I’m glad that she’s doing it.”
To become an umpire, Isabel Graham went through training on the rules of the game and how to handle situations on the field. League umpire-in-chief Steve Sundbeck said he has approximately 65 teenagers and seven adults, including himself, that umpire. The league has approximately 1,500 children as young as 4 that play baseball.
Sundbeck said he looks to use the training program to teach new umpires good sportsmanship and confidence, something that is helped by a league culture in Arlington that emphasizes earning respect and doing your best, regardless of age.
“It really is a matter of doing the best job you can in the first place, because they’ll know when you’re getting lazy and not getting in position,” Sundbeck said. “And you just know what to ignore and what to call out that you’re not putting up with. We try to teach them the rubric.”
And while Isabel Graham said she gets nervous before games start, once the batter settles into the box, it feels natural.
“They’re really just trying to have fun, and they often don’t understand what’s happening, they just want to get out there and play,” she said. “I don’t think there’s that much pressure. Mostly I’m just pressuring myself. I’ll always think I’ll make mistakes, but I’ll have to get over it.”
Isabel Graham will start at Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria in the fall and said she hopes to continue umpiring and maybe move up to the 50/70 level, the highest in Arlington Little League.
“She’s always been a fairly focused, confident kid and loves all things baseball as well as being in charge,” said Michael Graham. “So being an umpire seems to be a really good fit for her personality and interest in sports. Whether she’s the only girl or the first girl to do anything has never really been of concern to her.”
County Board Debate Preaches to Choir — Arlington County Board candidates Libby Garvey and Erik Gutshall participated in a debate Sunday night. Reported the Washington Post: “Nearly all the 50 people in the Campbell Elementary School audience Sunday night were campaign workers or committed supporters for each candidate.” In a new line of attack, Gutshall criticized Garvey for a $250 donation from a real estate developer she accepted in 2011. [Washington Post, Blue Virginia]
Campaign Criticism Prompts Reactions — Supporters of County Board candidate Erik Gutshall have penned a joint statement defending some of his attacks on Libby Garvey as substantive policy issues. However, there appears to be something of a backlash to two of Gutshall’s campaign mailers — at least among those who write letters to the Sun Gazette. County Board member Christian Dorsey, meanwhile, has published a statement on what he says is a “mischaracterization” of Garvey’s (and thus, the Board’s) record. [Blue Virginia, InsideNova, Facebook]
Elementary School’s Satellite Located — Two students from Morehead State University have located the “Cubesat” satellite created by students at St. Thomas More Elementary School in Arlington. The satellite was launched into orbit from the International Space Station but, for a few weeks, nobody was able to make contact with it. [Daily Independent]
Update on Rescued Baby Ducks — The six ducklings rescued from an Arlington storm drain are doing well and are undergoing rehabilitation, with the goal of being released back into the wild in a couple of months. [Washington Post]
Clarendon Co-Working Space Filling Up Fast — The new 40,000 square foot MakeOffices co-working space in Clarendon is more than half full already and is expected to be sold out by early July. The location, just across from the Clarendon Metro station, is the Arlington-based company’s tenth, but has been deemed its new flagship location. [Bisnow]
Nauck Profiled in WaPo — The Washington Post real estate section has profiled Arlington’s Nauck neighborhood, noting that “affordability is a major selling point in Nauck, where about half of current listings are priced under $500,000.” [Washington Post]
Photo by Jackie Friedman
Elementary School’s Satellite Launches — A “CubeSat” satellite built by students at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington was launched from the International Space Station yesterday. It’s the first time an elementary school CubeSat has been deployed into space. [CBS News, The Register, Twitter]
ConnectArlington Program Makes New Connection — Arlington County’s ConnectArlington fiber optic network is getting access to a collaborative research network of universities, industries and government agencies via the University of Maryland’s Mid-Atlantic Crossroads access point. The move is expected to help with economic development in Arlington. [Arlington County]
Shirlington Restaurant Investigated — The U.S. Dept. of Labor is reportedly investigating labor law violations at Aroma Indian Cuisine restaurant in Shirlington. [Patch]
County Apologizes for Political Facebook Post — Arlington County has taken down and apologized for a Facebook post that some called inappropriate. “No support or endorsement was intended” the county said of the post, which linked to an article about an Arlington County Democratic Committee resolution calling for a change to the Washington Redskins team name. [Facebook]
Arlington to Partner with Nextdoor — The Arlington County Police Department will be holding a press conference Wednesday afternoon to announce a partnership with Nextdoor, a private social network for neighborhoods. The partnership will help “build stronger, safer communities with the help of Arlington residents.” Nextdoor has been criticized recently for becoming “a bastion of racial profiling.”
Bluemont Residents Concerned About Big Ballston Development — The Bluemont Civic Association is expressing concern over a massive proposed development on the western side of the intersection of N. Glebe Road and Wilson Blvd. The development proposal calls for 483 apartments in a building with a grocery store and other ground floor retail. [Curbed]
Arlington-Built Satellite Blasts Off to Space Station — A tiny satellite built by elementary students at St. Thomas More Cathedral School in Arlington is part of the cargo of a rocket that launched into orbit Sunday, bound for the International Space Station. [CBS News, Space.com]
‘Arlington Tech’ School Proposal — The Arlington School Board has signaled that it’s ready to move forward with the establishment of “Arlington Tech,” a high-technology coursework initiative to be located at the Arlington Career Center. [InsideNova]
Anti-Hunger Effort Draws Big Crowd — More than 1,000 people gathered at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center gym over the weekend to put together 100,000 meals for starving children around the world. [NBC Washington]
Arlington’s Official Song Turns 45 — “Arlington,” the official song of Arlington County, recently turned 45 years old. The song was written by a local clergyman and adopted as the county’s official song in 1970 with the encouragement of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf