“Strike three — batter’s out!”
Houma native George Bergeron has “rung up” many Little League batters in his dozen-plus years as a volunteer umpire. While he enjoys watching his favorite sport from behind the plate, he has done his best work making calls from a coach’s point of view.
“I always taught my teams that it’s not always about winning,” George says. “If we lost, I would teach the kids that they still won if they learned something from the experience. It’s all about the attitude toward the game.”
George’s positive attitude extends beyond the baseball field and has touched the lives of countless kids seeking a mentor — often a father figure — to look up to. When not marking the fields at the Westside Softball Complex in Houma, volunteering as a weigh master for benefit fishing rodeos or cooking a meal for the Terrebonne High School football team, George spends his time at Vision Christian Center in Bourg ministering to kids, many of whom attend because they want to hear his stories.
“I accepted the Lord over 30 years ago, and God really put in my heart to work with kids,” George says. “I have always encouraged kids to do better. I support them, especially in sports, because I believe it keeps them off the streets.”
From an early age, George learned the value of a great life lesson: you reap what you sow. When a friend needed help coaching a team, he was there. When a benefit tournament needed an umpire to call a full day of games to support a cancer patient, he was there. When his country needed him to serve for the Vietnam War, he was there — no matter what the cost.
“During my tour in Vietnam, there was a soldier who went berserk and hit me in the head with a big cooking pot,” George remembers. “I wound up in the hospital with a concussion for a couple of weeks.”
Upon release, George was reassigned to a position that required him to organize rations and supplies. He took it upon himself to build shelving units, thereby increasing the efficiency of the facility — a job that hadn’t been asked of him.
“I wound up with the Bronze Star because I went beyond the call of duty,” George says.
The giving spirit always defined the 69-year-old’s character, but one September night six years ago forced him to reverse roles. For once in his life, George was the one in need of what he could only receive from others — prayers and support.
“We were coming back from a football game in New Iberia,” George remembers. “I had been filming footage for coaches at Terrebonne High. We got hit head-on by a drunk driver in front of Ellendale, and we all ended up in hospitals. We survived by the grace of God.”
George was traveling with his daughter, granddaughter and two other girls who had served as water girls at the football game. While all passengers sustained injuries, George had 11 broken ribs. Every bone in his right foot was broken. Both his back and neck were damaged.
“When I was in that wreck, I got boxes full of cards that the kids made for me,” George says. “A softball team put on a carwash to try and help me out. So many others donated. I didn’t look for none of it, but it meant so much. It look about a year before I got back into umpiring again, but they couldn’t keep me away.”
These days, George is doing more than ever. Retired from his career as a shipfitter and boat captain, he spends his extra time on a mower cutting local ball fields “so coaches and teachers don’t have to get out of school and do it.” Occasionally, he puts on his blue uniform and calls a few games. To encourage student-athletes to excel both on and off the field, annually he gives a $500 scholarship to a softball and baseball player from Terrebonne High School.
“It’s always been about the kids,” George says. “I believe that when you give, it’s going to come back. What you sow, you reap.”
A home run attitude indeed. POV