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Friends helping West into Hall of Fame

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Umpire Joe West calls strike three on Minnesota Twins batter Jason Castro, left, during a game against the Baltimore Orioles in Baltimore on March 29. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Friday, May 4, 2018

Joe West is bound for Oakland, Calif., on Monday to continue his 40th year as a Major League Baseball umpire, but for now he is in Raleigh and soaking in everything that comes with joining the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.

The 1970 J.H. Rose graduate is set to be enshrined during the Hall of Fame’s 55th annual induction banquet at the Raleigh Convention Center. He is one of the 15 members in this class.

“What’s good about this is nobody has died to do it,” West said during a phone interview Thursday afternoon. “Most of the time you don’t get to see old friends except for funerals. I think this is going to be great because there will be a lot of people coming up for it and I’m really excited and look forward to seeing them all.”

The festivities come during a brief time off for the 65-year-old West. His 40 years rank as the longest ever by an MLB umpire, and he has learned to enjoy the grind.

“We work seven weeks on and one week off during the season, so the office just planned this week to be off for me,” he said.

West’s 5,000th game was June 20, 2017, when the Arizona Diamondbacks played at the Colorado Rockies. He has worked more World Series games (34) than any active umpire.

Traveling is a key part of the job and West gets to take in all kinds of sights and experiences, but he said he always enjoys coming to North Carolina and it remains a key part of his roots.

In addition to his younger school years in Greenville, West played a season of football at East Carolina before transferring to Elon College. He was a quarterback at Elon and helped the team win three conference championships and earn national prestige.

“Eastern North Carolina really is home for me,” he said. “I was born in Asheville, but both of my parents were school teachers in the Greenville system.”

West is quick to point out that chief in his eastern North Carolina memories is his role on a 15-year-old Greenville baseball team. He was a catcher on the Greenville Teener League club that finished second in the country.

West said he is especially excited that some of his teammates from that team are planning to be in Raleigh for tonight’s banquet.

“A lot of really good players were a part of that team and that was one of the first times that Greenville was really put on the map as far as a baseball power,” West said.

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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