Umpiring softball games runs so deeply in the DNA of Roger Jennings that his e-mail address includes the word “umpire,” but the "veteran Blue” now has a different and expanded role, starting with the 2022 season.
New owner Kelly Ratcliff has named the personable Jennings as Women’s Director of the Softball Players Association. Jennings will direct the women’s program with assistance from a new and important element of administration – a Women’s Advisory Committee.
The select committee, which will meet at regular intervals throughout the year, will be comprised of several coaches and players to offer input and communication to critique and improve the women’s side of SPA softball.
“I am excited that we’ll be starting the Women’s Advisory Committee,” Jennings said. “I believe this will be a great asset to SPA. I am looking forward to meeting and discussing tournament issues. Every wish isn’t possible, but we can certainly work together to try to improve.”
Jennings started umpiring in 1983 in Fairview, OK, where he played softball two nights a week and umpired three nights a week.
“I became an umpire because I believe that fairness in a game is absolutely necessary to have a good tournament,” he said. “As director, I will have the same outlook . . . to make the women’s game as fair as possible.”
Jennings moved to Arkansas in 1988, and still lives in the Hot Springs area, where he continues to umpire local, regional and national events, following his career as a player that was cut short by injuries.
“I still wanted to be involved in softball because of my love for the game,” he said, thus he’s remained active in umpiring. “I was UIC for SPA for 6 years, then have been filling in for a couple of more.”
Jennings is highly regarded as a rules-specific umpire who has the personality to make the game enjoyable, fun and fair. As director, he plans to encourage any suggestions that will benefit and help SPA “grow” the women’s game, and prioritize needs that would best benefit the over-all program.
“I have always enjoyed working the women’s tournaments,” he said. “I know with the support of the ladies, we can continue to grow and get a great turnout for our tournaments. We will be trying to expand our tournament schedule into more cities, but that will take a little more time.”
In his new position, Jennings will relinquish his UIC role at women’s tournaments, although he expects to continue officiating on the men’s side.
“I will have Moman Bates as the UIC for the women’s program,” Jennings said. “Moman and I have been friends for years, and I trust him completely. I know he will do a great job.”
Jennings hopes to combine the same personable style with his collective awareness of teams and players over the years as he administers the more than 65 active women’s teams playing SPA softball.
"At tournaments, you run across people, personalities, and abilities, both weak and strong," said Joann 'JoJo’ Williams, player representative for the Sho Me women’s association in St. Louis. “But the ones that stay with you are the people with the contagious smile, who offer a hug without hesitation, and send you onto the field with a ‘good luck, and have a great game.’
“Roger loves what he does and it shows. He cares. His is a voice of reason. The ladies count on him to answer questions, provide solutions, and leave them with a smile at the end of the day. Roger and the committee will provide a great opportunity to work together and offer our women the opportunities they deserve.”
As for that e-mail address, it’s: firstname.lastname@example.org. “I welcome any calls or texts to my cell phone – 501-520-7314,” Jennings said.
In an additional statement to the women of SPA, he said, “I am truly excited about this new job that you have trusted me with. I will do everything I can to make you proud to play SPA senior softball. If you ever have anything to discuss, please let me know.
“May God bless each of you every day.”