Tonya Ribalkin Zanon
Hometown: Calgary, Alberta
Level: 5 & ISF Certified
Status: Active for 24 Years but last year no on-field as I was pregnant
First Year As An Umpire: 1991 - Age 13
Where Did You Start Umpring: North Vancouver, BC
Why Did You Start Umpring: I had made the choice to stop playing house ball
the year before and after basketball season ended, I was looking for another
team sport. My father, John Ribalkin, asked if I wanted to umpire and at that
time my view of an umpire was an older, heavier-set male, who gets yelled at,
so I told him ‘No’. At the time I was grounded and my Dad made the decision
for me. He needed me out of the house and had signed me up for the
weekend clinic. This clinic was taught by Bill Watson, one of my first mentors.
Why Do You Keep Umpiring: At first, I kept umpiring because it was something
my Dad and I did together and it was a way for me to earn spending money
through high school. Later, I worked my first provincial in 1995 under the
guidance of George Harding (UIC) with Jackie Dugger as the Softball BC rep.
They took me aside and spoke to me about the opportunities available in the
sport and that they felt I had the skills to get to a Canadian Championship and
potentially an international level if I strived and worked for it. They also
mentioned softball in the Olympics, which was debuting the next year in
Atlanta. Basically, the candle was lit!
What Has Umpiring Taught You: Umpiring has taught me perseverance,
how to stand tall, to see things from varying perspectives, and how to work
hard and diligently. It helped give me confidence when I was a teenager and,
most importantly, has given me life-long friendships. I also learned how to iron
and polish shoes (remember those old rapier shirts?).
Who Taught You The Most: My father. Without him, I wouldn’t be an umpire. We are each other’s biggest supporters, while being each other’s worst (best) critics. Along with my Dad, I have had many mentors over the years that have guided and assisted me. There are countless individuals who have done so much for me, for which I am extremely thankful.
Most Memorable Call: This is a tough one. Right now, I would say it was a call I made on third base at the Junior Women’s World Championships during which the game was tied 0-0 and the Japanese were gaining momentum on the Americans. Japan had a runner on one, with a long hit to the outfield. The runner rounded second, continued to third and slid into the bag, beating the throw. The runner then over slid and as she scrambled back to the bag, the third baseman twisted and tagged her hand right before it hit the bag. I had a great view of the play (the third baseman made an incredible move), called her out and then watched the USA hit a grand slam the next inning. The call itself was not a ‘big’ call, though was probably the closest one of the game and from then on the shifting momentum for the USA (who won 4-0) is what makes it memorable.
Most Memorable Ejection: I haven’t had many ejections recently – remember to work to keep people in the game, which often is done by diffusing situations before they happen. But, don’t be scared to eject. Players, coaches and managers eject themselves, we just let them know when they have done it.
Here is a favourite when I was on the field: My Dad and I were working a district play down in West Vancouver, in the mid 1990’s. My Dad was on bases and had called a player out for rounding first on a ball four and then jumping back and forth trying to draw a throw from the pitcher (lead-off). The coach was not pleased and went up one side of my Dad, tried to go down the other, didn’t make it after a few expletives and was thrown out. I was there to assist the coach in leaving the field and being that he was so livid and kept trying to go back after my Dad, I had to walk him towards the gate. He asked me if he called the head umpire if he could get back in the game (essentially overrule my Dad). I told him that he was welcome to call him and discuss his concerns and gave him the number of the UIC. The coach then asked if I knew if the head UIC was umpiring that night as he knew that the *!&% umpire who just threw him out was in the wrong. I told the coach that he could try to call him but that he wouldn’t get a hold of him as he was the umpire that had just thrown him out (I did bait a little – not a good thing!). The coach proceeded to call me a few names and as I went to walk away, he asked if the head UIC had an assistant, because he was going to call him and give him a piece of his mind. I told him that I would gladly give him their phone number, but that I knew they weren’t available as she was walking him off the field at that moment. He swore a few more times and watched the remainder of the game from his car in the parking lot.
Funniest Thing Said To You By A Coach, Player or Fan:
Coach: Working third base. “Blue, be aware she pulls the ball this way.” Next pitch, the batter hits the ball straight for my head. Coach: “Bet you’re glad I was here to help you.” Next play, an out on third. Coach: “That’s it, I’m not helping you anymore.”
Player: “Hey pitch, ask her out, she might widen her zone for you.”
Fan: I had a fan berating me for the majority of a game and as I walked off the field I went to hand them my mask. He shrugged in horror and said “I don’t want to put up with a$$holes like myself.”
Favourite Moment In Umpiring: Being introduced with my Dad at a game at the Canadian Open where he was working the plate and I was working second. “For the first time in international play, we have a father and daughter working together.” The ensuing aftermath where my Dad earned the nickname ‘Dusty’ is best told by Aaron Poulin (who never actually witnessed the events).
Canadian Championships Officiated: Midget Girls, 2000; Junior Women’s 2002; Senior Women’s 2003 & 2005.
International Tournaments: Many Canada Cups and Canadian Opens, World Games Kaosiung, Taiwan 2009, World Cup of Softball Oklahoma, 2010, Junior Women’s World Championships Cape Town, 2011.
Favourite Place to Umpire: A field with a dressing room.
Most Unusual Umpiring Experience: Being asked for my autograph in Taiwan after working the final plate.
A Piece of Advice For Those Beginning: Find a few mentors whose game you admire. Work with them and listen to their advice. Learn which advice to adhere to, which to throw out, and which to keep in your back pocket. Have fun!
A Piece of Advice for Those In The Middle: Continue with mentors, they are invaluable. Work with new ones as well. Don’t get stagnant, always work at your game. Look at ways you can give back to the game, perhaps by mentoring a new official. Have fun!
A Piece of Advice for Those Approaching The End: Enjoy all the moments and continue to work at your game. There is always something we can improve on.
Top: Tonya at the Canadian Open in 2011 with her father, John "Dusty" Ribalkin
Bottom: Tonya in action at the World Cup of Softball in Oklahoma in 2010.Ron