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Dick Rushin: 10/10/1942 – 3/2/2015

Dick Rushin passed away Monday at the age of 72.

Nearly everyone who entered into the world of high school baseball in Broward County over the past few decades crossed paths with former Broward County Umpire Commissioner Dick Rushin. This devoted baseball lifer has long been the backbone behind baseball played in the county.

On Monday, Rushin passed away at the age of 72. Shortly after the news broke, there was an outpouring of emotion from those who Rushin touched through the years in the Broward baseball community.

“He was really a fine man,” Coral Springs Manager Frank Bumbales said. “He was a great guy for the sport, and just very dedicated to his position there as Commissioner. Through baseball we were friends. He was always present, accommodating, and just the nicest guy to be around. It was always a pleasure to have him come here for the games, even if he wasn’t umping. He lived right down the street and he spent a lot of time here. They would have their meetings here and he was more than welcome here. He was always a good guy, and I am sad to see him go. He’s going to be missed, that’s for sure.”

Dick Rushin was a man of passion, easy to talk to and easy to laugh with. He loved baseball and he devoted himself to making baseball great for the kids in Broward County. He was deeply informed when it came to the rules and interpretation, and when it came to baseball he always knew what the right call was. Even as health issues mounted, he attended clinics and other meetings to stay informed with the constant changes to high school baseball criteria.

“He was the face of baseball here in the county for about 35 years,” Nova Manager Pat McQuaid said. “He has been in charge of umpires for the BCAA for about 15 years and he was an umpire for another 15-20. He was always involved in the youth baseball. It is a big loss to the community. He was always a family man. He was always about the kids and he loved being at the fields.”

One of Rushin’s best friends is John Poropat, his longtime assistant who handled scheduling the JV games when Dick was in charge of assigning umpires. Poropat came to Florida from Chicago, and after attending a baseball game he inquired how he could continue an umpire career he began back in the Windy City. That led him to Dick Rushin, who got him back into umpiring high school baseball and who has been his friend ever since.

“He was the greatest person I ever met beside my wife,” Poropat said. “He was a great man. I lost my wife January 18th, so I lost the two people who were dearest to me, my wife and Dick Rushin. I can’t explain what it’s like to lose two people like that in a span of two months. It’s too much to comprehend. I enjoyed working with him, and he was just a great individual, a great man. I don’t know how to explain it any better than that. He was a dear friend of mine and I’ll remember him until the day I die.”

HSBN says ooodbye to a dear and loyal friend in Dick Rushin.

Between the lines he was the guy coaches hoped would be behind the plate calling the big game. He knew his stuff, he had fun and he made sure the kids enjoyed playing the game the right way.

“I learned a lot about how to talk to an umpire from Dick,” Cypress Bay Manager Paul Liotti said. “He helped me be a better coach by the way he umpired a game. He was always passionate and had integrity for the game and a genuine care for the young men.”

His influence to his peers among the umpire community was much stronger. Umpire Steve House knows that his story is a common one for most umpires, when he came to the county and became involved with baseball he inevitably crossed paths with Dick.

“He touched so many people, and I guess my story is common,” House said. “I was coaching in the Tamarac Little League, and back then the coaches had to umpire the games. Somebody said that they thought I was pretty good at it, and they told me to give this guy a call so I could get paid for it. That guy was Dick Rushin, and he gave me a chance the next day. That was 25 years ago, and I switched from coaching to being an umpire ever since.”

For fellow umpire Jay Cohen, that path was about the same. Coming from New Jersey 11 years ago, the FHSAA referred Cohen to Dick Rushin, and a great business relationship and even greater friendship was born. Cohen and Rushin learned they have birthdays just a week apart, and for the past seven years they have taken turn buying one another lunch on their birthday, and also getting the favor returned.

“From day one he has been an absolutely fantastic guy,” Cohen said. “He really helped me down here about getting into the organization, meeting people, getting better, and getting games. It was a real pleasure to work with him. He was just one in a million and you don’t find too many people like him.”

With heavy hearts, House and Cohen worked a baseball game between Deerfield Beach and Piper on Monday night. Feeling that their former boss just may be looking down on them, the two took extra pride in doing the job together.

“It was hard to do a good job tonight,” Cohen said. “We had a minute of silence in honor of Dick, and there wasn’t a peep in the house. He was a friend and he was a great guy. Guys like that don’t come around too often.”

Everyone in the HSBN family had the chance to work and be close with Dick too. He was the guy making sure every HSBN league and tournament game had umpires, and he worked tirelessly through South Florida’s toughest time of year as the head of the HSBN Umpire’s Association. Although the HSBN staff bonded with Rushin in many different ways.

“On a daily basis I would be on the phone with Dick discussing the rainouts and other disasters that the South Florida summer weather gave us,” said HSBN’s Rick Duteau. “We vented together, we helped each other and we shared many laughs through the struggles. Towards the end of the summer I got a chance to sit and watch a game with Dick. He was often out to Coral Springs to enjoy a game, and we typically sat for a while to chat and enjoy each other’s company. One thing that stood out to me was talking about the U.S.S. Alabama I had recently seen in Mobile, Alabama. Dick had a lot of history with this ship that he shared with me, sharing another piece from a great life with me. I will forever be grateful that the last time I saw Dick Rushin I was able to tell him how much I appreciate him and how much I think of him.”

HSBN Vice-President and Director of Operations Anthony Uttariello also recalled Rushin fondly.

“He was the umpire on the field the day I broke the stolen base record as a senior at Coral Springs 23 years ago, and I’ll never forget how humble he was in congratulating me,” said Uttariello. “Then, fate had it that I worked with him closely as the head of our umpire association decades later. He was a special man, and was as dedicated to his line of work as anyone I have ever been associated with.”

Umpires across Broward County have been a strong, positive reflection of the standard set by Dick Rushin.

This past year, Shaun Lancaster took over for Rushin as the head of the BBUA, and has the impossible task of following in Rushin’s footsteps of scheduling games for the county.

“Dick was a very good umpire,” said Lancaster. “The leader of the Broward Baseball Umpires Association for nearly 20 years, and more importantly, had the admiration and respect of hundreds and hundreds of umpires that came through the doors of the BBUA. He will be sorely missed.”

Rushin is survived by his wife, Rose, his son, Ryan, and his daughters, Marcie Batcheller, Debbie Wolff, and Lisa Viles.

For anyone in the Broward baseball community that would like to pay their respects to Rushin, the Coral Springs Colts have prepared a memorial service to honor Rushin at their home field on Friday night at 7 P.M.

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