Mang: Valley has terrific athletes — and officials

By Greg Gulas

The longtime official owes his success to those who came before him.

BOARDMAN – After spending 44 years as an umpire, referee and assigner, John Mang is well-qualified to speak about the rich athletic tradition that has been forged in the Mahoning Valley.

A noted official in football, baseball, basketball and volleyball, the Youngstown native addressed the weekly Curbstone Coaches meeting by recalling the past, then calling out those who had the greatest influence upon his career.

He also noted to those in attendance at the Blue Wolf Banquet Center that while the aforementioned games and players have changed over the years, the integrity of the men in blue and those proudly wearing the stripes has never been compromised.

“There have been many great athletes to come out of this area and I have been very fortunate to be able to witness first-hand their many exploits on the field of play. There have also been many great umpires and referees from the Valley and they too, should be commended for their efforts as well,” Mang said.

“Those who were influential in my officiating career include Tony Vivo in both fast-pitch and slow-pitch softball, Bill Sferra and Jim Dellick in fast-pitch softball and Tom Holden on the slow-pitch diamonds.

“They always had time for me. I hope that over the years what I learned form them I was able to pass on to the young officials, and those just starting out in the ranks,” he added.

Mang served as commissioner of the Tri-County League for eight years and is an assistant commissioner for both the Inter Tri-County League and Federal League. Making sure that all officials are assigned to the right game, arriving at the right time and reporting to the right place can be a daunting task.

“With 24 schools between the ITCL and Federal League there are times that I might need to have 60 officials scheduled on a given night. It can become a real task getting everyone in place,” he noted.

He has served as both president and vice-president of the Youngstown Football Association, Mahoning Valley Basketball Association and Metro Umpires Association. He is a past rules interpreter for the YFA.

The biggest change over the years has been in the scheduling of officials. No longer is it done by paper, pen and a phone call, but the computer and modern technology has taken over when assignments are to be made.

“There are over 900 licensed officials in my data base and not every official has embraced the move to electronic assignments. In fact, some have quit associations altogether rather than be bothered with figuring out a computer for receiving their assignments,” he noted.

He credits Frank Susor for taking him under his wing during his early umpiring days, also noting that Ray Holliday, Ed Gawron, Dutch Miller and Bernie Profato always had time for him when he had questions and needed help.

Working with Al Meyer and Mike Butch, the former and current Steel Valley Conference commissioners, as well as John Davis and Fred Vicarel has also been great for he has received from all four individuals both solicited and unsolicited advice.

The best advice he ever received, however, came from Vicarel. “He told me that silence is unrepeatable. When you don’t say anything, then you cannot be quoted,” Mang noted.

With an almost 50 percent turnover rate in umpires and officials, finding good ones or young hopefuls with the dedication needed in order to advance can be discouraging at times.

Next week, John Caparanis, sports director of WBBW-AM, 1240 “The Fan” will serve as guest speaker.

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