He stood up as soon as he heard the loud crack of the bat. Gary Neely watched from the stands as the baseball arced high in the air.
“Go ball! Get out!” he shouted.
As the ball cleared the B5 fence at Sea Cloud, he raised his arms and started high-fiving nearby fans while the FCLL supporters cheered wildly. Foster City had just tied Pacifica on a home run blast in the 2014 championship game of District 52’s Tournament of Champions. As the Foster City player trotted around the bases, Gary leaned over and whispered to the families, “As a District 52 umpire, I really shouldn’t be cheering for a specific team… but I can’t help it. I’ve watched all these kids grow up in the league and I’m so proud of ‘em. Each and every one of ‘em.”
Such is the balance that Gary always worked to establish during his 15-year career as Umpire in Chief for Foster City Little League; being an extremely dedicated umpire while at the same time being a huge fan and wanting every kid to succeed.
As an umpire, Gary made sure everyone understood the rules of the game and developed the maturity to accept the results, both good and bad. He regularly ran clinics to train youth umpires and spent many thousands of hours himself umpiring behind the plate and in the field. While serving on the FCLL Board of Directors, he always provided invaluable insight and impartial judgement since he did not have his own kids in the program. Gary was always the voice of reason, often finding balance when it was needed most, and could always be counted upon to be unbiased.
Moreover, what greatly endeared him to the community was his unwavering dedication to supporting the kids. When he wasn't umpiring, he showed his support for the players by watching them from the stands and giving words of encouragement to their family members. Once, while on a family trip to the Philippines, he regularly texted board members to check on the results for FCLL’s district teams. Gary demanded updates after almost every pitch as FCLL battled other peninsula cities in the annual Little League All Star playoffs.
Gary made it a point to continue supporting players even after they finished little league. He often sat with Foster City families in the stands for local high school baseball games -- offering player profiles, statistics and anecdotes about a surprising number of players relating to their little league playing career. He assured many of the FCLL families, “Let me know when your son is slotted to play -- I’m really busy at the office but I will be sure to find time and get out to the game.”
Though Gary stepped down from serving on the FCLL board in 2016, he will forever remain a beloved member of this community. On March 24, Gary Neely will be honored with his name on the Sea Cloud “Wall of Fame.” His knowledge of the game and his love for the kids make Gary stand out as a great example for every person who volunteers in support of youth sports.