'He was everyone's friend': Lethbridge mourns death of beloved umpire from COVID-19
Mitch Ball spent years working as a hockey referee and an ice attendant at the ENMAX Centre in Lethbridge, but most people know him for his ever-lasting impact on the region's baseball community. "When you think of baseball in southern Alberta, Mitch Ball is the name that resonates." Said Baseball Alberta President Jon Oko.
LETHBRIDGE, ALTA. -- Ask anyone who was lucky enough to know what Mitch Ball was all about, and you'll get the same answer over and over again.
"Mitch will be remembered for his big heart, his sense of humour and his ability to bring positivity into a room. He just was such a positive person," said his wife of 25 years Jana Ball.
Jana and Mitch have eight kids, including two foster children.
He died in hospital Saturday morning, after spending two weeks on a ventilator due to COVID-19.
It's difficult to describe Ball's impact on the sports community in southern Alberta.
He spent years working as a hockey referee and an ice attendant at the ENMAX Centre in Lethbridge, but most people know him for his ever-lasting impact on the region's baseball community.
"When you think of baseball in southern Alberta, Mitch Ball is the name that resonates," said Baseball Alberta president Jon Oko.
"In terms of his contributions to baseball in Alberta, Mitch was a great umpire," Oko said. "He was a mentor, he was an instructor, and he was a good friend."
Ball won the 2016 Lethbridge Sport Council Achievement award for officiating excellence, umpired seven Baseball Canada championships, the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, and the Tournament 12 2016.
He also served the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) for two decades among numerous other accomplishments.
But one of the many things friends and family say they'll remember most is the impact that he had on so many lives in southern Alberta and across the country.
"If you knew who Mitch was, you remembered him. He just had a presence and he was so kind to everybody and he was just such a jokester," said Ball's cousin Diana Nault.
Whether it was umpiring a game or running an umpire clinic to teach the next generation how to call a game, his impact on the game won't be forgotten.
"I don't think there's a person on this earth who didn't like Mitch and you can't say that about a lot of people. You can say that about Mitch Ball," said his wife Jana.
"There will never be another Mitch Ball. He's just one-of-a-kind."
A GoFundMe page has since been set up to help support the Ball family and it has received a flood of donations.
It took only two days to raise more than $65,000 highlighting Ball's widespread positive impact.
Mitch Ball would have turned 48 years old on Sunday.