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Larry Grant — best of the best

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Roswell’s Larry Grant has had a second career as an umpire. He has recently worked the state games for softball and has done a championship game for baseball in 2008. (Submitted Photo)

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Larry Grant has been refereeing one sport or another since 1975. Now that he is retired from the U.S. Postal Service, Larry makes umpiring his full-time job. The former navy veteran officiates over 40 football games, 100 basketball games, 30 volleyball games and 100 baseball and softball games a year.

Larry Grant, second from right, stands with other officials before a football game. (Submitted Photo)

Larry is loving the life he is living with his supportive wife, Susie, of 48 years. Larry can follow his passion and golfs each day with friends. Recently, he hit a hole-in-one at New Mexico Military Institute golf course.

Most people at 72 years old are sitting at home taking it easy with their feet up watching TV. Not Larry, it seems that like a fine wine, he is getting better with age. Before COVID-19 hit, he worked a championship football game and did a quarterfinal and semifinal game in basketball.

He is refereeing more games now than when he was younger. He is not only keeping up with his peers, proving age is nothing but a number. In his 35th year of umpiring, Larry won the National Federation of High School Officials Association’s Softball Official of the Year for New Mexico in 2019-20.

“I just take it in stride,” Larry said. “It is great that I was recognized, but it doesn’t change what I have to do. I’m happy that I have been recognized for what I do.”

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Larry has been umpiring softball since 1999 and has progressed to regional and local assignor. He has been to state nine times as an official in softball and worked two championship games in his career.

Larry Grant, center, stands with other referees before a basketball game in Fort Sumner. (Submitted Photo)

As an assignor, he must make sure all the games are staffed. As an assignor, he can remember leaving from Roswell and going to a clinic in Carlsbad, and then going to another one in Artesia that same day, then going back to Carlsbad to pick up another official to work a game in Jal.

There is still a shortage of referees in the state of New Mexico. The nice part about being a regional assignor is that he can bring other officials in from Albuquerque if they are short-staffed for games in southeastern, New Mexico.

Larry works closely with Roswell Independent School District athletic director Britt Cooper. Both make sure there are enough officials for the games. If there are not enough officials, Larry might tell Cooper they have to move the games.

Larry remembers working the Silver City Cobre championship game in 2016. He feels it was the best game he has been a part of. Larry feels his best sports is basketball because there is always action going on on the court. All of the running up and down the court helps keep him in shape.

One of the things that makes Larry a great official is he communicates with the coaches. Larry will own it when he has missed a call. He allows coaches to talk to him during a break in the action, and he’s not afraid to say, “Coach, I missed it.”

One of the keys to his success is he has earned the respect of coaches. Larry tries to be in the right position to make calls and is honest with coaches regarding what he sees during the game.

“I just try to go out and do my best,” Larry said. “These coaches, all they want to do is be heard. I acknowledge the coaches.”

To be selected as one of the best officials in the state, Larry feels officials need to study and know the rules, plus have a good work ethic. He feels that he was fortunate early in his career to have mentors teach him and talk him through different situations that might have come up through the game and how to handle it better next time.

Larry considers Bill Rapp one of his mentors. Larry remembers that Rapp never declined to take any games no matter what level the game was. Rapp was head official of the New Mexico Activities Association in the 1980s. Larry would like to have the longevity that Rapp had. When Rapp worked his last game, they did it together. Rapp was 82 years old, refereeing 54 years before hanging it up.

Larry Grant, second from left, stands with four other officials before a football game. (Submitted Photo)

“Rapp was a great guy,” Larry said. “He was someone you wanted to be like. He always studied the rule books, he cared about the game and about the kids. This game is not about me, or the coaches, but about the kids getting a chance to play.”

Former Roswell softball coach Art Sandoval said Larry had a sense of humor. It was during a game at Roswell against Goddard, and Roswell was losing. There was a force out at second base, Larry called the Roswell girl out.

Sandoval comes tearing out of the dugout and is kicking dirt and gesturing wildly with his arms. Larry has his back to the fans and Art tells him, don’t you let anyone tell you you made the wrong call, it was the right call. I must fight for my team and try to get them going to try and win this game. Sandoval laughed with his back to the stands. Sandoval composes himself before heading back to the dugout.

“Larry and I go back a long way,” Sandoval said. “I think the position of being an official at any level is extremely hard and difficult. You’re really trying to do it for the love of the game and kids. That’s what Larry is doing it for, the love of the game and kids. There are times we have agreed to disagree. He’s a good guy and I have a lot of respect for him. I hope he continues to referee, he’s one of the best in the state of New Mexico.”

“I love the kids,” Larry said. “They keep me going. I love to see athletes play. I love to see good play. I live for the game and I try to be fair. If I wasn’t officiating, I’d probably be dead.”

Sports editor J.T. Keith can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 304, or sports@rdrnews.com.

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