Indiana Baseball League’s Dan Ihrie Retiring after 51 Years Behind the Plate

By Steve LaMontia, Director of Communications

Indiana has the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Motorway, Larry Bird, and a gentleman named Dan Ihrie.  Who the heck is Dan Ihrie, you ask?  Dan is an umpire in the MSBL’s Indiana Baseball League and will be retiring after the 2024 season after 51 total years of umpiring in all levels of play.  More specifically, Dan has been encouraged by his physician to retire after experiencing two recent concussions.  The league features competition in 18+, 25+, 35+, 45+, and 55+ divisions and they have all enjoyed the leadership of Dan Ihrie somewhere on the field over the soon-to-be past 25 years.

“Dan has been an umpire for 51 years and has been doing our IBL games since 2000,” explained League President Damon Grothe.  “In 2022, we awarded him the league’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He even battled prostate cancer and is still out there with a smile.

He has been such a great member of our league and history. We will miss Dan after this season.  I will cherish this last season with him on the field.”

After spending an enjoyably lengthy period with Dan on the phone, it is apparent that he is a special person and has become an influential piece of anything he comes in contact with, including the Indiana Baseball League for what will be the past 25 years.

“I will be retiring from baseball after the 2024 season,” said Ihrie.  “Unfortunately, I had two concussions within a short period of time last season that have caused me to think about my health and future. Doctors have said working the plate might result in some brain issues if I were to take another foul ball off the mask.

Working only the bases makes me half of an umpire and after 51 years I don’t want to be that umpire.  I want to thank Damon (Grothe) for giving me the great games that he trusted me to do since working in the Adult League dating back to 2000.

I am very blessed to be associated with the coaches, players, and fellow umpires I have come to know during my 51 years as an umpire.  I was going to work the MSBL World Series in 2000 but then Covid took care of that.  Thanks, Damon, for being in my corner all these years and I plan on watching you play.  I will bring the chewing gum!”

Dan will turn 74 in May and has a long history of umpiring in many levels of competition, from Little League through college.

Logo of Indiana Baseball League

“I started by doing Little League games and that led to high school.  There was a signer for college games that came to watch our games and he signed me.  I primarily worked D3 and D2 games and some NAIA games.  I was also fortunate enough to work some Big Ten non-conference and prospect league games during the summer.

I was averaging about 108 games per year a couple of years ago.  There was also a time when I was working seven days a week working different organizations, including the Indiana Adult League.  It was just too much.  I had to back off.”

What does your schedule look like for 2024 in your final year?

“I’ll be working in the league on Mondays and Wednesdays and then a double-header on Sundays.”

Dan has recently retired from Kraft Foods as a sales rep after spending many years as an estimator for a moving business.  But he has also had his opportunity to make it to the big time as a full-fledged MLB umpire.

“I was invited to the Harry Wendelstedt umpiring school in 1975, where I understood I had a 50% chance of making it to the big leagues.  I couldn’t take that chance and put my family through that climb up the ladder so I declined the invitation.  Though I was flattered to have been given the opportunity, I had to get on with my real life.”

Dan and Corene will be celebrating their 54th wedding anniversary this July so they have been a team throughout this entire journey. Together they enjoy their two children, Tyler and Allison, along with their two grandsons, Grant and Heath.

“I’m sure they will all enjoy having me around a little more.”

Ironically, Dan isn’t the traditional player who turned to umpiring to stay close to the game.

“My playing days ended in high school, though I played a little softball in the service for something to do.  I couldn’t hit a curveball!  I miss playing but I love umpiring.  I especially love umpiring in the Indiana Adult Baseball League.

There aren’t any attitudes and everyone is friendly.  Whether they are 19 or 79, they know it’s a game and should be played for fun.  The attitude is parked at the dugout.  Sportsmanship is premier.  Damon has done such a great job in maintaining that.”

Is there a special moment in your career?

“I have had many wonderful opportunities but working the Cooperstown Dreams Park World Series in 2000 was special.  It was for the kids and I was the first umpire from Indiana who was ever asked.  I was working with AAA umpires in three-man crews.  I loved every moment.  ESPN was out there and it was a great event, especially for the kids, of course.  This was a national World Series and not the worldwide one from Williamsport.”

How about any brushes with greatness?

“While working for Kraft, the buyer in Fort Wayne was a Dodgers fan and gave us tickets to a Dodgers/Reds game and we were in the third row behind home plate!  I could actually hear Johnny Bench talking to the batters and the umpire.  I am a big fan of his.

I was telling my wife all about him throughout the game when the lady in front of us asked us if we’d like to meet him.  It turned out they were Johnny’s parents!  We were able to go down to the field right after the game and meet Johnny, Pete Rose, and Dave Concepcion.  That is indeed a brush with greatness.

I have also met Harmon Killebrew, Al Kaline, Kirby Puckett, and Tom Brunansky.  You can’t ask anymore while being a baseball lifer.”

Do you have any final words about helping future umpires become the best possible umpires they can be?

“A quiet umpire can’t be misquoted.  Answer all the questions, talk lower than they do, and don’t engage in unnecessary dialogue.  Don’t have rabbit ears.  Remember, it’s a game and every pitch creates a different situation.

Rely on your catcher and where he’s placing the glove.  If he gives a target and the pitcher hits it, it’s a strike.  And always remember, the most important game you are working is the one you are working today.”