It's destination Williamsport for arguably the greatest youth sporting event in the world.
After more than 30 years of officiating baseball, Frank Germino of Warriors Mark has received the word: He will be part of the umpire crew for the 2008 Little League World Series.
"This is what every umpire dreams about on the Little League level,'' he said. "They want to try to get to Williamsport. I'm just looking forward to it. It's going to be an experience.''
Germino began his volunteer umpiring career as a teenager in Tyrone. He's been behind the plate and between the bases of Blair County Little League and high school ballfields ever since, and he's enjoyed watching youngsters grow up on and off the diamond.
Germino cites as an example 21-year-old Gary Corl, an alumnus of the Halfmoon Township Little League program. Corl recently signed a contract to umpire Minor League Baseball, but he got his start learning from guys like Germino working Little League games.
Officiating can be a thankless job, but it's one most umpires do for the love of the game and the love of children. However, for Germino, it is also a way to repay the men who allowed him the childhood chance to play baseball.
He said, "When we were growing up, there were guys who gave us their time umpiring. I'm just giving back what they were giving to me.''
Now at the pinnacle of his profession as a volunteer ump, Germino is one of just 15 men in blue chosen for this year's Little League World Series. Each is guaranteed at least one home plate assignment.
The umpires earn their plum positions, working their way up through the ranks officiating district, sectional and state tournaments before making it to the Eastern Regional. Germino cites as another career highlight the 2001 regional, where he says he was privileged to witness the outstanding State College squad that just missed a trip to Williamsport.
This will actually be Germino's second experience in a World Series situation, having officiated the Senior League Championships in Bangor, Maine, in 2003. According to Little League rules, officials are allowed only two World Series assignments in their career, and it's appropriate that Germino's last championship tournament will be on youth baseball's biggest stage.
''It only comes around so often,'' he said. ''There are so many people trying to get there. Lucky for me, it's happened this year. It will be fun. The kids are great - it's their show.''
The show will include outstanding teams from the United States and around the globe, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all involved. The 10-day tournament begins Aug. 15, drawing spectators from around the world, in person and on television.
For Germino, it will be a well-deserved ''thank you'' from the game to which he has given so much. Representing our home, state and country on the world's sand lot, he's sure to hit a home run.
Kellie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.