KNOXVILLE, Tenn. —
Marty Henry volunteers as an umpire at West Knox County Little League in Karns. It keeps him close to the game he loves.
“A bad day at the ballpark, is better than any good day at work,” Henry said with a laugh.
“When they get that first hit, to see that excitement on their face, that’s the greatest part of it.”
Marty has been working towards a goal for the last ten years.
“Every kid who plays Little League baseball or softball, their goal is to get to Williamsport,” Henry said.
Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the home of the Little League World Series.
Umpires can get there too.
“Going to as many of the training sessions and seminars that the Southeast Region offers, just continuously doing that, staying in the rule book,” Henry said.
Marty applied all the knowledge he gained over the years and in 2015 was recommended for the regional tournament, one step below the Little League World Series.
“You’re constantly being graded through your work, they watch your work. You have to score in a certain number and if you stay below that number then you receive a recommendation. And you keep working and you keep applying for the Series.”
After four years of waiting, Marty got a letter in January.
“And you see Little League International on the return address and you’re like, 'oh my gosh please let this be what I think it is.'”
Marty opened his letter live on Facebook for his friends and family to see. And it was exactly what he thought it was.
Marty was excited beyond words.
Until a couple months later.
"In March, just a fluke thing, I go to the doctor and I’m diagnosed with kidney cancer,” Henry said.
“I didn’t worry about anything, I had a peace about me that only came from my faith in Christ, but I was worried that I would have to tell Williamsport no. It was a long three weeks to be thinking that I’m not going to be able to go to Williamsport and how devastating that would be to me after working this hard and this long.”
Marty had surgery at UT Medical Center and just before he had to give Little League his answer, he went to the doctor again.
“Two days before the cutoff, I was told the surgery had taken care of my cancer, I didn’t need any further treatment for that. Really, it’s just another way that I can tell you that God has blessed my life and that’s truly what it is," Henry said.
In May, Marty joined 15 other umpires in Williamsport for orientation.
“That was an incredible experience when they pull you up on the hill and say okay guys here it is and you’re overlooking the entire complex and it’s like heaven, heaven on earth for an umpire to see that and know that he’s about to experience that.”
Come August, he’ll live the dream.