With the lifting of all COVID-19 restrictions, the Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Battleford has confirmed they will be able to proceed with the 36th annual induction on Aug. 21. Among the inductees is Rockwell John “Rocky” Nickel.
Rockwell John “Rocky” Nickel was born Sept. 14, 1954, in Moose Jaw. He played competitive baseball while growing up, continuing into his fifties. He was a crafty south paw, featuring a nasty breaking ball complimented by pinpoint sneaky fastball command. He was a gifted athlete.
Nickel’s umpiring career began in 1991. Within Saskatchewan he has umpired more than 100 league, summer games and provincial championships. For many he served as “Umpire on Chief.” During this time, he has worked more than 2,000 games ranging from11U local house league to the highest level of amateur and independent professional baseball. He is a 5A umpire, the highest amateur designation attainable in the world. Nationally, he has umpired the Canada Summer Games, Western Major Baseball League and 11 national championships.
Off the field, Nickel has dedicated himself to umpire education and development. As a master course conductor he has instructed more than 100 baseball umpire clinics and super clinics throughout Saskatchewan, attended 10 Baseball Canada caravans, supervised two summer games and 10 national championships. He has meticulously watched more than 600 games in order to evaluate the performance of, and provide feedback, to nearly 2,000 amateur baseball umpires.
For nearly 30 years Nickel has served on the Saskatchewan Baseball Association board in many capacities, contributing to an increase of 300 per cent in provincial umpire recruitment, standardized training and instruction, improved umpire recruitment, implementation of zero tolerance policy to protect novice umpires, a formal mentorship program and more.
Nickel served on Baseball Canada’s umpire committee for more than 20 years, having been elected assistant national supervisor for multiple terms. During his time he was instrumental in adapting the professional rules and interpretations in baseball to the Canadian amateur game, revising the 3 Umpire Positioning Manual which is now the gold standard operating system world-wide, and developing a grassroots program to standardize Level 1, 2 and 3 umpire clinic instruction, testing and evaluation nationwide,
Internationally, Nickel umpired the 2002 World Youth Games in Quebec, the 2005 world qualifier in Florida and was assigned to work the 2007 world qualifiers in Taiwan, but was not able to attend. His name is synonymous with baseball, specifically umpiring, throughout provincial, national and international circles.
Nickel received many honours in recognition of his contribution to baseball, including: Baseball Canada Dick Willis Memorial Award for Umpire of the Year in 2007; Baseball Saskatchewan Senior Umpire of the Year 2011; Baseball Saskatchewan Builder of the Year 2014; Sask Sport Official of the Year 2016; Baseball Saskatchewan Lifetime Achievement Award 2019 and Baseball Canada Kahunaverse Sports Lifetime Achievement Award 2019.
Nickel’s greatest attributes as a working umpire include his knowledge of the rules, his professionalism, his calm demeanor and ability to manage difficult game situations. He was a leader, innovator, educator, advocate and builder. His reputation precedes him onto the diamond.