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July 4, 2012

Atkinson family has helped break down barriers in the umpiring profession

Finally, the members of the umpiring Wolff family are starting to spread their wings.

But only a little.

This unique quartet of officials from Atkinson, N.H. — father Sheldon, 25-year-old son Russ and 24-year-old twin daughters Rachel and Rebecca — have all been umpiring baseball and softball games for at least five years and they're beginning to do more games by themselves or with non-family members.

Given a choice, however, Sheldon and his offspring prefer to umpire with one another, which is often advantageous to leagues and coaches who request one umpire for their games and then get two and, in some cases, three. When one family member is assigned a game, the rest of the crew often helps out.

"We just love the game and we like to work together," said Sheldon. "Most coaches usually love it. They get two of us for the price of one and we always learn something."

Sometimes, all four of the umpiring Wolffs will show up for a game and one or two will be on the sideline observing, picking up strengths and potential weaknesses that can be pointed out later.

While Rachel admits that it's gotten to the point that it's advantageous to work with different umpires, "to get another look, to see how others work," she and her sister still love doing games within the family, even if that means less income for all of them.

Explained Rebecca: "We don't care about the money and we all split it (fee) anyway. We just enjoy it and do it for the love of the game."

The family has always done things together. With the three children born only 14 months apart, they were usually together in youth leagues, with Sheldon coaching.

"We've just always done a lot of things together as a family," said Sheldon. "We've done a lot of traveling and we've been to all 32 (major league) parks."

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