PORTSMOUTH — It’s no secret that officiating or umpiring — like instruction in the classroom — not only impacts athletic contests, but it impacts lives.
That said, Matt Orin of Portsmouth more than made an impact on the sporting lives he touched —whether it was players, coaches, athletic directors or fellow officials, and whether it was in the fall, winter, spring or summer sports seasons.
Unfortunately, Orin’s impact untimely, shockingly and sadly came to an end late Saturday night.
Orin, a highly-respected Ohio High School Athletic Association official with significant Scioto County roots, unexpectedly passed away at the age of 39.
Since Sunday, an outpouring of tributes from fellow officials, coaches and other athletic personnel have flooded Facebook and/or Twitter, as Orin —a 2000 Northwest High School graduate — was well-thought of as an official for football, basketball, baseball and softball.
While working primarily OHSAA Southeast District games in those four sports, Orin’s officiating highest honors also included three state championship football games, two state softball championship games, one state baseball championship game, and three boys basketball and three girls basketball state championship games.
In fact, one of those boys basketball contests was John Glenn’s upset victory over Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary in the 2016 Division II tilt.
So yes, the rest of the Buckeye State saw his high-quality characteristics as well.
It was an impact already long felt from fellow officials, including his fellow educator in the Western Local School District and regular basketball and football partner Drew Delotell.
At Western, Orin was an Intervention Specialist and junior high athletic director for the district —and was instrumental in the startup of the Indians’ junior high football program.
He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology degree from Shawnee State University, and later his Master of Education from Grand Canyon University.
“As you can see from the outpouring from the entire Southeast Ohio district, Matt made a large impact on everyone he knew,” said Delotell. “As I tell people, Matt and I spent more time with each other than we did our own families once August rolled around. We have taught directly across the hall from each other for the past few years, and then would drive to wherever school to officiate a football or basketball game once our work day was over. We have also coached together the past two years. It was special to be able to do it all with him, and become such good friends with him. He was undoubtedly one of the best officials in the state of every sport he worked, and helped me grow so much in my officiating. Not too many people can say they have worked the state finals in four different sports.”
It all began for Orin at Northwest, where he of course was first a student — and a fan of his fellow Mohawks.
So much so, as longtime Northwest Athletic Director Dave Frantz recalls, Orin — whose father Mike was the former Northwest Athletic Director and high school principal — was the cheering section captain.
“Matt was always the student who led our cheer block. He had the most school spirit of anyone and the teams loved having him in the crowd,” said Frantz. “Matt officiated several sports and worked state level games in all of them. I officiated several football games with Matt, from Pee Wee to varsity games. No matter what age level, he enjoyed being around the kids.”
The plan, Frantz said, was Orin eventually taking over for him as athletic director when he retired at Northwest.
Sadly, now, that day will never come.
“Matt will really be missed as a local official. He had a good reputation and was respected by the coaches,” said Frantz. “You knew you were going to get a fair shake when he was on your game.”
Orin’s fellow Northwest alumnus, and current Northwest head football coach Bill Crabtree, said Orin’s approach to officiating included the teaching aspect.
The two became close friends from crossing paths in coaching and officiating, and Orin aided Crabtree’s son Billy in the sports he played.
“He helped so much with the youth and taking time to actually help teach the kids what they were doing wrong rather than just flagging them. Matt and I went to high school together, he was a few years behind me, and he helped a lot with Billy over the years,” said the elder Crabtree. “He always tried his best to make sure the kids were having fun and learning the games. He was a great guy to talk to after a big game, he was really excited about what we have been able to accomplish, and was always there to encourage me after a loss. Many times we would talk late at night about anything and everything, usually started with sports but we would talk for hours.”
Orin also, as evidenced by his peers’ testimonials, cared considerably about the development of younger officials —and was the current Portsmouth Football Officials’ mechanics interpreter.
Orin also officiated, and/or umpired, year-round.
“Matt was loyal to the development of young officials in southern Ohio, and he poured his heart into the region wanting the very best for the officials in the area as well as the student-athletes,” said Anthony Sheets, a fellow Southeast District official and assignor of officials for the Ohio Valley Conference and Frontier Athletic Conference. “He was compassionate because he wanted the very best for every official he worked with. On the court or field, Matt showed he had compassion for athletics, but also the athlete.”
“Anytime I had a random rules or situation question, he was right there to answer,” added Delotell. “He was big on helping younger, new officials stick with it and grow in their game.”
“As an official, even though we were only a few months apart in age, Matt was such a great mentor to me. A lot of the small mechanical things I do as an official came from learning from Matt. The thing a lot of people do not realize is that Matt never took a season off. He went from football into basketball and then straight into baseball and softball. He then spent his summers doing basketball and baseball. Officiating was truly a year-round thing for Matt Orin,” said fellow official Jud White. “With the shortage of officials in today’s world, there would be a lot less games in our area without people like him. I have a small group of young officials that I have brought into officiating. Matt went above and beyond to help me teach these guys the right way to do things. He was always there to encourage and even went out of his way to work with them when the situations allowed it. He became such a mentor to them as well. That group of young men is devastated to lose Matt.”
Not just a group of younger officials, but a generation of younger players.
No game was too big or too small for Orin to officiate or umpire, as White will attest to.
“In February, I was contacted by an assignor with a special request. The Portsmouth junior high girls wanted to have a three-man veteran varsity crew to work what amounted to the regular-season league (OVC) championship game. Junior high games are normally covered by first- and second-year officials and done as a two-man crew. Well my first call was to Matt. Without hesitation, Matt said yes. Matt worked that game with myself and my regular varsity partner Bryce Romanello. Those kids that night had their game worked by an official that had done multiple state championship games in multiple sports,” White recalled. “That was the kind of person and official that Matt Orin was. Never too big to help kids.”
“Matt was very dependable, because once he was assigned to a game, it was his game, no matter the level. If he agreed to it, he held his agreement,” he said. “I knew when I suggested Matt for certain games in the tournament, that he would go out there and umpire it as if it were the state final.”
But Orin also wasn’t just a “great official”, he was highly-regarded for two even more important duties — educator and family man.
“Matt was also a great Special Education teacher whom all of our kids at Western adored. His room was one of the safe-haven escapes for kids who were having a rough day or a rough time at home. We always joked around that he was the therapy room. Our students are hurting and in shock just like everybody else is about his loss,” said Delotell. “Whether it was officiating, coaching, or teaching, he impacted many lives and leaves behind a great legacy.”
“Nothing made him more proud than his daughter Lynlee. She was his everything. Matt was an incredible official in football, basketball, baseball and softball, but more than that, Matt was an amazing father, husband, son and educator. He was always giving back to his community and his family,” added Sheets. “Now there will forever be a void in southern Ohio sports.”
Among his survivors — and along with his parents —are his wife Kaci, daughter Lynlee and sister Emily.
Funeral arrangements are under the direction of the McKinley Funeral Home in Lucasville, with visitation set for Thursday from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. inside the Northwest High School gymnasium.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved