Gary Cederstrom, former Major League Baseball umpire and Minot, North Dakota native, has found a nice retirement gig – officiating high school football in North Dakota. It has allowed him to start retirement off in style and checks all his boxes.
Visiting with old friends … Check.
Staying active … Check.
Having fun … Check.
Doing something he is passionate about … Check.
This summer, while visiting with longtime friend and fellow official Mike Elgie of Minot, the 64-year-old Cederstrom made it known he didn’t want his visit to be only about remembering the good ole days. Cederstrom wanted more. More importantly, he wanted to give more.
“I had heard through a couple people that locally they were in need of some officials, so I mentioned to Elgie that we should get the old timers together again, form a crew and work some games,” Cederstrom said. “Mike said that was a great idea, so we all decided to register.”
Cederstrom, a 1973 Minot High graduate, played basketball and baseball for the Magicians. While attending college at Minot State, Cederstrom said Elgie approached him about joining him as a registered official with the North Dakota High School Activities Association (NDHSAA), and he gave it a shot by signing up for football and boys basketball for the 1975-76 school year. Cederstrom registered for umpiring high school baseball in the 1978-79 school year, starting a career trajectory that would put him as one of the most respected umpires in Major League Baseball.
In February, Cederstrom announced his retirement from umpiring MLB games. He served as crew chief of the 2019 World Series between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros. The Nationals defeated the Astros in Game 7 at Minute Maid Park on October 30 in Houston with Cederstrom serving as the second base umpire to complete a 31-year career as a big-league umpire.
The next assignment as an official for Cederstrom would be 10 months later in Towner, North Dakota for a 9-man, Region 3 football game between the TGU Titans and the Trenton Tigers on August 21. “People have been reaching out to me and asking me if I’m crazy,” Cederstrom laughed.
Cederstrom served as the white hat official alongside fellow crew members Elgie, Curt Zimbelman, Kevin Harmon and Jerry Eggert during the TGU-Trenton game. Between Cederstrom, Elgie and Zimbelman, there is 100 years of high school football officiating experience.
Cederstrom last registered as a football official in the 1993-94 school year and this fall marks his 20th year of officiating the sport for the NDHSAA. Cederstrom’s previous most recent registration with the NDHSAA prior to this fall was the 1999-00 school year for basketball.
“It was hot, and I worked up a good sweat,” Cederstrom said of the August 21 game. “We had some friends drive in from Minot just to see if we could all make it through the game without having to be wheeled off the field. We aren’t the swiftest of foot crew out there, but we had fun. The two teams playing were great.”
Re-acclimating from the diamond to the gridiron also required some adjustment for Cederstrom.
“Running on football grass is different than running on baseball grass so I had to learn to pick my feet up higher and concentrate on that because I didn’t want to fall down too many times,” Cederstrom laughed.
On Friday, August 28, Cederstrom and crew were at it again, working a Division A football game between Nedrose and Bottineau at Nedrose High School – just minutes East of Minot.
Cederstrom said just being able to get out in the fall and work some games again is something he wanted to do and hopes he can also pass along some tips to younger officials.
“I haven’t received the list of young officials yet, but we are trying to get it scheduled where if a younger official who wants to work with one of us, they can do so,” Cederstrom said. “We want to work with the younger officials in the area and help them. You can’t give them instant feedback when you are in the stands.”
Rock-solid wisdom from a veteran official whose career has come full circle this fall.
Follow NDHSAA on Twitter at @NDHSAA and visit www.ndhsaanow.com for the latest NDHSAA sports and activities news from around the state.
Tom Mix is media specialist for the North Dakota High School Activities Association.