FVB History and Mission
FVB originated in the Summer of 1994 when founder Jeff Collis was approached to organize umpires for the second annual 15 year old CABA World Series in Crystal Lake. Collis reached out to area umpires and fumbled his way through the most challenging task of his young officiating career.
The event was seamless and new friendships were forged. A couple of months later, the legendary Bob Brown retired from baseball assigning and recommended Collis to replace him as the Assignment Supervisor for the Fox Valley Conference beginning in 1995. Upon learning of this appointment, a few of the umpires reached out to Collis about forming an Association. Up until that point there was no Umpires organization in McHenry County that recruited, trained or assigned baseball officials. Over the Winter of 1994, FVB was formed in Collis’ basement and boasted 40 members in our inaugural year.
The Board didn’t know where to start, but quickly agreed that the first thing that we needed to do was to establish an image. We did that with a simple dress code. When an FVB Umpire walked onto the field, players and coaches would become familiar with the FVB patch crest, a standardized uniform, clean appearance, FVB logo’d hat, etc.
The FVB patch was created that is still used today, and boasts the FVB values that have beome the foundation of FVB…Dignity, Pride, Quality. It wasn’t much, but it was a start. Immediately, hungry umpires like Jimmy Ellison, Dave Weglarz, Collis, Ron Mohler and Steve Wammer emerged as leaders. They wanted big games, they wanted recognition, they wanted to get better, and they led by example. Through the late 90’s, FVB picked up a handful of schools and had gained the respect of the baseball community in McHenry County. The CABA World Series had grown into our showcase event, where members strived to work marquee games under the watch of their peers.
It was during this time that Wammer became FVB’s second President and instilled Training as the number one priority…something that 20 years later has not changed. With a core training program in place, FVB turned up the recruiting process, growing our member base to 79 umpires in 1999 and 121 by 2001. In 2002, the investment into our growth paid off and we were awarded the Upstate Eight Conference, growing to 180 members and 25 schools. This was our first expansion south of I90. That capstone season was highlighted by the IHSA awarding two of our members (Paul Schultz and Weglarz) to work the IHSA Finals…something FVB had been focused on since 2000.
Over the next five years FVB would solidify our footprint in the south, as well as validating our efforts and reputation, by being awarded the DuPage Valley Conference in 2005 and the Suburban Christian Conference in 2008. By this time FVB would grow to 367 members and 49 schools, making FVB the largest organization in the state. Veteran umpires like Wammer and Weglarz had moved on, but a new corps of leaders like Jim Beveridge, Dan Mathews, Jim Maczka and Bert Person had been carrying the torch.
By the 2015 season, FVB has grown to over 500 members and over100 schools, covering over 22,000 assigninments in the tri-state area. FVB members have now worked 27 IHSA State Finals, 30 NCAA D-III Regionals, 5 NCAA D-III World Series, and the pipeline is wider than ever. Our Training program has evolved into a best-in-class program. Our primary clinic now draws over 300 umpires and pulls in key speakers from around the country. Our class sessions run for several weeks during the Spring. And our mid-season live training sessions have become an excellent vehicle to observe and evaluate our top prospects. All of our training continues to be offered free of charge to all FVB members.
FVB has grown ten-fold in 20 years, but the core values have not changed. Dignity, Pride and Quality continue to be the cornerstone of FVB, setting us aside from all imitators. Home grown umpires like Lino Novielli, Chris Viverito, Alan McCormick have emerged as some of the top umpires in Chicago. As we move forward our strategy and mission remains the same as well. We are here to help our members achieve their officiating goals, through networking, training, mentoring and developing. It’s the little things.
Whether you are a member or client, existing or prospective, we are here for you…for at least another 20 years!