Chairman of the USPA Umpires, LLC, since its inception, Britt Baker has played a significant role in the transformation and success of the umpire programs over the past six years. Humbled to receive the Tom Hughes Umpire Award, Baker was presented with the bronze during the USPA/Polo Training Foundation (PTF) awards ceremony at the International Polo Club Palm Beach in Wellington, Florida. Awarded to Head Umpire Instructor Steve Lane in 2017, this national award is given to a member who has demonstrated outstanding service to Umpires LLC.
Originally from De Moines, Iowa, Baker made the transition from roping to polo almost 30 years ago and never looked back. An equestrian since high school, Baker first attended roping school and clinics in Iowa until a friend in polo suggested he give the exhilarating sport a try. Instantaneously hooked, he bought a few horses and focused on developing his new skills, traveling to West Palm Beach, Florida, to participate in a clinic with Major Hugh Downey. Nearly two decades later, Baker attended Downey’s umpire clinic on rules, a precursor to serving on Umpires LLC. Applying his business acumen as Chief Executive Officer of his three companies, Baker Electric, Electrical Power Products, and Electro Management Corporation to the volunteer position, Baker has rapidly elevated the standards of umpiring across the United States and globally.
Proven to be experienced in a management capacity, Baker’s initial involvement with the organization was through strategic planning. “Chuck Weaver wanted to create a Strategic Planning Committee and they put out a survey to determine what members wanted,” Baker said. “One of the items was affordable umpiring for all, giving every club the opportunity to take advantage. Weaver asked me to become the chairman of the committee and subsequently we started the Umpires LLC.” One of the first programs created in the newly formed LLC was the Umpire Management Program (UMP), designed to allocate funds based on the amount of member clubs, registered players and affiliate members within each circuit. “We made sure every circuit received a minimum amount of $2,500.00 so regardless of the circuit’s size, each had money to use for umpire services,” Baker said. “Beyond that, the additional amount of money received per circuit was based on the number of playing members.” Later in an effort to create a viable career path for professional umpires, the Professional Umpire Management Program (PUMP/6) was formed, providing clubs hosting qualifying tournaments from 0- to 6-goals with a USPA umpire all expenses paid. Although enormously successful, the program was not financially sustainable, and was subsequently increased to PUMP/8 for 0- to 8-goal tournaments. Revised with more restrictive qualifications, the current program requires clubs to pay $500.00, creating a revenue stream to the Umpires LLC, by offsetting the costs
Establishing the Tom Hughes Umpire Award to recognize those who have paved the way for umpiring excellence, Executive Director Charlie Muldoon attributes his team’s ability to achieve many milestones due to Baker’s consistency on the board. “He’s the backbone of the Umpires LLC, and everything we do is based around his vision and that of the USPA for professionalizing umpiring,” Muldoon remarked. “The reason we’re at the point we’re at today is because of Britt Baker’s vision and leadership. I could not ask for a better chairperson because he understands how to start a business and run it. He’s all about reaching the finish line and we’ve crossed a lot of great finish lines under his leadership.” Both Muldoon and Umpire Manager, Maggie Mitchell, have worked closely with Baker since the genesis of Umpires LLC. “Britt is the quintessential champion for the professional umpires,” Mitchell praised. “His main focus has always been to further develop the program to recruit and retain professional umpires in a lasting career.”
Dedicating countless hours to furthering the progress of umpiring, Baker has carved out a career path for the next generation of professional umpires. “I was completely blind sighted because I had no idea that I was going to be given the award,” Baker commented. “It’s a humbling accomplishment and I’m very honored that I did receive it.” Leading Umpires LLC, in the right direction, Baker continues to improve the quality of the sport by continually exceeding the call of duty.