When Naomi Erdahl got the call, she was at an airport on a layover.

Such is the life of a Division I umpire.

After learning she was one of eight umpires selected to work the NCAA Division I College Softball World Series in Oklahoma City back in June, Erdahl's thoughts quickly turned to those who helped her reach the top of the profession.

"It's one of those things where you think back to all the people that helped train you, all the people that supported you along the way," she said. "I think our national coordinator (of umpires) said it best that you want to be on the field for the last pitch of the season. The opportunity to do that is humbling, it's very humbling."

When Florida State defeated Washington to win the national championship on June 5 in Oklahoma City, that's exactly where Erdahl was. The Minot native, Bismarck resident and recreation manager at Mandan Parks and Recreation Department also worked home plate twice in the College World Series, which was broadcast live on ESPN.

In true umpire fashion, Erdahl was focused on the task at hand on softball's biggest stage.

"It was a super intense atmosphere. Those teams have worked their whole lives to get there so you're just trying to make sure you're on top of your game, stay out of the way and let the players decide it," Erdahl said. "Don't get me wrong, it was amazing to be there, but I think the enjoyment and reflection of being there happens more so after it was over. In the moment, you're just trying to focus on every pitch and make sure to administer the game fairly."

Erdahl has 24 years of umpiring experience. She began her career doing men's fastpitch softball in Minot. She received her first Division I assignment in 2008 and now primarily does Division I softball. She umpires about 40 games per season, mostly in the Big 10 Conference and American Athletic Conference. Prior to getting the World Series nod, she had worked NCAA regional and super regional tournaments.

Getting the opportunity to umpire Division I games doesn't just happen.

"The process starts with being seen and for me that meant investing in going to camps where there are assignors and evaluators," she said.

Plenty of people have taken notice. In May, Erdahl was selected as one of 16 umpires from five countries to work the USA Softball International Cup in Irvine, Calif.

Erdahl is understated in talking about her achievements.

"You're only as good as your last call," she said. "Nothing is automatic or guaranteed. You have to continue to improve and work hard."

Erdahl spends most spring weekends on the road, but has flexibility in her day job to make things work.

"I take vacation time, but my employer is very fair. Cole Higlin, our director, is very supportive," she said. "Mandan should get some credit. I love my job and the people I work with."

Modern times also allow for getting work done away from the desk.

"With technology, I can still work when I'm on the road," Erdahl said. "Whether it's answering emails or talking on the phone with staff, user groups or patrons, we do have the ability to work remotely."

Umpiring remains a very important part of her future.

"As long as I feel passionate about it and feel like I can succeed and do it a high level, I'll keep plugging away," she said.

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Reach Tribune sports editor Dave Selvig at 701-250-8246 or david.selvig@bismarcktribune.com.

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