Umpire with ALS determined to keep doing what she loves

Beth Chlopek continues to umpire despite not being able to speak because of the disease.
A long-time umpire, who despite a terminal illness diagnosis, doesn't plan on hanging up her gear anytime soon.
Published: May. 4, 2023 at 9:50 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Beth Chlopek is 69 years old.

When you watch her on the field, it doesn’t take long to realize she’s in her element.

In fact, Chlopek has 25 years in the game as a softball umpire on various levels.

She and her husband Wade moved to Middle Tennessee recently from California to be closer to three grandkids.

And she wanted to continue to do what she loved.

But, there’s just one thing.

Beth can’t speak, at least not without some help.

In 2017, she was diagnosed with ALS and now uses a voice app on her phone as well as a digital tablet to communicate.

“Honestly, it’s almost better having her,” said Mill Creek Middle School Coach Amanda Walker. “You don’t have to wonder what the count is. She’s gonna hold up every single pitch count.”

Her disease certainly doesn’t hinder her ability.

“We were practicing and working in the gym and you could tell she’d been taught the right way,” said TSSAA assigning officer Eddie Litton.

Litton is in charge of assigning umpires for softball games in Williamson County.

He said when Chlopek first contacted him about getting out on the field, he was curious to see how this was going to work.

“I saw her in clinics before I saw her on the field, and I knew then she was the real deal. She could handle it,” he said.

That’s obvious.

This game is a matchup between Heritage Middle and Mill Creek Middle in first round of the Williamson County tournament, and Chlopek is running the show behind the plate.

“She carries herself with such grace and poise back there,” says Jennifer Armstrong, a Mill Creek parent. “Doesn’t let a lot get to her, which I think is a testament to her personally. She’s a great role model to these girls.”

Meanwhile, Wade, her husband of 46 years, is there for every game supporting Beth from the stands.

“The fact that she’s still able to do it. The diagnosis in 2017, one doctor said you’ve got six months to live. Our faith is strong. We know who is in control. She’s proven doctors don’t know what they speak of,” said Wade Chlopek.

“About three years ago one of my best friends died from ALS,” Walker said. “To me, it’s exciting she still can do what she loves in the face of whatever right now.”

Beth plans to keep umpiring as long she’s physically able to do so.

I asked her why it’s important for her to continue to get out on the field.

She typed into her phone, “Because I love it and I want kids to see you can do stuff even with troubles and to see God’s love through me.”

“She just likes to do it,” adds Wade. “She likes officiating, being outside, she likes sports. She hopes people do see limitations, for the most part, are self-imposed.”