During a game, Ballesteros is always looking to get the "best angles,
absolutely. Are you kidding?
"I've come close a couple of times," Ballesteros said, "and I wouldn't be telling the
truth if I said it didn't bother me when I
didn't get taken. But the thing is, the
game's the getoff for me, and when I have a
setback like that, that's what I keep in
Ballesteros is 49 now, and been a Pacific-
10 Conference official for the last 15. That
is after 11 years of learning the rudiments of
the craft, "and it is a craft," he said.
"There's a great deal of satisfaction of
knowing that I can work at this level, that
I'm among the top one percent of the people in the field. That makes me feel good."
As it should, given the fact that Ballesteros did not immediately gravitate to the
craft. Rather, it was as a grammar school
athletics director that he stumbled into the
"It was a dead accident," he said. "We're
at St. Paul of the Shipwreck (a Catholic
church just north of Candlestick Park in
San Francisco), and the officials don't
show. The kids are all prepped to go, and I
didn't want to tell them the game was off,
so I went to the other coach and said, 'Why
don't you work one end and I work the other?'
"So I got out there and did it, and when
the game's over, a guy comes up to me and
says, 'You ever think about doing this professionally?' I said, 'Do you get paid?' He
said yes, and I said, 'Where do I sign?' "
That began what is really a million sto
ries about how people get involved in officiating. The difference for Ballesteros was his
single-mindedness. He worked every game
he could get his hands on; "I'd work 30 in
a week, and if I didn't call on Sunday night
for the next week's schedule, I was devastated."
There was not that much devastation in
Ballesteros' early career. At 5-7, he was
convinced he would have to work harder
than anyone else just to stay even, so he
worked twice as hard as that. That meant
working every rec league he could reach
with his car, and working every night and
all day Saturdays and Sundays. How he
managed to find time to get married and
begin a family with such a schedule remains a great surprise to his contemporaries.
"I had little man's syndrome," he said.
"I felt I had to be three times better than
anyone else, so I'd work every chance I got,
and I ran more than anyone else. I told myself that other guys might have more talent
than me, but I wouldn't be outworked."
"That's when you realize how
much is involved in becoming a
good official. A lot of guys can
blow the whistle, but there's a
lot more to it than just making
the right call."
It was that drive that got him into the Pac-
10 freshman program in 1975 and eventually into the varsity program. Not that he
slowed down the rest of his schedule, mind
you. He still could fill in his Division I
schedule with games from the PCAA (now
Big West) and WCAC (now West Coast
Conference), Division II and junior college
games on his off nights, and when his
schedule would permit (that is, whenever
he had a spare moment), a high school
Naturally, he got seen. First, Frank
Mclntyre, the Pac-10 supervisor of officials
saw him, and he liked most of what he saw.
"You hear about guys all the time,"
Mclntyre said. "You get recommendations
from people, and if you hear about a guy
enough times, you go and see him. What I
saw when I went to watch Richie was a guy
who worked his tail off and had good judgment. He was a little rough, but I knew
he'd be a good one."
He was, but that part about "a little