Two locals working NFL games as replacement officials
Randy Stelter spends so much time inside a gym, football field or various other athletic venues you would think the Wheeler athletic director would read a book or paint a picture when he gets home.
But last week Stelter found some time to watch a little NFL football. Twice his jaw dropped when he saw one of his former Bearcats basketball players wearing pinstripes in an NFL game.
"I was watching the Dallas-Giants game, I'm looking and I'm like, 'No way,'" Stelter said. "I saw him twice on television last week."
Stelter was speaking of Larry Babcock, a 2000 Wheeler graduate who is one of two locals who are NFL replacement officials. George Shinkan, a 1983 Munster grad, is the other.
Neither Babcock or Shinkan are allowed to speak to the media due to NFL rules.
The former NFL officials have been locked out by the league. Replacement officials worked Week 1 and are scheduled to work this weekend, too.
Babcock worked two games last week, the Giants-Cowboys game and the Cardinals-Seahawks game. Shinkan worked the Chiefs-Falcons game.
Babcock is a back judge, while Shinkan is a line judge.
"Larry's a great story," Stelter said. "When he was in my program, he started reffing Biddy Basketball in our gym. He had such a passion. I remember I told him, 'Larry, you have such passion. I might see you in the pros one day.'
"Honestly, I didn't believe it then but here he is."
Babcock is the softball coach at South Suburban College. He also coached softball at Morgan Township, where he was also a boys volleyball coach. He coaches women's volleyball at Indiana Northwest, too.
He has officiated several sports for 18 years.
For six years Babcock was a NCAA Division-I softball umpire. He's refereed D-III football in the College Conference of Illinois Wisconsin, Northern Athletics Conference and Mid-West Conference. He's also officiated NAIA basketball in the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference.
He is also a Northern League umpire, along with NCAA D-I, II and III baseball. And in the summer, Babcock works many National Softball Association travel softball tournaments.
"We used to call him the Mayor of Wheeler," Stelter laughed. "He was so political. He was always hand-shaking, talking about this and talking about that.
"This is an awesome story. We're all very proud of him."
Pride is something Munster football coach Leroy Marsh has for Shinkan, the younger brother of Mustangs baseball coach Bob Shinkan. George played football for Marsh in the early 1980s.
Bob Shinkan is a Munster football assistant coach.
"Every coaches meeting we have the first 20 minutes is about what George did last week and what he's doing this week," Marsh said. "
"I've known George forever. He was a solid football player for us on both sides of the ball. He's been part of our family forever.
"George is a solid citizen, a solid person with lots of integrity."
Shinkan is scheduled to work the Oakland at Miami game today.
George Shinkan is the President of the Munster Athletic Booster Club. He's an assistant coach for a 14U travel softball team in Crete.
Marsh cracked a joke saying, "He's like the Mayor of Munster. He's on every board, every youth sports board, that there is. He's very involved in our community."
But most importantly for this story, he has officiated high school and college football for 25 years, working as high as the NCAA Division I-AA level.
Both Shinkan and Babcock were selected by the NFL over the summer to participate in officiating camps when the labor struggles with the former refs were heating up.
The two, like all the other replacements, showed their worth and talent.
"I think they've done a great job," Marsh said. "It hasn't seemed much different than before."
Both Marsh and Bob Shinkan said that George Shinkan was an overachiever as a young athlete. Being undersized for a football player, he worked his tail off to be a help for the team.
"He loved it," Bob Shinkan said. "After he went to school at (Indiana University), he wanted to get involved in athletics again. He's worked very hard to get where he's at.
"I'm happy for him and very proud of him."