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Umpire and Baseball Coach Richard Zapata, 1957-2012

Funeral services are planned Thursday at St. Charles Catholic Church in San Diego.

Imperial Beach Little League is mourning the loss of Richard Zapata, known for his honesty and devotion to the league.

“He wanted to make sure everybody was treated fairly,” said Brian Cook, who served as Zapata's vice president.

Zapata, who died Oct. 4, was an umpire and president of the Imperial Beach Little League from 2004 to 2006.

The IBLL was a family affair for the Zapatas. His wife, Sandra, was in charge of the snack bar and served in different positions on the board.

Their children Austin and Alicia played baseball and softball.

In 2006, Raymond was diagnosed with leukemia, said Raymond Gobeil.

After Zapata's term as president ended, he was an assistant coach for four years under Gobeil, who called Zapata a source of inspiration to kids on the team.

“He would often tell the kids, ‘If I can go through chemo treatment yesterday and be here on the field today, there is no reason why you can’t be at practice,’” Gobeil said.

Gobeil said Zapata never missed a practice or a game unless he was in the hospital.

One year there was a kid on the team who never hit the ball, so Zapata worked with him, and he finally got a hit during the last game of the season.

The moment stayed with Zapata, Gobeil said, and the two recounted the memory when he visited Zapata in the hospital before his death.

After his coaching days, Zapata was an umpire for five years with District 42, a South San Diego Little League district.

Zapata was a cement truck driver for Nelson and Sloan before he got involved in Little League, said current president Don Spicer.

Like all Little League presidents, Zapata wanted to see Imperial Beach Little League make the Little League World Series. It didn't happen.

“Your goal is to have one of your teams go to the Little League World Series and that’s something he was trying to accomplish every year,” Spicer said.

Spicer said Zapata was the type of person who would put other people ahead of himself, and didn't allow his health problems get in the way.

“He never mentioned anything about his health, at least not in front of me. It was always about the kids. He was always concerned how everybody else was doing, not how he was doing,” Spicer said.

Funeral services will be Thursday at St. Charles Catholic Church, 990 Saturn Blvd. in San Diego. Internment will follow at Holly Cross cemetery, 4470 Hilltop Dr. in San Diego.

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