SANTA CLARITA – Caught in two wars in his youth, then decades later escaping communist Cuba with his young family, Tomas Girgado never had a real childhood. He made up for that in his adopted country, settling in Glendale and then Santa Clarita, where he coached and umpired youth baseball, dedicated to helping youngsters learn and have fun with the sport he loved. Girgado died last week at 78 after a long battle with cancer and was buried Friday. His legacy lies on the youth fields of the William S. Hart PONY Baseball and Softball Complex in Valencia where, in his retirement, he umpired for 20 years. “When he did his last game last spring, he was the oldest umpire at Hart. Everyone loved him,” son Tomas Girgado Jr. said Sunday. “His whole life, he spent his time with young people. My dad never had a childhood.” Girgado Sr. grew up in Spain in civil war, which claimed his own father and his brother. The remnants of the family went to France and when the Nazis invaded, “he got on a ship to the new world,” his son said. He was just 13. “He valued kids,” Girgado said. “He wanted kids to be kids for as long as they could, to keep their innocence. That was his No. 1 priority.” The PONY League, which boasts some 3,500 young players, plans some sort of tribute in the name of its favorite umpire. “Tomas was the epitome of what youth baseball should be,” said John Tenorio, a spokesman for the league. The umpire was known for stopping a game to show a pitcher the proper form or a hitter how to properly hold his bat. Girgado, who lived in the Dominican Republic before settling in Cuba, played semi-professional baseball there and brought his love of the game to the United States in 1968 when he and his wife Pilar escaped the communist government with their young sons. A tailor by trade, he found little demand for his profession in the U.S. He worked for Baxter Corp. and coached his sons in baseball. After he retired, he took his position behind the plate. “As an umpire he had a slow fuse,” his son said. “He would take any kind of punishment from parents and kids, but one thing he would never take was for manager or coaches to treat the kids badly. He would take the man aside and say, “He’s only 11 years old.” Girgado was predeceased by his wife and survived by sons Tomas (Yamile) and Richard (Elena) and grandchildren Jennifer, Camilo and Diego Girgado. [email protected] (661) 257-5251160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!