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LESLIE REIFER Jr comes from a cricketing family. His father, Leslie Reifer, was a former national cricketer along with his uncles George, Tony and Elvis Reifer, while cousins Floyd, a former West Indies captain, and Raymon Reifer are current members of the Combined Colleges and Campuses team. Reifer himself represented Barbados in cricket at the junior level, both at the Under-15 and Under-16 level, in 2005 and 2006 respectively. But despite this history, Reifer isn’t making his mark on the cricket pitch with either bat or ball. In fact, when he walks out to the middle at Kensington Oval on February 9 to officiate in the WICB regional four-day match between Barbados and Jamaica, he will become the youngest ever first-class umpire in the modern era. At just 23 years old, Reifer will eclipse the previous record held by retired Australian umpire Simon Taufel, who made his debut at the age of 24. “I feel very proud that I will become one of the youngest umpires ever to officiate in a first-class match,” an elated Reifer told SUNSPORT. “I’ve worked very hard to get to this point, although I must admit that I didn’t expect everything to happen so quickly. “Honestly I had expected to make my debut around the age of 25 or so, but to do it at 23 for me is a remarkable achievement.” On how he became interested in umpiring, Reifer was quick to point out that he knew that he wasn’t good enough to become an international cricketer. So in an effort to remain involved in the sport, he quickly sought some advice on how he could become an umpire. “I knew that I wasn’t going to make it as a cricketer, so I looked for another avenue where I could still be close to the game,” he revealed. “After I took my first umpiring exam, Vincent Bullen (Barbados Cricket Umpires Association president) came to me and told me that they were always looking for young men to be umpires, and if I stuck with it I could make a career out of it. “After that, I umpired in my first ever match at 18 years old. I think it was an Under-15 match and I haven’t looked back since.” His road to success hasn’t come without sacrifice though, as he has had to put his studies on hold in order to pursue his dream of becoming an international umpire. Reifer, who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in marketing at the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University in Canada, admitted that it was very challenging trying to juggle his studies and umpiring. “It hasn’t been easy having to balance my school work and concentrate on umpiring at the same time. “My mother has always encouraged me to place more emphasis on my studies, and I know she would prefer me to complete my degree first and then worry about the umpiring after. “But sometimes you have to make sacrifices, and I took the decision to put school on hold for another semester so that I could officiate in the upcoming regional cricket competition,” he revealed. Reifer plans to attend summer school instead and graduate in 2014 instead of this year. His first-class introduction follows up quickly on his officiating in his first major competition – the just concluded Caribbean Twenty20. For him, it was definitely an eye-opener having only umpired in local cricket matches up until that point. “When I was selected for the Caribbean Twenty20, I was really surprised because I hadn’t been involved in any major competitions,” he said. “I felt a little bit out to sea, but my father took the trip with me to Trinidad to lend his support and from the time I walked out to the middle, all the jitters were gone. “My father being there made me feel a lot more comfortable, and because I had also played cricket with most of the guys at the junior level, I wasn’t fazed in the least.” Reifer’s ultimate goal is to someday become a member of the elite panel of umpires of cricket’s world governing body, the ICC. He knows that having made the strides that he has at such a young age, that the sky is his limit. “I don’t just want to be an international umpire, where I would stand in Twenty20 or Test matches. “I want to be a member of the elite panel which comprises the top eight umpires in the world. “It is my intention to continue my family’s cricketing tradition, and to show that although I didn’t make it as a cricketer, I was able to make it as an umpire,” Reifer proudly stated.