I wasn’t supposed to umpire a game until this coming week, five days from now. In that time I’d practice my mechanics, read the rules again (all twenty thousand of them…baseball is complicated) and get my equipment together, but lo and behold a phone call came in today for a couplea teams that wanted to scrimmage…so I took the game.
It was a game of ten year old boys playing on a nearby field. Now when I was ten we played the game wearing blue jeans, white tee-shirts and red and white caps that read “Bennett Little League“. If you were lucky the coach had a cooler filled with ice and bottles of pop for after the game…there were no sports drinks and if you got thirsty during the game you hustled over to the lone drinking fountain that gave out luke warm water under low pressure. You arrived at the game in the backseat of a car that carried, literally, eight kids (the idea of seatbelts not having fully taken root in 1977). Ahhh…good times. We didn’t know any better. We might have practiced once a week, if that.
The boys at todays game were the result of many practices, many games, good coaching, good funding (their uniforms were cool) and good training. I thought that the game might be chilly with the wind blowing and it being overcast so I wore my brand spanking new “MLB umpires” jacket. It’s warm, weather-proof and moisture proof…and I sweat my ass off while wearing it today. It must have had something to do with me having a half inch thick chest protector strapped to my chest and upper torso (I really don’t need a chest protector, I do so many push-ups that my chest is rock hard…it’s more to protect the balls that hit my chest, saving them from instant alienation…seriously….I’m that buff). Not to mention the face mask ( “it’s a crime against humanity to cover your face!!” is what one elderly female spectator yelled as I covered my face with said mask. M’eh…I covered it anyway. And the shinguards…didn’t need them today..the boys were hitting the ball the opposite direction of my beloved calves). I did take a direct shot from a foul ball directly to my left boob, the same elderly lady screamed at the horror of it all, until I tipped my mask at her and let her know that I was okay. (sidenote…my boobs okay…I paid good money for state of the art chest protection. It won’t stop a bullet, but its good stuff, and it saves me the embarassment at the pool of having to constantly answer the question “dude…what happened to your boob?!” Am I right ladies or am I right? I told the batter that did the “boob shot/foul ball” off me that “that counted as two strikes.” I crack myself up.
Baseball umpiring is a kind of performance art, I think. Calling the strike is one thing, then theres the mechanic of it all (what to do with my arms and hands) but today I just worked on my vocalization of the strike…which sounds like “AAAIIKKKEEEEE!!” And then with the balls I don’t say much of anything at all. The game that I did today I worked alone so when there was a play, any play, I had to hustle my rearend along the baseline that the play was happening on and make a call. Sometimes that puts me out by the pitchers mound or running back to home plate…this after squatting behind a ten year old for two to three hours (insert your own R rated punchline). Needless to say…after three hours of squatting and running my thighs are shot (that’s what she said).
In closing today…I’m happy with my performance, though I know that I can do better and I will. God-willing I’ll have some photos for you sometime in the future of my umping….a surefire cure for insomia. Until then….God bless and take care!