I got a phone call late Saturday night from a baseball colleague of mine asking if I could umpire at a tournament at a small town about forty minutes north of my home. Being a new umpire I want to take as many games that I can and the money earned is a bonus. The day before I had worked a doubleheader with a guy who has umpired for 43 years. After the game he gave me some advice, we talked for about ten minutes about different situations and he gave me his “thumbs up” for the two games that we had just worked together (at the tender age of 47 I’m still seeking peer acceptance…really; I am).
So bright and early yesterday morning I loaded up my truck and pointed it north and started towards the tournament. It being Sunday and all I felt a slight tinge of guilt for skipping church but it’s been a long and cold winter, and the beauty of spring time that the Iowa countryside held was lush and spectacular. Rolling green pastures. Timber with flowing creeks winding their way through. Hawks soaring against a beautiful clear blue sky, it was a great day to be outside and enjoy our Lords creation (I even brought up on my Iphone and sang along to the Statler Brothers “How Great Thou Art“…one of my favorite songs of all time.
Anyway…the five games that I umpired went seamlessly with my partner Henry (that’s my officiating partner…not the other politically correct term “partner”) until the last game. I was the plate ump, meaning that I was behind the plate calling balls and strikes. We were working the ten year old boys games. The skill level at the age of ten varies greatly and I always watch the pitcher and catcher warming up prior to the first pitch to see just how good they are. These two looked good. The pitcher threw hard and fast for his age and the catchers mitt popped every time the ball was caught. I called the first batter into the box and noticed that the catcher had set up on the far outside of the plate leaving me exposed more than I’m comfortable with, but I wear plenty of protective equipment. The first pitch came in and hit me squarely on my right knee. WHACK!! The catcher didn’t even get his glove on it. My shin guard had shifted slightly leaving that part of my knee exposed. I walked off my injury (I can’t remember if I called a ball or strike) but asked the catcher “Do you remember what I told you before the game? That the most important rule in baseball is to protect the umpire.” He mumbled something about the pitcher not throwing it where he asked for it, or something. In retrospect I think that may have been the Lords way of getting my attention and saying “hey…get back into the pew next Sunday” but maybe not. The New Testament is kinda sketchy when it comes to working games on a Sunday when you find the games a fun and relaxing departure from your normal work BUT you didn’t go to church. Know this…I’m honored to try to do His work where-ever I’m at whether it be at my store, on a basketball court, on a ball diamond, in our home or elsewhere. He reiterated His point with a ball each to my shin, calf, and a couplea foul tips each to my chest and face (but was gracious enough to direct them to where I had equipment to protect me…thanks Lord!)
One other tidbit from this weekends games. Earlier on I had decided to call strikes out as “AAAAIIKKKEEE“‘s. This lets the official scorer and those in the dugouts and in the bleachers know what I called. Those in the bleachers yesterday noticed that I had put a little more emphasise on my strike call and maybe it was because it was my last game but apparently my “AAAIIKKEE” call sounded more like “AAARRRGGGKKK” like a pirate would say. I could hear them try to duplicate my call (they were pretty close behind me) and I thought “I ain’t changing it now” so I continued with it until the game was finished. I just may stick with that. Funny thing is…one of the teams name was…..the Pirates. Here’s hoping that I don’t get any teams named the Blue Jays.