Probably one of the main reasons that I enjoy officiating both basketball and baseball is getting out of my routine, taking on a challenge and getting out of my comfort zone. At this stage of my life most things are routine, predictable and boring; though try getting behind an 8 old year catcher who’s attempting to snag a pitch from the air from his 8 year old teammate before it hits either of you is something altogether different. Try to position yourself in the right place for two different base-runners one trying to head to third base while the other is rounding first with sights on second with the throw coming in from left field. Will the cut off man throw to second or third OR throw to home OR overthrow second or third? It’s fun for me…plain and simple.
Its not very often that I get to work a “big boys” game (twelve year olds and up). Those games require two umpires, one behind the plate while the other is somewhere on the field. While I work these games not as often as I like, they give me a different vantage point from which to observe the game, and during breaks…the people. Like last week during an especially beautiful day, while the team warmed up a new pitcher I noticed a little girl, barefoot turning cartwheels in the grass, a little while later…a little boy with a blanket tied around his neck and shoulders running along the outside of the fence while another kid chased him yelling “Superman!!! I’ll get you!!” Jeez…I felt like I was in a Norman Rockwell painting.
During my last game, a game for eight year olds, the wind was blowing so hard that it blew the pitchers off of the mound (you’ll have that when you weigh forty pounds!!) Or the catcher who turned around and asked me “That was a strike. Did you get that?” Too funny.
I’ll close with this. I had a game with eight year olds again. One team had played several games and had experience, the other didn’t. One team was good, the other…not so much. The outcome was predictable. These games have a time limit of ninety minutes or six innings, and a cap of five runs scored per inning. It was starting to get dark, not too dark…just almost time to quit, the last inning. The winning team was up to bat, had the bases loaded, no outs and the losing teams pitcher had no control where the ball was going when he threw it…everybody knew it. I called “time”, took off my facemask and walked towards the winning coach and called over the losing coach for a conference along the third base line. I looked at the losing coach and asked him “your team is mathematically eliminated from winning this game, is that right?” He looked at me and the winning coach and answered “yeah”. I looked at the winning coach and said “How about you send up two more batters then let these other boys have one more at bat and have a little fun before it gets too dark?” He looked at me with a cocked head, and started to say something about the current pitcher and I cut him short with “Coach…he ain’t gettin’ it over home plate.” The coaches face lightened, he smiled and said “sure…we’ll do that.” And that’s what he did. He pulled his players off the bases after two more batters with no outs on his team. The losing team got up to bat, scored one run with one of their players stealing second, third and then home. The crowd got back into watching the boys play, and the boys got back into playing defense and offense….the way people want to watch their boys play….actively.
The third out came shortly before the sunset. Everyone headed towards the parking lot, lawn chairs and blankets in tow. Players headed to the outfield for their post-game talk. Sportsmanship prevailed. Thank you Lord.