I remember it like it was yesterday, even though it was sometime in the late nineteen seventies. We had to drive to Wyoming Iowa to play our first little league baseball game. Back in the day we wore some old, grey (I swear) WOOL uniforms. They were hot, scratchy and ill fitting but we were all happy to wear them as they had our hometowns name stitched on the front “Bennett”. We were “representing” our town (even though I doubt the towns elders agreed with that decision). We were old school, wearing stir-ups over our white (soon to be dirt colored) socks and we were totally unprepared, undermanned and outgunned by the Wyoming squad. At the beginning of the top half of the last inning the score was Bennett Little League 0, Wyoming 13. Lambs led to the slaughter Anyway, the once invincible goon that Wyoming had as a pitcher had lost control of his Mach five fast ball and had beaned two of our batters and walked another. The bases were loaded with two outs when yours truly stepped up to the plate (there was a run rule in place, capping how many runs we could score in an inning, so don’t get your hopes up for a monumental comeback and win that only the writers of Disney movies dream up). I smashed (SMASHED) a pitch over the leftfielders head (I can still see the ball in the late day sun, arching over his head as he turned to chase it down. I tripled, clearing the bases for three RBI’s and getting that goose-egg off the scoreboard for good old Bennett. Our next batter struck out, game over. I still remember it, it was the best hit of my five year baseball career. That was almost forty years ago.I umpire baseball games now, and try as I might I cannot figure out why I enjoy it so much. I took some photos at my game last night and I think that they help explain why I like it.
The game keeps me humble. In a game a couple of weeks ago I lost the correct ball and strike count on a young man. I thought that I had it right. I called him out on a third strike, which he didn’t swing at. He returned to his dugout. His coach called out that they only had him at two strikes, the opposing coach said the same thing. So there I am, “in charge” and screwing up. I know why I messed up, there’s no excuse though. I’m paid to do my job correctly and fairly. I called the young man back out from his dugout. Accorded him plenty of time to get back into the batters box, and I APOLOGIZED to him. He took the next two pitches, raising the count to full (three balls and two strikes). This little, scrawny, blonde haired, buried in the batting order at the eighth or ninth spot then SMASHED the next pitch to deep center field. No one saw it coming, especially the center fielder; oh…and the bases were loaded. Were. His double cleared the bases. Damn…I almost cost him a double, three RBI’s, his team three runs and perhaps…a life-long memory…one that may last forty odd years.
I promised myself then…that I had to do a helluva lot better job. Humbled, honored and having fun.