Tidbits from the field of play…
Have you heard of the “GREAT UMPIRE SHORTAGE OF 2016”? Well…its out there. Schools are begging for umpires to work their games. I’m getting requests on a daily basis from schools near and far, as are all of the other umpires. Simply put…there aren’t enough umpires to go around. Some high school games are only getting one umpire per game, and that’s in a city of over a hundred thousand people. I can only imagine that its worse if your school is out in the middle of nowhere. Personally, I’ve worked just about every day and night for three weeks straight on games…sometimes a double-header in the morning and then a double-header at night. Its a great way to make a little spending money on the side on your day off if you enjoy the game. Long story short….you need to be able to be criticized, keep your mouth shut and move on. Its not something most of us are good at. I spoke with a coach last week about a play that he felt that I missed. It was a cordial discussion held the next day when we had another double-header with their school. It boiled down to me saying “if I missed it, how could I have gotten it from where I was supposed to be positioned?” His reply…”you couldn’t. We shouldn’t have put ourselves in that position to begin with.” He went on “we were scrimmaging this past spring and didn’t have an umpire so I volunteered. It was the worst. I’ll never do it again.”
Now…onto lighter moments:
- I keep a small equipment bag close by, usually in one of the dugouts, where I stash a bottle of water, sunglasses and towel to wipe the sweat off my face between innings when I’m behind the plate. This day I also had a small bag of Skittles in it to snack on if my blood sugar dipped. Mid-game I opened the Skittles and poured some in my mouth. As I folded the bag and put them back into my bag I noticed a short little chunk of a kid, his uniform stretched tight over his belly, sitting on a five gallon bucket in the dugout…spying me. I looked at him and said…”I want you to know that I licked all of those Skittles…”. His replied back “that won’t bother me…”. I just about fell out of the dugout laughing.
- During the same game I had a catcher who was totally full of himself (more so than I). It was a junior high game and the play was….eventful and challenging. As the batter stepped out of the box to adjust, the catcher called out to his pitcher “THROW HIM THE CURVE COLBY!!” then turned back towards me and whispered “Colby doesn’t have a curve” with a smirk on his face. The batter ended up walking.
- A first baseman who was watching his pitcher lob pitches into the catcher turns to me, shrugs his shoulders and chuckles “Sixth graders…whadda ya do with ’em?”
- Heard during a Little League game from a dugout “…when you’re sliding into first and you feel something burst…DIARRHEA…DIARRHEA!!” I think the coach put a stop to the remainder of the song very quickly as I didn’t hear the rest.
- Heard from the third base coach after the opposing teams center fielder made four straight put outs (two worthy of being on a highlight film) “hit the ball ANYWHERE BUT CENTERFIELD!! HE’S KILLING US!!”
- In-between innings of a recent game where the home team was getting pounded (14-2 after the second inning) the home team coach walked down from the coaches box along the third base line. I’ve worked with this coach before. He’s friendly and very patient with his struggling teams. He took off his cap and ran his hand through his hair as he chuckled under his breath “do you know where I can find some alcohol?” Light moments. His team won the nightcap, 7-2.
- A really good team that I sometimes work for was getting drilled 19-2 in the second inning. Absolutely falling apart. The second baseman looked at me and said “our outfield is KILLING US”. The next batter hit a grounder that went between that second baseman’s legs. Karma. The game ended after three innings 24-2.
- I issued a walk to a batter two weeks ago. He didn’t go. He stood at home plate and just looked at me. I looked at my clicker. Sure enough…four balls. I looked at the scoreboard and my partner…sure enough, ball four. Still…he stood, before finally trotting off to first base. His coach apologized between innings. Turns out the kid is from Norway and doesn’t understand much English.
- The smallest kid on the team finally got to play. He’s noticeably smaller than the other kids on his high school team. He messed up on a play and let a runner score as the ball went right between his legs. His teammates reaction? They came over, gave him a pat on the shoulder and said “Don’t worry about it Lawrence. We’ll get the next one.” That team is coached right.
- Same kid. Different night. Gets up to bat and walks. His bench goes crazy. He eventually ends up at third and takes the shortest lead possible…maybe a step. His teammate hits a single and Lawrence runs home. His team still loses but I can’t help but wonder how many times that he’s got to cross home plate.
The basketball season starts up again for me this Saturday night. Three games at night after a day at the store. Its that odd time of the year when basketball camps, summer leagues and tourneys intertwine with the baseball season. Honestly…its one of the most fun times of the year for me. One night I’m calling strikes the next I’m running up and down the basketball court. Good times.
Thanks for reading. God bless.