Monday, May 11, 2015

Old Umpire Habits Have Sprung!

Some old habits die hard while others are all too easily abandoned only to be picked up years later. Not all habits are bad, some, if started early enough can even help shape who you will eventually become.
Last weekend I found myself picking back up an old habit from my younger days. 

My old habit allows me to be outside, it allows me to really let loose with some guttural sounds no other activity has ever asked me to do. It puts me in the center of attention at times while other times totally imperceptible to anyone watching. Last but not least it allows me to cultivate a wicked farmers tan.

Umpiring is said to be the only job where you are expected to be perfect on your first day and then get even better. It’s a strange activity, in fact it is a job where you can make some pretty good money if you have the guts to stand behind a 12 year old catcher with anxiety issues while imagining an invisible box in the air and yelling really loud if the ball travels through any part of it.

I remember feeling a great deal of anxiety when I stepped on to a field at 18 years old wearing my uniform and about 4 or 5 hours of book and field training on my short sleeves.  I thought I knew the game, I thought I knew the rules, I was about to crawl inside the game and get a look very few fans. players or coaches get. I was an umpire and I had to stay on my toes. I learned how to not take things too personally as parents and coaches yelled, complained and insulted me. As time went on I developed a flow and I felt comfortable and confident on the field. Most of the criticism had stopped after two or three seasons.  I had become a seasoned umpire during my 5 total seasons and I had worked my way up to working older and more competitive leagues. Then, one summer, I decided to concentrate on balloon entertainment/twisting ( and never got back onto the field for 15 years, until a week ago.

This was a Spring tournament  which meant the kids know the game, they don’t make a ton of mistakes, they can pitch, catch, throw and hit. My job was relatively easy, see it, call it, easy. Things went really well all things considered. I umpired 7 games over two days and was very sore and a little sunburned. 

It felt great to be back on the field and I was quite happy that after 15 years the next generation of umpire hecklers had some new jeers for me to enjoy. Instead of my old favorite of my umpire license’s origin and validity being questioned or being accused point blank of being seeing impaired. I was informed that I was “missing a great game” a slight difference. Might not be original or even all that new, but I kind of liked it. It was more about what wasn’t being said. Implied insults. Sarcasm.  Baseball was finally speaking my language! I knew I was going to have a great time after that.

I did get a few compliments from parents, coaches and players. Mostly just thanking me or telling me I had a great game. My favorite compliment was as we were getting ready to start an inning the catcher who had curly, wavy locks of hair very casually mentioning how he liked MY hair. High praise indeed!

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