Marty and Ralph have been blogging about game officials. And that made me recall an incident of about 10 years ago. I was coaching one of our two 'Pony League' baseball teams here in Tekamah. (13 and 14 year olds)
We had been having trouble with rainouts and make-up games. It put our scheduled umpire crews out of sync. and for that reason I couldn't find umpires for an upcoming game.
I recalled that north of town lived one of the best umpires I had ever watched, but he was retired from the game. Some of you who have followed this blog for the past several months will recognize him as "Blue". The nickname given to the umpires by coaches and fans. He has left a few comments and his son Greg has sent some neat pics from Alaska.
Well Blue and his Brother were good umpires. The best. They always treated all players, coaches, and fans with respect. They were decisive, and as far as I knew almost always correct, and a strike zone that stayed the same throughout the game, they knew the rule book well, and they were always cheerful. They had a ready smile for the players who came to the plate.
They usually umpired Legion ballgames when they were active. Juniors and Seniors in high school. Sooo, could I get them for my team. Would they come out of retirement for kids this young. "Sure Cliff, that sounds like fun".
We were ten minutes from game time and they appeared. Probably the first time these players had ever seen umpires with matching blue shirts and navy colored pants and the home plate umpire hiding all of his pads under his cloths. They walked in, took over and the boys were impressed. Considering the age of these boys, its easier to impress them with which little girl is in the stands or when their buddies were going to go to the pool tomorrow. However, I had players coming back to the dugout after their turn at bat and they would say, "Hey coach, who are those umpires? They are really good". The pitchers I used, said the strike zone was solid all night.
Late in the game, the opposing teams lead off hitter, laced one to the fence in right field. The infield ump, who was in position at first base, could see that the play was going to be at third. I was in the dugout by third base, the runner was leaning around second and coming my way. The ump came racing across the diamond to third. He arrived first, then the ball and runner at the same time. The dust from the play obliterated all three people. But when the dust settled a bit you could see the ump's face about 24" above the base, in perfect position to make the call, the runners foot on the bag and the third basemans glove on the runner. The only question remaining was 'did the third baseman drop the ball. The ump with a huge, booming voice yelled, "SHOW ME THE BALL"!!! The third baseman let his glove fall open to reveal the ball. "YOU'RE OUT", he yelled.
It was all done with so much enthusiasm, and correctness, and class, that I'm sure all involved, including the runner, went home feeling like they had been involved in a great play. Yes, a great game. That's a memory.
Yes Marty, good umpires are important. The least we can hope for is that they don't impact the outcome of the game. The most we can hope for is that they bring everyone there, to the next level. They can and do make the game important and fair. The players know, that on that day, the win or loss was up to themselves. Good competitive sports teach us that we will win some, lose some, and be slower or faster than some, we'll be knocked down and get up, and if we play well as a team, we've got a good chance of being successful. Life, isn't it?
HEY BLUE!! THANKS!