Release your inner umpire

    Have you wondered why umpires stand out on a hot field to take abuse, day after day? It’s pretty simple, if you love the game. There is simply no better seat in the house and no better place to be than actually on the field, watching every pitch, every play, and helping to make each game a well-played, fun experience for young players.

    In honor of baseball’s opening day, I thought I’d share a little secret. Umpiring is actually fun.

    I was never much of a player — too short and slow — but I love the game. I didn’t realize this until my son was old enough to play in our local league. And even when he gave it up, I kept going. I’ve been umpiring for over six years, and I’m about to start my next season with the same excitement as my first.

    The chance to get back onto the field and start calling those balls and strikes, safes and outs, and foul balls brings a private joy that few mortals enjoy.

    Have you wondered why umpires stand out on a hot field to take abuse, day after day? It’s pretty simple, if you love the game. There is simply no better seat in the house and no better place to be than actually on the field, watching every pitch, every play, and helping to make each game a well-played, fun experience for young players.

    As a kid, I was a catcher. I was in charge, and I had a great time calling pitches, digging ’em out of the dirt, moving outfielders, pegging base thieves, and being right in the center of the action.

    As an umpire, I’m right there, too. I’m on every play and, as they say, “it ain’t nuttin’ ’til I call it.” It’s not a power thing, but every close play is an opportunity to challenge myself to get it right, make it look sharp, and then disappear.

    Oh, sure, as an umpire, I get yelled at — all the time. After a while, you just sort of expect it and move on. On every close play, half the crowd hates your rotten, stinking guts, even in local ball. Ain’t it amazing how good you can see from the stands? I just love those looks that folks give you when they think you’re the biggest idiot on the planet.

    But hey, I’m not there to make them happy. I’m there to enjoy a game that is both physically and mentally challenging and that, for umpires, is a constant learning experience (even in the major leagues). I’ve never seen the same play or the same game twice. The chance to see young players grow and develop is a memory that few share.

    So my point is, there’s a local league near you that needs help. If you played baseball or softball, love the game, have a bit of time to give, and love a really fun challenge, release your inner umpire, get into the game, have fun, and make a difference for your community and the children around you.

    Happy spring. Happy Opening Day. Play ball!

    Jim Butt is an engineer who lives in Cheltenham where he serves on the school board, blogs on education, and can be seen umpiring local baseball and softball games.

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