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America's Great Pastime

August 11, 2013

Summer is the time for sports and many bloggers have great tales to tell about their athletic prowess. I’m not one of them. My greatest athletic achievement is summed up in my post “The Zone.” But there was a time when I was coerced into participating in another baseball game, this time as an adult. Those of you who know me are right to assume it didn’t go well.


Mrs. C. and I were attending one of CJ’s Junior League baseball games, minding our own business and enjoying the fresh air when I was tapped on the shoulder by a coach who’d wandered over from a distant ball field. He asked me, “Your boy playing in this game?”


“I nodded and pointed at twelve year old CJ.”


“He looks like a fine player. I’m Coach Patrick.” He tipped his hat at Mrs. C. and pumped my hand with a huge lumberjack paw. “Those are my Beaverton Pirates over there.” He pointed across the park to the largest baseball field, one with real bleachers instead of space for folding chairs. Coach Patrick continued. “We’re set to play the Beaverton Tigers but our umpire has the flu. I was wondering if you could act as umpire so we don’t have to cancel the game.”


“I don’t think it would be fair since I have a kid in the league,” I explained.


“Yes, but he isn’t on either of the teams in question.”


I’d never umpired before and, in spite of the fact that I’d watched quite a few of CJ’s games, most of the rules were a mystery to me. It seemed unmanly and unpatriotic to admit I wasn’t all that familiar with the rules of America’s great pastime.


Mrs. C. made her opinion clear. “Go ahead. How hard can it be? If the pitcher throws a ball inside of the strike zone, it’s a strike. If the ball is outside that zone it’s a ball. C’mon, you know this stuff.”


Coach Patrick was impressed with Mrs. C’s enthusiasm. “We could use your help, too,” he said. “You can ump the bases. I know you’re a woman but being a base ump isn’t that hard, unless you think you can’t handle it.”


Mrs. C’s feminist hackles were bristling, but she kept her cool and said, “I don’t think so. I’m here to see our son play and he’d be disappointed if we missed his game.”


Her reluctance took a hit when CJ, overhearing us talking while warming up for his game, grew excited about the prospect of his parents rising from their folding chairs to participate.


“C’mon, Mom and Dad. It would be awful if those kids had to cancel their game. You guys can do it. And I don’t mind if you miss my game.”


What were we to do? How was it that Mrs. C. and I were the only parents in attendance that summer evening? Where were all the other moms and dads?


With CJ goading us on, Mrs. C. and I followed the coach across the park where scores of fathers sat in bleachers waiting for the game to begin, men who looked like they’d grown up with nicknames like Killer or Bruiser or Crusher, macho men who probably had baseball rules tattooed on their biceps.


What’s wrong with these guys?” I asked. “Why can’t they serve as umpires?”


“These men all have sons on the field,” Coach Patrick explained. “We need impartial people to ump the game, and we really appreciate you two helping us out.”


While Mrs. C. assumed her position behind the first baseman I picked up the umpires mask, along with a brush near home plate. I stole glances at the men in the bleachers as I brushed off the plate. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing but I was determined to run a tidy game. I felt strangely powerful as I shoved spare balls in the pockets of my dockers.


“Batter up!” I yelled, assuming this was the correct way to start a game. A batter took his stance in the hitter’s box, a kid big as Brutus from the Popeye cartoons, probably already shaving. Had Brutus spun around and clubbed me in the head with his bat it couldn’t have been worse than what followed.


Conclusion on Monday….




I definitely wouldn't want to be an umpire. Some of those Little League parents are nuts.
By: PT Dilloway on August 11, 2013
You two must have "sucker" across your forehead. There is NO way that I would put myself out on a field amid the youth of unreasonable, competitive parents. Parents of kids that play organized sports are on the same level as lions hunting wildebeest...and you are the wildebeest. I can hardly wait for the conclusion. I gather you survived. I am also curious if Mrs. C found it as easy as she thought it was when she was prodding you to do it.
By: Cheryl P. on August 11, 2013
In addition to knowing the rules, it take a special talent and disposition to umpire at any level. This just can not end well...except as a story years later! I will return for the end of this story.
By: Cranky on August 11, 2013
Good for you and Mrs. C. In the grand scheme of things you did well by the kids. I hope you wore all the protective gear, including the 'family jewel guardian'.
By: Daniel LaFrance on August 11, 2013
Does the phrase "Kill the umpire!" fit in here?
By: fishducky on August 11, 2013
Great story well written.
By: Snowbrush on August 11, 2013
i could NEVER handle the pressure! :)
By: TexWisGirl on August 11, 2013
You may not be ump material but you are indeed a master of cliffhangers.
By: Hilary on August 11, 2013
:) that was one fun post to read.
By: izdiher on August 11, 2013
Oh, this isn't going to end well. Even without your fair warning, I can see disaster coming. (If I were ump-ing it would be a disaster of Titanic proportions!) S
By: Scott Park on August 11, 2013
When I was in college, I umpired for a 16-year-old girls' fast-pitch softball league. You haven't lived until you stand behind a scared catcher who jumps out of the way so a 1000 mph pitch can be caught by the flabby flesh of your inner thigh. I had that bruise for a month, so detailed you could see the stitching from the softball. Which, I might add, is not soft.
By: Val on August 11, 2013
As an Englishman, the rules of baseball are a mystery to me. I have, however, refereed junior football (soccer) matches so i can truly sympathize with your plight - not a job for the faint-hearted.
By: Bryan Jones on August 11, 2013
This already has the feel of a great screenplay. I can see the action playing out as I read it. I'm already cringing a little bit in hopes that no one gets hit in the head...
By: Shelly on August 11, 2013
I can' wait to see how this turns out.
By: David Walston on August 11, 2013
I admire your courage. I know I couldn't do it. The only thing I know about baseball is that the ball is a little larger than a golf ball. And it's white...right? I do know that some of the parents are mean. Waiting with baited breath for the conclusion!
By: Pixel Peeper on August 11, 2013
I've umpired a LOT of softball and baseball games. I call it "hazing." I have been absolutely amazed at how some of the adults act during a kid's game. I've also umpired a few games where my kids were playing (I even called a game when my son pitched) so I don't buy the fact the other parents couldn't call the game. Sound like lazy slack-asses to me. I'm looking forward to reading the conclusion.
By: Al Penwasser on August 11, 2013
It's a thankless job, i know that without even reading the rest, so i'm almost scared of the end! No, not really, but i taught t-ball, but being ump is beyond me.
By: mimi on August 11, 2013
Oh, I feel this is not going to end well. Hope you took your steroids.
By: Catalyst/Bruce on August 11, 2013
I absolutely hate situations like this. I used to referee the odd Karate match and I found it a nightmare.
By: John on August 12, 2013
I'm another non-athlete, except for badminton, and I can hardly wait to finish the end. I'm anticipating a fun time.
By: Madeleine McLaughlin on August 12, 2013
yikes- I would never be able to do that...I know how parents can be when their "perfect" child is called out!
By: Kathe W. on August 12, 2013
Ooh. That would be my idea of hell. I'd rather play than ump. And I'd rather have a tooth pulled than play.
By: Mitchell is Moving on August 13, 2013

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