I’m a Little League Umpire
By G. Kerry Webster aka windmortal
Last week, 9-year-old Dominick Havens was beaned in the forehead with a fastball. It hurt. I know it did. He cried.
I don’t know Dominick. I never met his parents. But, I almost cried too.Seeing that little guy lying in the dirt near home plate, holding his head and sobbing made me feel helpless.
I never had children. I don’t know what it would feel like to see something like that happen to my own son or daughter. But, for two hours, three or four nights a week, I do have kids. Usually about two dozen of them.
I’m a Little League umpire.
Little Dominick, like most children do, bounced right back up from the traumatic experience. He didn’t stay in the game, however, electing to return to the home dugout with an ice pack from the concession stand firmly pressed against his head.
An inning later, to him, the incident never happened, although the bruised lump featuring the stitch markings of the fastball on his forehead told a different story. His head was back in the ball game, cheering on his JJ Powell teammates. Mine was not. I was still worried about him. Between every inning, I would make sure to walk by the home dugout and check in on him.
“You okay little man?” I’d say.
“Yep. It just hurts a little,” he’d respond.
Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to work another JJ Powell game and got to see Dominick again.
“Feeling better?” I asked.
“Yep,” he said as he pounded his fist into his tiny glove, signifying he was ready to play ball again.
Dominick had the opportunity to bat in the game, and although he didn’t hit the ball. He didn’t back off either. He stood in the batter’s box as kids two and three years older than him whipped fastballs past. Incident forgotten. This kid is going to be a ballplayer.
And that’s why I love being an umpire. It’s not about the few bucks the league offers for the services. It’s about being with the kids and watching how they interact with each other around the game I love most.
One of the first games I umpired this season, 12-year-old Trey Shaw’s team was being pummeled by one of the best teams in the league.
“We’re not going to win a single game all season,” he said.“Wanna bet?” I asked.
He did. He bet me $10 that his team wouldn’t win a single game this year. Well guess, what? They did. In fact, they have won more than one already. Does that mean you owe me more than one $10 bill now Trey?
But, that’s the kind of interaction with the kids that makes me want to be on those dusty fields night in and night out. If I could do it every day, I probably would. It’s enjoyable getting to know the kids.
Kyle Taylor is a 12-year-old with Navasky’s. Kyle and I have been chatting on the Little League baseball diamond for several years now. Unfortunately, Kyle is a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles. I’m a New York Giants fan, so there’s a rub there.
And we have fun with it. Nearly every time we see each other, there’s always a jab at the blue or green — and it’s all in good fun.
In this politically correct world, I must choose my words wisely, especially in dealing with pre-teens. But sometimes, even if I’m thinking I’m asking an innocent question, it backfires on me.
For example, last week, during a pitching change, I walked over to little Zach Kolbe, a second basemen.“So, what did you learn in school today?” I asked him, while there was a break in the action.
“Coordinates,” he responded, and began to tell me all about the lesson on coordinates of the day. From the corner of my eye, I see the first basemen walking towards us. We’ll call him, “Carl,” for the sake of anonymity.
“Carl, what did you learn in school today?” I said.
“We watched a video on puberty,” he replied. I think my bottom lip hit the dirt. I didn’t know what to say. You never know what’s going to happen on a Little League baseball diamond.
Being a base umpire, and working in the league for several years, it was easy for me to get to know the older players. Twelve-year-olds like Carson Jones, Nick Johnston, Quinton Moslak, Zeke Granville, Keegan Perks, Zach Wagner, Noah Boast, Bubba Slogosky, Keegan Soltis, Micah Martin, Landon McDonald, Thomas Webster, Johnny Gonzalez, Isaiah Dixon and Ryan Kephart, to name just a few (those I missed have full permission to throw rocks at me on the field next week), seem to gravitate to the middle field positions and first base (skill positions), so there’s plenty of opportunity to talk to them as an umpire.
These are the kids that are usually on base most too, so I get a chance to talk with them there, or maybe just slap their hands in congratulations after they slide into second after crushing a double.
But the younger kids, like Dominick, don’t get to play too much. They get one at bat per game, and usually don’t reach base. They get two innings in the field, but are usually too far away in the outfield for any kind of interaction.
When I have the opportunity to interact with these younger kids, I do. I know they are the future of P-O Little League baseball, and as an umpire, I want them to have the best experience they can while playing in the program.
Games are played at 6 p.m. nearly every night. Take a moment some evening to pack the family in the car and come out and meet my extended family. Play ball!
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