Hanging Up The Mask
When a couple of good friends asked me this week if I would umpire their 8 yr old sons’ season opener, I jumped at the chance, even though I knew my crouch behind home plate for the peewees was going to be so low that lingering pain in some seldom-used muscles would ensue.
Little did I know that it would be my last game behind the plate.
It turned out the problem was not in my thighs……it was my eyes.
After years and years of advice from the bleachers, I finally got my eyes examined a while ago, and sure enough---I DID need new glasses.
The acquisition of trifocals has made life easier when it comes to reading a computer screen, but the addition of that second line on my lenses has had an unexpected detrimental effect when I put my mask on and got ready to call the first pitch last week.
As the ball left the pitcher’s hand, it was in perfect focus (in the top third of the lens).
But as gravity took its inevitable hold and the ball began to drop as it approached the plate, it shifted from one lens setting to another, causing the ball to seem to explode into so many tiny bits as it approached the catcher, like a dandelion going poof in the wind.
That’s a problem.
I started calling games in 1964 or ’65, when my brother’s team had a no-show-umpire stand them up.
Since then I’ve worked hundreds of games, some under blazing blue skies, others when it was so cold and wet out that we did, in fact, care, if we never got back.
I’ve gotten to meet many boys and their parents, nearly all of whom seemed supportive and appreciative of my efforts. Lots of them remain friends to this day.
I managed to avoid any significant injuries, getting struck in the ‘midsection’ just once when an inept and evil catcher ducked under a perfectly thrown strike three. (Thank goodness that was the FINAL out of a doubleheader, and not the first one.)
I had just one occasion to eject a player from a game. When I explained my reasoning to his dad, the coach, he was in complete agreement with me.
I've been a Little League umpire, in every sense of the term. And damn proud of it.
One thing I learned right from the start, games were hard enough to call when there was just one baseball on the field.
This week, for the first time, there were too many baseballs to count.
Time for somebody else to get behind the plate.
There’s no question about it.