Friday, July 20, 2007

My Other Hobby

Blogging (and commenting on blogs) has been spotty the past couple of weeks as I’ve been intensely involved in my other sporting hobby; umpiring Little League Baseball.

I’ve loved baseball as long as I can remember. I played through High School and my freshman year at Purdue as a decent fielding but weak-hitting catcher. While still in high school, I started umpiring for youth games and stuck with it later. When my own kids started playing munchkin baseball in the mid 80s, I resumed umpiring and have been doing it ever since for our local Little League. Here I am with my long-time buddy Jim before one of the games.

Each July, we start the tournaments that lead, eventually, to the
Little League World Series. It’s a huge tournament with more games than all the games played in a single Major League Baseball season. Our district consists of 12 small to mid-size communities in west-central Indiana. I’ve just spent 11 of 13 consecutive evenings driving to many of these little towns to umpire. These towns and games are as far away from the hype and ego of the Major Leagues as can be, which is what gives it such charm. Each town puts its best 12 year olds together and they play. Baseball, about as pure as it can be.

One field literally backs up to a huge corn field, not at all unlike the mythical “Field of Dreams” in Iowa. A kid hit a towering home run over the left field fence of this field, into the corn. Now, we usually give the ball to any kid hitting one out but we couldn’t find this one. At least not at first…after a while, his Mom came back in, ball in hand. “I had to go 15 rows deep to find it!” she exclaimed, a little grubby but happy to find the souvenir for her son. No steroids involved in that home run, just a strong farm kid with an aluminum bat pounding a corn belt-high fastball into the field.

This photo showed up in a local
newspaper article this morning from a game I worked on Monday night. A buddy of mine wryly observed “At least you were looking at the right place.” Here’s a quick quiz for you baseball aficionados: In this picture of a play at second base, there is one thing you don't normally see in baseball. What is it?? First person to correctly answer gets a shout out.

Five more nights of baseball remain, as the top 8 teams in Indiana show up at our local field to determine the state championship. It will be nice to just go 5 blocks to umpire and it will be some good baseball.

Persevere. Especially with a 3 and 2 count.


Backofpack said...

I don't know much about baseball, but I'm going to guess it's a kid catching with his right hand?

You must really love it, to still be doing it so many years later. That is awesome!

Wes said...

An umpire actually watching the play? Oh wait, that's soccer :-) Yea, you don't usually see a lefty playing short stop or second base. Everything else is fuzzy!

IronWaddler said...

That is so cool Joe. What a great sideline also. You look pretty offical-I wouldn't kick any dirt on you.

Joe said...

Woo-hoo for Michelle!! Yes, the unusual thing is the left-handed shortstop. One of those endearing things you see in LL that just doesn't happen when the kids move to 90' bases.

Way to go, Michelle, you well-rounded sports fan and Y club Den Mother!!

Sarah said...

What pure Americana...corn fields and all! Sounds like a great way to spend the summer. : ) And I'm glad someone else already got the answer right so I don't have to make a wild guess. ; )

Darrell said...

How fun! I was gonna guess the left handed thing, although I didn't really know it was unusual. Hurray to Michelle.

I always loved watching the boys play ball. That is one bummer about them growing up.

Journey to a Centum said...

I was going to guess the batting gloves but I guess if it was a double he would still be wearing them.

Man, people call me crazy for trying to run 100 miles. I'll take 4 100 mile runs over a LL Umpire assignment any day!

I refed a few wrestling tournaments when I was going to college for some extra money. I never had any problems with the wrestlers but the fans can get a bit out of control.

Actually it looks like a lot of fun. Congratualtions on your new PR for the 5K-ish Zoo Run Run.

Unknown said...

I played baseball until high school finishing my senior year starting left field in the state championship game. We lost, but 2nd in the state aint too shabby.

I loved little league and played in the all star series, but we never made it past regionals. I have many fond memories of those days. You're a lucky guy!