I had just come home from working in Boston and anyone that lives in or around the Boston area knows how much driving on Interstate 95 can be the biggest pain in the ass. First of all, try giving direction and explaining that one stretch of highway, Interstate 95 North, is also Route 128 South which is also Interstate 93 North. The driving in and out of Boston is a continuous battle with other drivers and anyone who adheres by the rules of driving defensively will never survive in Massachusetts. Having a good offensive plan will get you started in the right direction, but you have to continually adjust that offensive plan every half mile. However, driving in Boston is not the story I wanted to tell you. I was tired and mentally exhausted from the long day at work and driving. But I had at least 30 minutes to get ready for my softball game in my hometown of Union, Massachusetts. The game was five minutes from my house so I did not have to rush out the door. I sat down in a lounge chair for a few minutes and shut my eyes to gather my thoughts. Taking a few deep breaths I noticed the silence in my house. No noise at all, my wife had left to meet her sister, the kids were all out with their friends and the dog sprawled out on the floor fast asleep. Nothing can compare to the sound of silence. A few minutes later it time to get ready.
I showed up at the field, got my equipment on and doubled checked everything. With my mask in my left hand, I went through a physical check of my pads. Slapping one shin and then other to make sure I had my pads on there, I then patted my chest, chest protector on. I did a quick knock on my cup, which checks out. Indicator, brush, and a copy of the rules were in my side bag, all set. I have down this a thousand times and on a few occasions I have forgotten something but not today. Slamming the trunk to car shut, I began my short walk to the field. A late New England spring day can be very deceiving. There was a bit of a chill in the air and I almost went back to get my jacket for the game, but decided against it. This should not be a long game, both teams were evenly matched and it was a U12 game. Plus both teams were from Union and everybody knew each
other, besides the field was in the direct sunlight and I could still feel the warmth of the sun.
As I headed toward the field I began to think to myself, this is going to be a great day for a game. Something caught my attention and I noticed both coaches were already at home plate. They seem to be in a discussion about something. I couldn't make out what each of them was saying but I saw one coach pointing his finger in the other coach’s face. The other coach arms were moving all over the place as if disagreeing to whatever was being said.. As I approached I could hear the conversation becoming more vocal and their voice began to increase.
Stepping onto the field, I hung my mask on the fence behind home plate and gradually turned to both coaches and said, “Rick! Bob! What’s going on?” I had known both coaches for some time. They were in the late 40s and use to coach together at one point. But this time they were nose to nose arguing. Bob looked over at me and replied, “Dave, maybe you can settle this, do you know who the home team is?” Are you kidding me? This what they are arguing about, in a 12U game? All hopes of being a short, peaceful game just ended right there. I looked Bob in the eye and said, “This easy to decide,” as I looked at both of them, “who has my money?” The league rules are very clear, the home team always pays the umpire before the game, in cash. Bob reaches in his pocket pulls out an envelope with my payment in it and hands to me. I looked over at Rick and said, “He’s home and your away, end of conversation!” You would think that would settle it right then and there, but Rick was not going to accept this ruling and turned to Bob and continuing arguing with him. “This is bullshit, and you know it Bob!” Bob fired back at him and before it got worse, I broke in, “Coaches!” I yelled, “You have five minutes to settle this or I am walking!” Bob looked over at me with a very concerned look, “Dave, I just paid you, you can’t leave now!” “You want to bet!” I barked back at him, “I am here to umpire a softball game, not to listen to you two scream at each other about who is home team! Now you guys have four minutes!” Rick turned away and began walking towards his bench mumbling, “I'm gonna call Janet and settle this.” Janet was the president of the Union softball program, and the one that does the scheduling. “Go ahead Rick!” Bob said as turned around and headed back to his bench. I could hear parents grumbling from the stands, but could not tell if it was about these two acting like fools or me threatening to leave.. Now during this time all the 12 year old girls are sitting on their respective benches listening to this. Within two minutes I could hear Rick on his cell talking with Janet. All Rick kept saying was, “Are you sure?” I guess I made the right call. Rick came out and said in a very low tone, “Hey Dave, Bob is home team.” Bob heard him and replied in a very sarcastic voice, “What was that Rick?” I glared at Bob, “Listen it has been settled, it’s over, let's play ball!”
The game started and the tensions seem to increase with each play. Coaches and parents were
yelling and screaming. Between the second and third innings I call both coaches to the field and had a very brief meeting with them. “If neither of you can control yourselves or your fans, you both will be watching the game from across the street, at different ends of the street!” Neither of them said anything and just walked back to bench. I waited to make sure that my message was relayed back to the parents. I hated to toss anyone off the field, and I hardly ever do it. But there comes a time and place when it is necessary.
At the start of the fourth inning started and the first batter hit a grounder to third base. As I came around the catcher and ran out onto the field. Watching the play I noticed the fielder at third could not get a grip on the ball, but made a nice recovery and a great throw to first base. I quickly got myself in position to make a call. The throw made it fast and straight and I heard the pop of the ball hit the glove just as the runner’s foot hit the base. I stopped, stood up straight, came up with my right arm punching downward, “OOOUUTTT!” I yelled very loudly. I could hear a mixer of cheers and groans from the stands.I could hear Rick from across the field , “Come on Blue! She was safe!” he screamed. I turned around, walked up to Rick and calmly reminded him of our conference at the end of the second inning. At that point, I told Rick he was restricted to bench for the remainder of the game. “Are you kidding me?” he objected. Calmly I replied, “Do you want to watch the rest of the game from across the street?” Rick turned back to the bench and took a set on the bench.
Top of the seventh inning, the last inning and this was it. I could not be happier. The home team Bob’s team, was up by two runs, which made it even better. Just three quick outs and I can leave. I looked over at Rick sitting on the bench with a very irritated look. He couldn’t be on the field as third base coach and that was eating at him. His assistant took over and he was starting with his comments about the strike zone. Nothing bad, just little stuff that you could not justify a warming for but he knew how to play these little games with the umpires. We had a history and we never saw eye to eye on any call, so I was waiting for him to say the magic word. That word never materialized. “Only three outs to go and this is over” I quietly said to myself. Well Murphy’s Law kicked in and the away team scored four runs to pull ahead by two. The top of the seventh inning ended and realized that if by chance the game ended in a tie we would have go into extra innings. I looked over towards the sun and noticed that it was very low on the horizon and its rays were barely shining through the trees. I prayed for a quick three outs or a quick three runs, either way the game would end and I can go home and finish off some beers in my fridge.
The bottom of the seventh inning started and the pitcher walked the first two batters, runners on first and second. The next pitch was a wild pitch that made its way to the backstop and the runners advanced to second and third. Now the only play is at first base. I kept thinking, are you kidding me! The batter knocked the second pitch right between first and second base and into right field. The runner from third comes in scores. I watched the third base coach wave in the runner from second to go home. WTH! No outs and you're risking the tying run. I watched as the runner rounded third base and saw the ball come in to the catcher. The runner comes in and as she is sliding and the ball goes by the catcher to the back stop. Safe! Shit! Ok no outs and a runner on second, this could end with a simple base hit. I got set behind the catcher and looked out onto the field making sure everything was ready for the next batter. It was at that point I noticed that there was no runner on second base. I quickly checked third base, thinking that she took two bases on the throw home. Nope, no runner was on third base. UGH! The runner stayed on first base when the throw came in and did not move when the ball passed the catcher. UGH! Why didn’t she take advantage of the throw home? What was the first base coach thinking? I shook my head and got ready. The next batter came up and tried to bunt the runner over but instead popped up to the catcher. One out! The batter after that popped up to the pitcher. Two outs! The batter after that strike out. Three outs and a tied game! There are my three quick outs.
I looked around the field and the coaches were preparing for extra innings. At that point I noticed the street lights came on. That to me was enough to call the game because of the darkness. At least in my mind it was. I called both coaches over and told them “That’s game coaches!” Both began to argue with me. I said, “It is too dark to play. It is now a safety issue and my concern was for the girls. You two argue all you want but that is the end of the game.”
The game ended in a tie and I walked back to my car. As I was taking off my gear I saw a couple
of fathers walking in my direction. Oh Shit! I thought to myself. I really don’t need this right now; I just want to go home and a few beers. They both came up to me and one father said, “Hey Blue, Thank you! You did a great job out there.” The other father said, “That was the right decision to call the game like that! Thank you!” They both shook my hand and left. One parent after another came by saying, “Nice game Blue!”, “Good Job!”, “You don't get paid enough for that crap!” etc.
It does not matter what kind of game I umpire, I will always love it.