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- Story Listed as: True Life For Adults
- Theme: Drama Stories / Human Interest Stories
- Subject: Sports / Recreation
- Published: 11/19/2019
No VisionBorn 1964, M, from Millis/Massachusetts, United States
I sat there waiting in the hotel lobby with five of my fellow umpires, all dressed in our umpire light blue uniform and ready to head for the softball tournament on this drizzly Friday morning. The lobby had been full of activity since 7:00am and at least five different softball teams were booked in the same hotel as us. There was a mix of parents and Teenage girls (16-18 years old) waiting for word to begin today’s games, but the weather was not cooperating. Throughout the night it rained like a monsoon, but cleared up at around 4:00am. Although the sky was a light gray the rain was now a very light sprinkle. The lobby was segregated according to teams, with our umpire crew in the middle. The girls were scarred around the lobby in groups. The adults were shuffling around, some with their Dunk ‘n’ Donuts coffee cups, complaining about the weather, how long the games were going to be, the amount of money they paid, etc. Kevin, my roommate for the weekend, was sitting next to me leaned into me and said, “Great they are already complaining before the games started!” I smiled and just shrugged my shoulders. Rich, our crew chief, was pacing back and forth waiting to hear from the tournament director about the latest status of the first games. He held onto to his cell phone anticipating a call, few seconds later we heard the sound of ABBA’s song “Fernando” coming from his cell phone.
“Yea” Rich answered, “what’s going on?” The conversation was followed by; “OK”, “Yes”, “No problem”. Rich hung up and placed the phone in his pocket.
“Here’s the deal gentlemen and lady” Rich glanced over at Loretta with a wink, “The games have been moved back 45 minutes and each game has been cut down to an hour twenty. Same pay!”
This was a Showcase Tournament and the teams were here to show off their players to college scouts. If a scout wanted another look at a batter, she might be batting two or three times in a row. Just let the girls play. Wins and losses were not important; the college scouts were here to look over some prospects. When Rich was telling us the latest developments a couple of coaches happen to be walking by and overheard Rich tell us the news. Word spread immediately, igniting a new topic of conversation for parents and coaches. Sitting back on the couch, I folded my arms and shut my eyes. Bits and pieces of conversations cut into the air and I could hear some parents saying the fields will never be ready in time or they were complaining how far all the other games were being pushed back. I began to drift off. Slowly the chatter started to grow fainter and I could feel my body relax.
I don’t know how long I was out but I felt Kevin nudging me with his elbow. I woke up and looked over at him. Kevin pointed at Rich who was on the phone again. This time a few of the coaches came over when the saw Rich on the phone. I guess word got out we were getting the information first.
“New plan”, Rich announced, “games are not starting until one, and each game will be an hour and ten!” Each of the coaches hustled back to their team’s location and broke the news. Moans and groans filled the lobby. I pulled out my cell phone to check the time: 8:37.
“Well guys,” I said, “I am heading back to the room to take a nap” I stood up and stretched out my back.
Matt looked over at me and replied, “Just don’t over sleep!”
With my back arching and my chest pumped out I stretched my arms out and gave him a thumbs up and headed toward the elevator. By now the little groups that were formed in the lobby were now breaking up.
I made it to the second floor and started walking down the hallway towards my room, but for some reason my memory is cloudy. My mind was still foggy from the night before. Alcohol has an amazing effect on the brain, even the next morning. Was it Room 236 or 326? Was I on the right floor?. I dug into my pants pocket I grabbed my cell phone to call Kevin.
Just before the third ring I heard Kevin’s voice immediately said, “Dave Room 229!” That was the room number! “OK. Thank You!” I replied. Just as I was about to hang up I could hear a collective laughter in the background.
“Hey, Kevin” I yelled into the phone! Kevin replied with a long drawn out, “YESSS?”
I asked, “Am I on speaker phone?” With a communal response, everyone in my group answered, “Yes you are?” I am surrounded by jerks! My mind was spent and I dragged myself to Room 229. I got to the room took off my glasses and placed them on the nightstand next to my bed so I would not forget them. Kicked off my shoes, crawled into my bed and fell right asleep.
Kevin came into the room and with a quick pull on the covers, he said. “Come on Dave we gotta go.” I sat up on the bed stretched my arms out and gave a big yawn. I felt so much better getting a couple hours sleep. I quickly put on my shoes and headed out the door. Kevin and I drove in his car down to the fields. We arrived at the softball complex at around 11:45. Loretta had already arranged parking spaces for us so we could all park next to each other. Loretta was the only female in our group we consider her our legal guardian (mother) for the weekend. She was not older than any of us but she was the only one that had any sense of responsibility. She took good care of us and we loved her for that. The sky was still grey but the drizzle had finally stopped. The grounds crew were out on the six fields scurrying around making final preparations for today’s games. Stepping out of the air-conditioned car, I felt a swarm of humid air smother me. It wasn’t hot out but that sticky moistness of the air sucked the life out of me.
Al came around to hand out sandwiches that he made for us. Al was about 6’9” with dark brown hair and broad shoulders. Not really lanky, but thin. He kind of reminded me of a very tall Mr. Rogers, more so in appearance than personality. Al has a dry sense of humor but one of the nicest umpires I have ever worked with. Al would always have some very helpful tips on our mechanics. He was in charge of snacks and sandwiches for the weekend.
“Dave,” he asked, “Do you want ham and cheese or roast beef?”
“Whatever you have in your hand?” I replied, and tossed me a ham and cheese.
I don’t know how he made these sandwiches but when I took a bite it was so good. A perfect blends of ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mustard. As I was enjoying my lunch, I thought nothing would be better than a Diet Coke. Reaching into the cooler I heard Kevin yell out, “OK here is what I have,” he said.
Kevin was the elder out of all of us, sort of like an older brother of the family. Kevin stood there with his white hair sticking out of his cap and his glasses half way down his nose. He was carrying his clipboard and continued to tell us, “I re-adjusted the schedules because things have changed. We are no longer doing a three man rotation because we now have three fields to cover.” Kevin looks over the schedule on his clipboard and his eyes peaked over the glasses and said, “We are doing a two man crew and each crew has six games to cover. Al and Rich are on Field 3, Loretta and I, are on Field 4, and Dave and Matt are on Field 5. Work it out with your partner on who has the plate and bases. I would suggest three games then switch.” Kevin and Rich were also our rules interpreters, any questions about the rules or the game they would always have an answer. To me this was a great opportunity to become a better umpire. Getting feedback from experienced umpires is always helpful.
Matt strolled over to me and asked if he could do the plate for the first three games. That was fine with me; may this humid air would subside later in the day. Both Matt and I were rookies to this group and inexperienced to the level of talent in Showcase Tournaments. We had plenty of knowledge of the profession and few years under our belt.
We all got ready for the game and did a quick check of my equipment before Matt and I started to walk over to the field. Had my hat, indicator, and brush, not much else when you are doing the bases. Turning around from the car I glanced over at fields. I felt like something was wrong, something seems to be off. I took a look around the complex and notice something very bizarre, the players, coaches and the people on the fields were all hazy and fuzzy. My glasses! I have trouble seeing distance and that can be very critical in this line of work. Making a call at first base from the “C” position (the area between 3rd base and shortstop), would be difficult. I turned back to the trunk of Kevin’s car and looked frantically in my containers.
“Shit, shit, shit!” I said in a semi loud voice. Kevin heard me and came over and asked, “What’s wrong?”
“My glasses” I answered, “I think I left them at the hotel!”
“When did you last have them on?” Kevin asked
“I remember taking them off when I went back to the room for a nap!” I replied. It hit me that I left them on the night table next to the bed.
“You dumb ass!” I heard behind Rich say behind me.
Matt was strolled over looking a little perplexed, “Why is Rich calling you a dumb ass again?”
“He forgot his glasses!” Rich answered and continued while looking at me, “You know you will never live this down!” Rich walked away laughing to himself and then announced to the other members of our group the news.
Matt placed his mask under his left and said, “Let’s go. The game starts in 15 minutes.”
Matt and I walked out to the field and as we were doing our pregame responsibilities. We stopped for a brief moment and he said, “OK I have your back and will cover you on calls if you need me!” I thanked him and we continued towards the field.
We called the coaches out to home plate and we did our pregame conference, which was very short and to the point. The conference broke up and Matt started the timer, 70 minutes.
I took my position out at first base and Matt told the catcher, “Coming down!” The catcher propped up on her knees and yelled down “Balls In, Coming Down!” Matt gave me a quick look and I responded with quick thumbs up. I stood just outside the foul line around 15 feet behind first base. ‘Let the games begin’ I said to myself.
First three games were good solid games. All the teams that played each other were pretty much evenly matched. There were a couple of close plays. Even being in the “C” position I made the calls without any hesitation. Keeping my composure on calls, I gave the impression of confidence. However inside my head there were calls that I had my doubts.
The humidity was starting to take its toll on both Matt and I, more so on Matt because of all the equipment he had on. The sweat penetrated through our shirts. We were both soaked and felt drained. The air was only slightly warm but the humidity made it seem like it was in the upper 90s. We each kept ourselves hydrated, the more water we drank the more we perspired.
After the third game, Matt and wandered back to the parking lot to change our equipment. I was not looking forward to putting on all the gear and doing 3 more games. Matt looked as red as an apple and when he took off the chest protector a sigh of relief came over him. His tee-shirt was drenched and pasted to his body. I grabbed two bottles of cold water from the cooler and tossed one to Matt. Both of us had the same idea, unscrewed the bottles and poured it over our heads. The cold liquid flowing over me felt so refreshed.
We headed back to the field and went over our pre-game responsibilities again. This time I was behind the plate. As a plate umpire for softball, I take all fly balls, no matter where they are. Matt did mention that he would go out for any fly balls in the outfield when he could at which point my responsibility would be the batter/runner.
The quality of play in a Showcase Tournament is a much higher level than the leagues I was used to. Everything is faster: pitching, fielding, throwing, running, etc. Plays are incredibly quick and you have to be ready for anything. Never anticipate a play. You can cheat a little if you have some idea where the play may be but you still have to be ready for anything. On a humid day like this you have to be in decent shape to keep up with these girls.
The first two games went by quickly, or as quickly as 70 minutes allowed. In between the 5th and 6th games Matt and I were waiting for the two teams to finish their warm ups.
Matt turned to me and said, “If you need your glass for distance, how are you with the pitches?”
I turned to him with a smile on my face and replied, “I can see the blurry image of the pitcher, but it’s not bad. When she releases the ball all I can see is a very blurry yellow object coming towards me, but it does come into focus at around a foot or two in front of the plate. That is enough time to make a call.” Matt just started to sneaker a little and shakes his head.
The 6th game started and the lights came on. Playing at night under the lights made things a little more difficult. The shapes and images that were already hazy became a little more distorted. About the 4th inning both teams started to pick up on the hitting and were scattering the ball to the outfield. Some of these shots were bullets and I had to come out from behind the plate as best I could to make a call. Matt tried to help out but did not have a chance with some of these blasts. The outfielders for both teams were getting a pretty good jump on the ball as well and make some very close plays. One batter hit a screaming line drive to left center field. I came out from behind the plate and ran in the direction of the ball. I followed the ball but took peak at the fielders making the play. The left fielder had a good jump on the ball and was hustling towards center field. She had slipped and fell forward sliding a little. The center fielder picked up her speed made a dash towards the descending ball. She jumped over the left fielder and as she started to come down, just before hitting the ground she caught the ball. At least, that is what I think happened. The center fielder raised her glove hand to indicate that she caught the ball.
That was all I needed, “OOOUTTTT!” I yelled with my right arm extending up with a fist.
I waited for a second or two to see if there was a challenge to my call, but the third base coach was clapping and screamed out to the center fielder, “Hell of a catch five, hell of a catch!” So I made the right call.
The 5th inning was a repeat of the previous two innings, scattered the outfield with hits. Some hits were well placed and some were caught, but there were a number of close plays. The clamminess of the air never changed. My legs seem like two tree trunks, my knees were aching and my reaction time was slowing down. Just as the ball was plunging into the outfield, I would stop my dash, take position, and wait a second or two before signaling a call.
Between 5th and 6th inning, Matt came over to me and asked, “How the hell did you make some of those calls in the outfield? I mean the first one she raised her arm up but the other ones were tough calls.”
“Well,” as I articulated to Matt hushed tone, “before I make a call I listen to the crowd’s reaction. If the home team is on the field and I hear cheers from the 3rd base side then I know it’s an out. The same goes for the away team on the first base side when they are on the field.”
Matt looked at me and started to laugh. Then I heard the catcher, “BALLS IN, COMING DOWN!”
Matt jogged out to his position and I went over to the backstop to check the timer. I had to get a little closer to it because the lights made it hard to see the digital numbers. Black numbers on a gray background is not ideal in this situation. I peered at the timer and saw we had a little under 10 minutes left in the game. If time ran out we finish the batter, whoever is up when time expires will finish their turn at bat.
First batter came up and hit a grounder up the middle, base hit. The second batter, on a 2-1 count, hit a pop up to 2nd base, one out. I quickly checked the time, a little over six minutes left! The next batter came and swung at the first pitch, strike one. The next pitch came a little high around the chin, ball one. The batter fouled off the next four pitches. The pitcher setup and began her wind up and then with a quick rotation, released the ball that came in a little outside. Upon release the runner took off for second. I called out, “Ball!” and removed my mask and darted out a few steps to get a decent look at the play. Matt was right there and made the call, “SAFE!”
I waited for Matt to get set and then hustled back behind the plate. The coach came over from the third base coach’s box, “Hey blue, Time!” I yelled out, “Time!”
The coach came over to me and asked me what that last pitch was. I told him it was a ball.
“OK, thank you,” he said and started back to the coach’s box. He then turned around and asked, “Do you know what the count is?”
I looked down at my indicator and saw 1 ball and 2 strikes but could not remember if there was 1 ball or 2. Did I click it over while I was running out to 2nd base? Oh crap! I looked out towards Matt between 2nd and 3rd base and with my hands in front of chest and both my index fingers pointing at each other, I begin to rotate both my fingers in a circle around each other. This indicates “What do you have for a count?” Matt looks at his indicator and flashes the count down over his thighs. I start to squint and move forward a few steps, indicating again “What is the count?” He flashes the count again on his thighs but this time taping his fingers to emphasize the count. I move even closer straining to see his fingers. I gave him the single again “What’s the count?” This time he flashes the single up around his chest. But I still cannot make how many fingers he has flashing and took a few steps closer. Again I rotate my index fingers in a circle, thinking “What the HELL is the count?”
Finally Matt raises both his hands both his head and yells out, “TWO BALLS AND TWO STRIKES!”
I turned to the coach and say, “Two and Two, coach.” Not only was the coach chuckling at this whole scenario but I heard the pitcher laughing as well. I turned toward the pitcher and noticed that she was right next to me. I had moved up all the way a little past the pitcher because I could not see Matt’s fingers. Oh crap! It was so obvious to people what had just happened.
As I approached the plate and took my position behind the catcher, the alarm went off indicating the end of the game. I announced the count, “Two Balls and Two Strikes.” after a very brief pause I yelled out, “This is the last batter!” The coaches, players and fans seem to get a good chuckle out of it. The batter took the next pitch to right field for a base hit. She made it to first and the runner made it home and that was the game.
At the end of the game both teams paraded by Matt and I, thanking us for the game. One coach stopped by and told us that we both did a great job today. Then he mentioned how tough it was to see under the lights and commented that it must have been hard to see Matt flashing the count. He was being nice.
I replied, “Coach, thank you, but I cannot see distance and forgot my glasses today!”
He stopped, smiled at me and said, “That is the funniest comment I have ever heard an umpire say at the end of a great game. You could have fooled me!” Then he walked away laughing.
Three years later I still am reminded by my fellow umpires about that day. Of course word got around very quickly around the area. Every once in a while I will show up to a game and my partner and some coaches will comment, “I see you brought your glasses today!”