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Umpiring, The official way to see baseball

January 22, 2006|By MARK KELLER

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a game official?

Actually, after the scrutiny NFL officials have come under since last weekend, any thoughts you may have had were probably pushed well to the back of your mind.

But for those of you who would still consider the possibility, you could get your chance this baseball season.

The Washington County Umpires Association is looking for new members. When I say they're looking for new members, I mean they're literally beating the bushes looking for candidates.

They need new members so badly, they make the desperate housewives look downright content.

John McAllister, the head of the local umpires association, said Wednesday the number of available officials continues to dwindle because they have been unable to attract new, young men and women.

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"I'm 60 years old. I can't continue doing this forever," McAllister said.

It is a difficult job, to be sure. For baseball and softball parents, if you've never been an umpire during a live game, you should give it a try sometime, if only one time.

I guarantee you'll have a much better appreciation for what it means to be an umpire.

When I was 14, I would walk from my house in Funkstown to National Little League to keep the official scorebook, all for a whopping $2 a night.

One night, the umpire scheduled to call the game did not show up. League officials tried to wrangle up a couple of parents to officiate, but only succeeded in getting one - who agreed to do so only if he could work the bases.

Eyes suddenly turned to me and before I knew it, I was being fitted with chest protector and shin guards for my behind-the-plate debut.

For the next two weeks, I got a crash course in umpiring as I somehow became the de facto home plate umpire. (And I didn't get paid for that. Hey, 22 years ago, to a 14-year-old, two dollars was two dollars!)

The experience definitely opened my eyes to a lot of things, but it specifically showed me that everyone sees the game from a different point of view - and it's a rare occurence when a majority of fans agrees with the umpire.

But I'm not trying to discourage you here. I really am trying to encourage you. If you feel led to do so, call McAllister at 301-797-3283 and get some more information on what the job entails.

It's a humbling job, but it is also a rewarding job. That's something I got out of it as a 14-year-old.

The WCUA is having its first meeting of the year Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. at Broadfording Christian Academy and will conduct a mandatory clinic Feb. 16 at 6:30 (for softball officials) and 7:30 (for baseball) at Williamsport High School.

Adults in our area like to throw around the phrase, "It's for the kids." Well, this is for the kids.

Because without the umpires and the officials, the kids won't get to play.




Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. His column appears on Sundays. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2332, or by e-mail at keller@herald-mail.com

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