Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Day in the ESPN Sun

I am a collegiate softball umpire. After 6 years of doing this I'm still trying to find out why some people consider this a glamorous profession. The ladies are bigger, stronger, older, throw harder, hit farther but are not necessarily better than the best high school players around. Lots of traveling and 6-8 hour days for double-headers.

From the time you start umpiring NCAA softball it's drummed into your head that every call you make may be taking bread off the table of the D1 coach. Many of these folks are full-time coaches and, believe me, some really act like it! In fact a college coach whom I saw on last Friday was fired by email over the weekend and watched her team play from the bleachers that Monday.

...So I'm assigned to a series at the D1 level in Delaware who are playing a rival conference team from Virginia. I'm the crew chief which adds a little more pressure into this scenario. A week before the weekend series I'm informed by the college assigner that the game will be telecast on ESPNU which is part of the vast ESPN programming. My assigner informs me that I should remember that our crew is representing college umpires in general and especially the conference I'm working in. One umpire is coming from Virginia and the other is from upstate New York.

After the third call from my college assigner informing me that this game was very important and that we were representing the conference I got the idea that this was an important event.

On the day of the game I left Baltimore at 11:00am traveling to Delaware so as to arrive by 12:30 pm to be ready for the 2:00 pm start. Of course the game was originally scheduled for 1pm but the ESPN folks decided they had to move it up an hour. That added even more pressure since my wife and I had tickets to the theatre at 6:30 pm that evening.

When I got to the field there were ESPN people everywhere. There were five cameras stationed at every conceivable angle. I met with the ESPN rep and was told that he had received a call from my conference assigner to remind me how important this game was (4th reminder!).

It was 97 degrees on the field at game time. I was at 1st base in the 3-man crew. I was sweating so profusely that I couldn't even wear sunglasses. In the 2nd inning I turned to chase a foul ball and looked right into the sun. Needless to say the home plate umpire had to make the call. Two bang-bangs later (for those of you uninformed that's really, I mean REALLY, close plays at a base). And no matter what Jim Palmer says, the "Tie Does Not Go To The Runner!" I was wondering if I had the calls right. Oh, did I forget to tell you that I was told the female in the broadcast crew hated umpires?

Anyway, we somehow got through this whole thing and after 2 hours in the blazing sun, with commercials holding up the game after every inning, the home team won by a shutout, 5-0. I ran straight to the ESPN truck after the game and asked the Director one question, "Did You Use Replay?" He smiled and said "No".

I raced home and we made it to the theatre 15 minutes before show-time. I had more pressure trying to make the show then umpiring in the game!!!


David Ettlin said...

That, my friend, was a fantastic blog post! I loved it! Only sorry that Comcast in Anne Arundel didn't seem to be carrying ESPNU, cause I wanted to watch you in action.... cheers!

M.M. McDermott said...

Awesome! But don't let all that fame go to your head. You'll still at least pretend like you know us little folks, right?