Headed out of town just after 3PM yesterday, winding my way through the back routes and roads towards the small town of Columbus Grove, about 55 miles away in rural Putnam County. Got to the ball field around 4:20, which gave me plenty of time to take in the improving weather, get the home plate umpire gear on, and wait for my partner who lives in Delphos, about a 20 mile drive away from Grove.
Sunny and upper 50s with a good, but not strong south wind, were going to be the conditions....the game, while not well played, or umpired for that matter, would be interesting to say the least...it lasted just under 2 hours.
Right off the bat in the top of the first inning, the Grove pitcher, with a man on first, drops the ball...I make no balk call because it did not appear he was on the rubber of the pitching mound(for those not savvy in baseball lingo, you'll just have to bear with me on the terminology)...the visiting coach goes off and begins to yell at my partner, Terry, for a balk...Terry says no balk, well the coach explains his point, and my cohort does the unpardonable sin...changes the call to a balk...this brings the home coach out of the dugout, and the theme for the day was set. I walked out, asked Terry what he had, and he ends up calling it balk, runner to second. The visitors scored a run, but this series of events, while not important in the final outcome(it was a home team 15-5 blow out shortened by run rule to 5 innings), led to the eventual 'Murphy's Law' being kicked into play.
Even though I escaped the wrath for the most part, poor Terry ends up with another balk argument(once again it would have been my call had I choose to call it, I didn't because, it was borderline), 3 "bangers" at first base, meaning very close calls that given the situation already in place, Terry was going to catch Hell no matter which way he called them, and he did.....finally Grove scores a run in the bottom of the 5th to end the game via the "Run Rule"(being ahead by 10 runs or more when the trailing team has batted 5 times or more, and had at least an equal number of at bats)..Grove wins and we get out of Dodge.
Topping it off, I got hit on the left forearm, not once, but twice, within 2 innings, and that arm now looks like "Popeye's" arm....only mine isn't all muscle, and it's got a nice dark shade to it....all-in-all an "interesting" afternoon....and to make it all the more interesting, I get to go back to Grove tonight, this time with Sam as my partner, and he can do the plate, it's his turn...I can catch Hell, if it's mine to catch, as the field umpire.
Funny how things work out....I had not been to Columbus Grove in two years(got rained out last season), and here I do 2 games in 2 days at the same location....not something you plan on...especially if you or the home coach needs time to cool off.....in this case it's not a problem, but I have other stories on other diamonds that would prove my point.
On another related note...the Gas Prices are killing my profit margin, although I can't complain..the games pay $50 to $70 each for varsity....but a round trip to places like Grove, Antwerp, Hicksville, Sherwood, etc, usually take 5 gallons of fuel for the intrepid(more when I drive the Jeep) and at $3.45 it's costing me $16 or $17 bucks a run....as opposed to the 8 to 10 back when I took the contracts...the schools are helping out, them and most leagues have raised the fees....which don't come cheap to them....guess I could get all my games closer to home, but I like the different locations and frankly I like the drives to and from...so call me stupid?
I then Drove a different rural way home, just to clear my head, and hit the door about 8:10 last night. I grabbed a beer, and watched my Philly Flyers thump the Washington "Crap-itals" and go up 2 games to 1 in that best of 7 NHL series....I am really enjoying the coverage on the VS Network(formerly the Outdoor Network), and NBC....especially the VS game to game broadcasts.
65, windy and sunny today, things are looking up.
photos-Lou Pinella...when he was getting along with me, the broadcaster not the umpire, back in 1991, as Reds manager, and a more familar photo of Lou, giving it to one of the MLB umps last season. And GO FLYERS!