Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Baseball....60 Years in the Game!

Now that the excitement of the Moab Dual Sport Motorcycle Adventure is passing into a pleasant memory, reality of Spring back in West Central Ohio has returned....umpiring Spring Baseball in the Midwest is a challenge of it's own...Wind, Cold, Rain, Fans, Coaches, and Players, make this sport, my favorite by far, a challenge....a challenge I began 60 years ago playing "Wiffle Ball" around the pine trees of Alston's Cottages our first home in South Venice, Florida....since that time in 1955, almost without exception, I have been involved in the sport of Baseball or it's cousin Softball, both fast and slow pitch.

Baseball....60 years, in and around the game.....

Hard to believe that I have been around 66 years, let alone being 6 decades since I first picked up a bat and ball....I found the game, and my love of it back at those cottages....and remember watching the Yankees{my favorite team back then, always loved a winner} on the grainy pictures coming through on the small 14 inch or so black and white TV that sat on a stand in the small cottage living room...the first game I remember watching on the tube was the 1955 All~Star Game....Mickey Mantle was my childhood hero....how many kids today can pick out a player, who will spend his entire career playing for one team, earning a small salary{even though Mick was the highest paid player of the day, it is peanuts compared to the overpaid clowns who bat .240 and sit out half a season, or the pitchers who earn about a Million Bucks per win....}?  The game was different, the times were better, argue all you want, there is no comparison....for people like me, the fifties and early 60s, were superior by far.

After we moved to the Venice By~Way and then on to School Street in the Edgewood Section of Venice, I had began playing organized Baseball in the Venice Little League System....first with the Venice Elks, then with league expansion, I was placed on the Venice-Nokomis Bank team, where I was the starting catcher for two seasons....a average player at best for most of my early years, it did not stop or deter my love of the game....Baseball, followed by Fast Pitch{during my Air Force days, post Vietnam} and then Slow Pitch Softball took me into my 30s....in between I coached Little League in Celina, dallied with umpire work{didn't have the patience to put up with the BS from coaches and fans early on}....add radio play-by-play of Minor League Baseball in Wisconsin and then High School Baseball when I returned to Ohio, kept me in the game....the side benefit of working radio gave me a chance to get in free for the Reds Games in Cincinnati, and a chance to meet just about every super star in that Reds Organization....

Finally approaching 50, with youngest son Hal on the Celina Bulldog team, older son Sam, his high school days finished decided to head to Daytona Beach and attend the Harry Wendelstedt Umpire School, in hopes of becoming a MLB Umpire down the road....

When Sam finished up, he did not get a minor league offer, only 3 of the class of that year did...but by that team he was prepared to come back to Ohio and try his hand at High School Umpire work....before he returned he asked me if I would like to get back into umpire work....?

16 years later, the rest is history...Sam now works and umpires baseball and officiates football in Illinois, I continue to do 3 sports, baseball, football, and basketball, in Ohio.  I'm not sure how many more seasons I will work the three sports, but baseball will be the last one I give up....I would like to umpire until I hit 70...buy my health and God are in charge of that...I'm just along for the ride....which so far this season has me scheduled for 47 regular season games and at least 7 Post Season Tournament games on the docket so far.  After that the usual Summer Baseball will dome in June and July.

I've been blessed with the ability to do just about every level and the tournament assignments keep coming my way...avoiding major injury, I will continue to stick close to the game and hopefully be able to help out younger umpires that are coming up....our ranks are not expanding, some guys, despite the reasonable pay, especially for the time spent on the field, just don't want to put up with the hassle for coaches, players, and clueless fans...the guys in their 30s and 40s are busy with jobs and raising families, leaving the games to us "Old Farts" and younger, single guys...

So there you have it, as we reach about 1/3rd of the way through the High School season....it goes fast, but then, the past 60 years around the game has gone by in the blink of an eye.  Tonight I'm at Lima Central Catholic, tomorrow at Lincolnview High School....the weeks are full, and hopefully the rain outs will be few and far between, so far I've done 11 of 15 assignments, so despite the nasty wet weather, we are getting most of the contests completed.

back later>>>>>

Photos-top Working First Base at the Elida D4 District last Spring{2} Alston Cottages where I first picked up bat and ball, back in the Summer or fall of 1955..{3} Brother Mike Houseworth on the Varsity and me on the Venice Elks JV Team in 1957...{4} and working the plate during the Sectional Tournament at Lima Shawnee, 'discussing' a call with Hall of Fame Coach Mike "Spanky" Schumm back in 2012....and below...earlier this season at Van Wert....working another cool and rainy game:

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