The toughest (and most fun) job in Little League

Picture this: It’s a hot September afternoon in southern California. Field temperature is probably around 90°F (32° C). You strap on a pair of shin guards, put on a metal face mask, and slip your left arm into a protective pad, just as the Spartan warriors held their shields. You grip a plastic device with wheels that count balls, strikes, outs, and innings, and you hope you didn’t lose track. And if that isn’t challenging enough, your son is playing, but you still have to be impartial.

That’s what it’s like to be a Little League umpire.

I forgot to mention that in addition to umpiring, you will also serve as a backstop. With 8-, 9-, and 10-year-olds pitching, you can expect balls to go all over the place. Today, I took pitches off my thigh, shin guard, and more than a few off the chest protector. (After a game last year, I had a baseball-sized bruise on my leg that lasted about a week.) Since the ball is in play, you have to forget that a hard leather object is being hurled towards you at 25–40 mph (40–64 km/h), stay in there long enough to call the pitch, and then prevent yourself from being an obstacle as the catcher rushes back to get a wild pitch. You have to remember numerous rules and call the play correctly. (I blew one call today, but after talking to the coaches, I corrected myself. Even umpires can learn.)

But in the end, I felt a tremendous sense of satisfaction. I figured I did a decent job, because none of the parents on either side of the field weren’t grumbling or making death threats. The managers and coaches of both teams were happy too – probably because they didn’t have to do the job. But mostly, the satisfaction came from doing something that was important and beneficial. Without an umpire, the kids wouldn’t be able to play. I helped to provide those kids with a fair and safe environment so that they can play their best.

If you have an opportunity to make a difference, no matter small, step up and do it. You will be rewarded by the knowledge that you’ve helped others, even if it means wearing umpire gear on a hot day.