Child's Play - by Floyd Lewis - The Confessions of Blue
By Softball West
Some of you may be aware that for the past 10 years or so, I have been a registered ASA umpire. I hope that mentioning this does not cause you to turn the page. Eight years ago, I worked several travel tournaments and High School softball, but when my daughter started high school softball, and then into college, almost all of the umpiring I did was for local recreation leagues.
Since moving to the Central California Valley, I am once again umpiring. Earlier this year I umpired in a local recreation league, but also, on Memorial Day weekend I was asked to umpire at a large travel ball tournament in the Stockton area. I consider my self a good umpire and I accepted the invitation. Before I go on, I want readers, those still reading, to understand that I do not umpire for the money. Although I'm not wealthy, I certainly make a good living, and I do not need the extra income. No, the reason I umpire is because I love the game, and as I stated earlier, I feel I do a good job.
Since it had been a while since I had done high-level softball, I'll admit that it took me a couple of games to catch up with the speed of the game. I was working 16U games. Not so much the pitching, as I felt I did a decent job behind the plate with the strike zone (although I'm sure some coaches, as they always do, might differ with this statement), but the speed of the plays in the field. In my second, or perhaps third game, I blew two calls, against the same team, on the bases. Unlike some umpires, I admit it when I screw up.
The sad part is that I didn't think I blew the calls, but it seemed that both managers and my partner agreed that I did, so I'm assuming that I did. Because of the fact that I really enjoy umpiring, and always want to have a good time, I did kid with coaches on both teams about the blown calls, and while I'm sure the effected coach didn't like my error, you know, he didn't give me a lot of grief. A little later in the game I had another close call on a runner trying to stretch a double into a triple, and I called her out. There were a lot of moans from the crowd, so I looked at the third base coach and asked, "What, did I blow another one?" The coach responded, "No, you didn't blow that one."
The UIC at our fields was great. She spoke to me between a few of my early games about getting into position earlier and other mechanical issues, and because of the long lay off for me in doing this level of softball, the comments were appreciated. I'm not sure that she really liked my personality on the field, as I tend to kid about with the fans and the coaches. I don't show favoritism, but as I stated earlier, I umpire for the love of the game, and darn it, I'm going to enjoy myself if I'm going to work 15 games in three days in 90 degree heat.
It's been a few weeks since this event, and I still look back at it with fondness. I did have a great time. I enjoyed meeting all the other umpires, the coaches, and was up close to some exciting softball. Not only that, but with a little extra change in my pocket, I was able to enjoy a great meal at Applebee's and make a few friends there as well. But that is another story for another publication.
I had the pleasure to see two of the original Ponies last month. That probably doesn't mean anything to any of you, but it was significant for me. The Ponies were the first teams I coached that my daughter was on. This team was both a girl's soccer team playing in the Valley Hi Soccer Club, and a t-ball softball team playing in the Elk Grove Girls Softball League. That was over eleven years ago.
Since my move from the Sacramento area, we have remained friends with one of the families, and make a point of seeing them at least once a year, and always keep in contact through phone calls and cards. About five years ago, the mom of one of the original Ponies emailed me after she had read a story in this publication. She told me about her daughter, Shannon, who was also playing travel softball, and at least one other player playing for a Sacramento travel team. I wrote a short story at the time about the fact that at least four of the original Ponies were still playing softball.
This past month, Shannon's mom emailed me again discussing what a small world softball really is. A couple of months ago, I wrote a story about an Army Reservist that had been called to duty in Iraq, and he was going to miss his daughter's first high school season. Well, it turns out that this individual's daughter was a best friend with Shannon's younger sister. She also went on to say that Shannon was playing in a tournament in Stockton that weekend, so naturally being the softball animal that I am, my wife and I made the drive down to watch her play, and it was a pleasure.
The week previous to this tournament, we had also attended the graduation party for the younger sister of the player that we have kept in touch with, Jessica. Although the move to the Central Valley has caused us to leave many close friends in So Cal, it has provided an opportunity to re-establish long ago relationships, and to remember those original championships, the players involved and their families.
Once again thank you ESPN for televising the NCAA Women's Softball World Series. Of course, as happens annually, it only leaves me wanting more softball on television. Check it out. Last month I attended two travel tournaments, and some of the CIF playoff games. Another positive about moving off the mountain. As always, you can contact me at email@example.com_and so the ball rolls.