The Right Call
“The umpiring schedule came today, hon.” My son was reclining on the couch with his iPod. It was 8:30 on a Sunday morning and some of us were getting ready for church – I could hear his two brothers jockeying for position in the downstairs bathroom with the water running.
“I don’t really want to umpire, Mom.”
“Whaddaya mean? Then why did we go to all the trainings?” I said, as I buzzed around the living room.
“I just don’t know…”
“Well, I wish you had decided that before you came home with all the equipment…” I said as walked into the kitchen with the collection of dishes and napkins that I’d amassed from the coffee and end tables.
As it was, just getting my son to the trainings had come with a price – the first two were scheduled during the same time slot that I have choir practice, in the two weeks preceding our Easter performance. I really couldn’t afford to miss practice time, but I did anyway.
On my way back through the living room, I commented, “If you had let the coordinators know, they would have removed your name from the schedule.”
Still no reply.
I didn’t even know how we were going to fit umpiring in with three other baseball schedules as well as track and field, and the fact that the games he’d be umpiring were in the next town over (because he’s not old enough yet to umpire in our town) added another wrench in the machine. And throw tournament team practice for my older two into the mix, because that starts before the regular spring season has concluded.
“Hon, can you haul yourself off that couch and get dressed? We have to leave in 15 minutes.” I decided I’d bring the subject up later.
After church, I printed out the email and read it to my son, who had resumed his position on the couch with his iPod. Key phrases included “You and your partner are an umpiring team” and “if you are unable to make a game, you have to call EVERY SINGLE person on the list before you call the coordinators.”
“Honey, this means you’ll be letting down your teammate if you bail out now. AND you’ll have to call around and find subs for your games. Here you go, I printed the list of teams and the phone numbers are all right there. You better get busy — your first game’s in two days!”
“Look, this is not my responsibility – this was your idea in the first place. And anyway, I can’t imagine what you’re so worried about – I think it will be pretty obvious what is a ball and strike – it’s the first year of kid-pitch. You’ve been playing baseball – never mind watching it – for years!
“It’s just that I already have so much stuff to do…”
“Like what, play games on your iPod?”
“Well, how does the team decide which of us is plate ump?”
“I imagine you could do rock-paper-scissors, you know, like how all important decisions are made…”
“What if I make a mistake?”
A ha, I thought. Here’s the crux of the matter. “Hon, everyone makes mistakes. Just be consistent. You’ve been through all the trainings. I’m sure you can do it.”
“Okay, okay. I’ll do it.” He groaned dramatically, sounded unconvinced. Apparently actually umpiring the games would be easier than making all the calls to find substitutes.
“Great, then that settles that.” But still, even though it was his idea in the first place, I wondered if I was putting too much pressure on my son. I added, “Would it help if we call So-and-so and see if he has any tips?” (So-and-so coaches a high school baseball team and also plays in a men’s league.)
Our friend had a great suggestion: go outside and practice. What was not so great is that it was raining. Still, three of us traipsed outside to play “family baseball.” My middle son declined, so I stood in as pitcher (I am sure I am at least as good as kids in their first year of kid-pitch.) My youngest was the batter, which was a bonus for him, since he was just moving up from tee ball. My oldest stood on a chair behind our canvas pitching target.
We practiced various scenarios, with my oldest acting as both plate ump and field ump. I asked my youngest, who’s a righty, to bat lefty, too, and run the bases (tree, stone, hose, chair). We played until we were all soaked and it seemed like my oldest was having fun.
Then we did it again the next day.
My oldest umpired during the regular season and playoff games, and even umped one game on his own, earning the wage for both umpires. Somehow we managed to make it work with our schedule and only needed to swap games once. Today, having learned what it’s like to walk the mile in their shoes, my son will tell other umpires, “Good game, ump” sometimes even accompanied by a “fist bump.”
It seems he made the right call when he decided to keep his commitment.