Umpiring at the Cal Ripken World Series was an experience of a lifetime. I met 10 of the best umpires I have ever worked with.
It was a varied collection. There were four international umpires. Myself, from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Puerto Rico were represented. The rest were from the US, two from California, Texas, Indiana, two more from Arkansas and the UIC is from New Jersey.
We all got along well and we all bugged the shit out of each other. I was bugged because I am from Canada, naturally. The initial impression from most of the group is that Canadians are friendly. Well, I guess I threw that stereotype out the window, not that I am unfriendly, but I guess I wasn’t what they expected of a “typical” Canadian.
I am unsure how it started, but at some point early on, I ranked a few of my fellow umpires, from 1, the umpire I liked the best, to 11, the umpire I liked the least. California #2 was quite desperate to be ranked #1, I am not quite sure why, but he was.
The Aussie was initially #1 because he was so easy going and so quiet – he never bashed me, because I was a Canadian. One of the nights that we went to Appleby’s for dinner, Indiana picked up the cheque for everyone there, it was quite nice of him – this got him an immediate jump to the #1 spot. I don’t think this went over well with California #2, that elusive #1 spot was not his…
California #1 was staying at the same hotel as I was. If he hadn’t been ranked #1 somewhere along the line, he’d have punched me in the face. Indiana was also at the same hotel, he acted as my chauffeur for the second half of the week, after I decided that my roomie from Texas was trying to kill me. The two from Arkansas were characters, exactly as I might picture people from Arkansas to be. I had never met anyone from Arkansas before and if I don’t again, you two are the best. Big Arkansas is a State Trooper and served in the military, I have nothing but respect for those that serve in both of those jobs. If I ever visit Arkansas and you pull me over, remember that in the International Championship game where you expected my Canadian punch to knock you over, I gave you a hug instead. Little Arkansas and I didn’t get to umpire together. I think that the UIC was paid off so we didn’t have to do a game together. He’s a good guy though and from what I witnessed, a good umpire too.
Speaking of the UIC, he’s from New Jersey and was a good guy, deep down somewhere. He was actually a lot like me, had an ego the size of the room the umpires used and talked regularly to his Schmoopy back home. He gave me a few pointers during the tournament, I guess we umpire a bit differently in Canada. His stories were good and I think he practiced acting them out at his hotel, very likely in front of a mirror.
Representing the rest of the world, Peurto Rico was uncharacteristically in excellent shape for an umpire – he’d often give us a 21 gun salute with his impressive gun show. He had an arm wrestling competition with Big Arkansas and had enough respect for law enforcement that he allowed a draw to occur. He wasn’t allowed to walk around the umpires room without his shirt on, it made Big Arkansas feel “less like a man”. New Zealand is the youngest of our group, his sarcasm is coming along quite nicely for a 21 year old, I see good things in his future. The representative from Australia was a quiet, reserved guy. We know he’s tough though, surviving the animals in Australia that want to kill you on a daily basis is a testament to that.
Comments during the day would see people move up a rank or two, or down a rank or two, all the while, California #2 (I call him California #2 because I met California #1 my first morning at the hotel) tried all of his tested antics to vault to that coveted #1 position. Actually, if I am to be truthful, he “claimed” that he didn’t care about my rankings and hoped he was #11 – this was, I believe, a reverse psychology technique on his part, and quite crafty, I might add.
California #2 also picked up the tab for everyone at lunch one day, Chick-Fil-A, and this got him to his desired spot. He was, to say the least, quite excited about this.
A few others bought food for one another, it was quite nice. I attempted to buy a group of four of us lunch one day but my roomie wouldn’t have it, although he had purchased Chick-Fil-A a few times for everyone – quite nice of him and thanks, Texas.
So, as I’ve indicated, the rankings changed, sometimes numerous times in a day, the guys learned I was easily bought off, a meal or something would cause a great change in the rankings. I don’t remember exactly why, and it might be that I was trying to drive him nuts, but late into the week, California #2 got the ranking of #1, locked in. He must have felt that his ship had come in as he was all smiles.
I told everyone that my final rankings would be released this week. I am late getting this list out, I had replied to an email sent from the UIC yesterday and said I’d have the list out by end of the day yesterday. Well, sleep was apparently the better idea. It’s early on Wednesday morning, and finally, here is the list.
For everyone that I worked with in this World Series, you all had your quirks and we all had the stereotypes that we either fell into quite well, or stood out from, being vastly different from what others might have initially perceived.
Everyone is ranked #1 in my books. How could I really have a ranking for any one of you? I had a great week. I dished out the abuse as well as I took the abuse. I hope that we are able to stay in touch, Facebook is great for that. In all honestly, this was one of the best tournaments that I have ever worked, either as a coach or as an umpire. You guys are the cream of the crop and I congratulate and thank each of you. I have decided to hang up my umpiring equipment. I just umpired in the World Series, how can it get any better than that? I don’t think it can. I plan on enjoying my new mountain life in the Rockies of southwest Alberta. Lots of outdoor stuff to do, lots of new adventures on the horizon.
To each of you, best of luck in your future endeavours. Good luck with your umpiring careers and most importantly, have some fun. I know I did. Thank you.