By Joe Sigler
Ever since I can remember, baseball was my favorite sport to play. I recall receiving a glove for Christmas when I was four and asking my dad if we could go out into the snow and play catch. Unfortunately, he made me wait for spring. But every spring and summer after that until I graduated from high school, I was heavily involved in the game. Baseball had done so much for me and I wanted to give back to the game, so at 14, I started umpiring Little League.
As a player, I took the umpires for granted. They made the game run smoothly and without incident almost every single time. When I first dove into umpiring, I found it difficult to step back from the player-side of the game. Over the years, I have continued to get better at being a supervisor or manager of the game as opposed to an active participant in it. As they say, the best umpire is one you did not even know was there. That taught me to have patience, and to know my role in a given situation. It helped me to calmly and quickly react to problems, while not overstepping my bounds.
Aside from the management perspective, umpiring gave me a lesson in doing what is right for who matters. Recently, in a playoff game, one team unknowingly violated an obscure rule in the middle of the game. The other team’s coach came over to me and asked me to have the violating team forfeit the game under the aforementioned obscure rule. Now what would you do in this situation? Send the 11-year-old kids home for the season because they violated a rule by one pitch? What would that teach the “winning” team? That you can get handed anything as long as you looked deep enough into the rulebook? I did not think that was right, so I did what was best for the kids, let the violating team fix the problem, and play on from there while slightly bending the rules.
Umpiring has been a great gift to me. It has taught me a considerable amount of life lessons. It has taught me to be patient, to be kind, to do what I think is best, to trust my gut, and most importantly, to have fun in the moment.