When you go to a baseball game, it's because you want to watch big-name players achieve and help your team win. Chances are good you'll remember if you were at a game when Albert Pujols hit a home run or Clayton Kershaw tossed a complete game shutout. Even if they didn't do those things, you'll remember if you watched them in person for the rest of your life. The players aren't the only ones on the field at every game you attend though. You've also got the men in blue, the umpires.
But the truth is nobody cares about the umpires as long as they don't mess up. Unlike players, the only time you'll hear the name of an umpire on television or radio is if they screwed up on a call like Jim Joyce blowing Armando Galarraga's bid for a perfect game, or Jerry Meals costing the Pirates a 19-inning marathon in Atlanta a few years ago that made fans angry enough to send death threats to him and his family. One thing many fans, including myself, don't understand is like the players, the umpires are on the road just as much if not more as the players every year and during the season that lasts roughly 200 days, they do more work off the field than people may realize.
UMPS Care is a charitable non-profit organization started by umpires Mike DiMuro and Marvin Hudson in 2004. Hudson is now the vice president of the charity while retired umpire Gary Darling serves as the president. With the help of many other umpires and their wives, the umpires go to various children's hospitals over the course of the season and deliver Build-a-Bear Workshop bears to children facing life-threatening illnesses.
They also host a bowling tournament, golf classic, and an online auction during the offseason. They're sponsored by over 15 businesses including MLB.com and the MLB Office of the Commissioner.
BLUE Crew Tickets
Along with visiting children's hospitals, the umpires have a program called the BLUE Crew Tickets. This program allows children with life-threatening illnesses to go to the ballpark for the day and get a tour of the home team's clubhouse along with the umpire's room. They also get to walk onto the field and watch the game. The program started in 2006 and since then have brought over 6,000 guests to the ballpark, according to the UMPS Care Charities website.
Calling for Christ
Believe it or not, Ted Barrett is an ordained minister and since he became one, he started a program for umpires called Calling for Christ. The goal of this group is to teach professional umpires about Jesus Christ. This is strictly for professional umpires, nobody else. Barrett and Rob Drake first came up with an idea of doing a yearly retreat for the umpires during the offseason in 2002 and officially got their first retreat in 2003.
Barrett has been working with NBA referees and NHL refs as well to get a ministry started for their squads. Along with the umpires, their wives have also started a ministry in the CFC. Led by Barrett, the rest of the main staff include Drake, Hudson, Mike Everitt, Alfonso Marquez, Chris Guccione, and David Rackley. The ministry comprises an annual retreat, winter bible studies, pastor visitations during the season, and a lot more. If you want to donate to this group or learn more about them, you can visit callingforchrist.com for more information.
So rather than focus on how umpires mess up calls or may have screwed with potential history, remember these guys are human like the rest of us and they don't want to be remembered for any of the wrong calls they made just like we wouldn't want to be. On the field, they're the men in blue. Off the field, they do everything in their power to make the world a better place.
All information was obtained through the UMPS CARE Charities website and callingforchrist.com.