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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Hey Ump! Are you blind??

Thursday, June 19, 2003

The life and times of a Little League umpire

The first baseman dribbles the baseball between his legs as the sprinting runner, helmet tipped to the back of his head, stomps on the plate. The umpire juts his thumb in the air. "Out!" he shouts.

The parents and fans erupt from the aluminum stands.

"This is awful!" They cry.

"This is getting ridiculous!"

"You're getting paid to be here! You're missing a great game!"

Such is the life behind the mask of a little league umpire. After making accurate calls for seven innings, your presence isn't noticed until the game is on the line and the fans are driven into a frenzy.

"If it's a close game, they get pretty excited," said Brett Miller, an umpire of four years, adding that a parent once offered him their glasses.

"They aren't afraid to give you a piece of their mind." agrees third-year umpire Matt Speers, another sophomore at Storm Lake High School. "It's tough to make everybody happy."

Speers, who played in all the minor, major, and senior leagues before moving onto the high school level, said the jeers sometimes get to him, like the time a coach called him both blind and crazy.

"I don't like it," he said, "but it's kinda their right."

So why does Speers continue to pull the mask on nightly, crouching behind the plate, making himself a target for errant line drives and the ire of enraged fans? Simple, for the love of the game.

"My life is sports," he said. He also wants to be a teacher and coach, and as an umpire, he is gaining some of that experience now.

"I've always enjoyed working with kids," he said. "They look up to you."

The money umpires earn is a nice incentive as well, he smiles.

Tyler DeHaan, now a junior at Northwestern, has been umpiring locally since the 6th grade. He's heard it all.

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