Herald Journal Columns
July 17, 2006, Herald Journal

Am I getting soft in my old age?

By Aaron Schultz

Let’s see, 22 high school games, and 23 amateur baseball games, and I have yet to be thrown out by an umpire.

Can that be right? To date, I have managed 45 baseball games and not had one ejection.

Sure, I was on my best behavior as a first-year high school head baseball coach (Lester Prairie), although I did get one warning.

Actually, this particular umpire gave the warning to my assistant coach, while I stood right behind the ump.

It happened at a game in the Cities with an umpire we had three away games in a row.

This particular umpire wasn’t very good the first two games, but neither game was all that close, so it wasn’t a big deal.

Well, during this game, we were in a barn burner, and the umpire was in way over his head.

He was just bad, all-around, and both teams, the coaches, and fans knew it.

Midway through the game, he felt the need to give our team a warning, and failed to talk to me about it.

By not talking to me, and instead issuing the warning to my players and assistant coach, he got me very heated, and got an earful from me.

After he apologized for not talking to me, he stated that he was pretty sure he was doing a very good job.

We ended up running away with the game, but just to give you an idea how bad this guy was – the base ump actually came up to me during the game and apologized for how bad his partner was.

Later in the year, we had that same base ump, who came up and informed me that particular umpire hung it up, and wasn’t going to umpire games anymore.

Yep, that was as close as I got all year to being ejected during a high school game, but, of course, I never want to be ejected from a high school game.

Now, amateur baseball is a different story.

As co-manager of the Winsted Wildcats this year, my first year of managing, I fully expected to be given the heave-ho at least a few times.

But, as we entered our last two regular season games this past weekend, I had yet to be thrown out.

In fact, there had only been really one game where I fully expected to get the boot, and it didn’t happen.

That game was against New Germany a few weeks back, but the kicker was, I knew the ump.

We had this ump during several high school games, and he was one of the top high school umps, I thought, that we had all year.

But in this particular town ball game, I didn’t think he was doing a very good job.

Throw in the fact that we were playing like a bunch of Lew Ford’s, it didn’t help.

Okay, I know Lew Ford in amateur baseball would be a king, but he is just my least favorite Twin.

When everyone else is yelling Lewwww – I am one of those fans actually booing him.

Enough bad-mouthing Lew, and back to my favorite target, umpires.

Well, my pitcher was getting very frustrated with this ump, and it boiled over, with him getting in the umpire’s face and describing exactly how bad he thought the ump was.

I ran out, separated my pitcher from the ump, and picked up where he left off.

By this time, we were down by quite a bit, and I figured, what the heck, let’s get ejected.

It didn’t happen. I couldn’t believe I didn’t get the boot. I used many of the common words you use to get thrown out – ones that had worked for me many times in the past.

Less than an inning after my non-ejection, I had to go warm up to pitch.

“Yeah,” I thought to myself, “this should be good. I will surely get all the calls when I am pitching.”

As I toed the rubber, and delivered the pitch, I was shocked to hear a strike call come from the ump.

An inning later, we were actually joking around about something or other, and I started thinking to myself that he did a good job when I was on the hill.

Weird, just a few innings earlier I was screaming at this umpire and trying to get thrown out, and now I was thinking to myself that he was doing a good job.

It is official, I am getting soft in my old age of 29 years.

Years before, there would have been nothing that could have stopped me from getting the gate once I determined that an umpire was bad.

Now, after a heated argument, I end up joking with the same ump, in the same game, while pitching.

Even as I write this column and think about that day, it is hard for me to understand.

One of my favorite pastimes is writing, and ripping on officials from all sports – none more than baseball and softball umpires.

Yet, I am having a hard time really ripping this umpire. What is going on?

Could it be that umpires are getting better?

No! That can’t be it. It has to be that I am getting soft.

There is no other plausible explanation.

Okay, I know there could be over a month of the season left if we keep winning, so there is still definitely time for me to get a gate.

So, at this time, I will hold judgement on myself until the year in completely done.

At that time, I should know if I really am getting soft, or have just been in kind of a slumber, and maybe woke up just in time.