The Real Poop
When you think of baseball, you might think of your favorite baseball player, a warm summer evening, or those delicious ballpark hot dogs (the secret ingredient is the deliciousness). But what about the umpires who make all that possible?
No, we don't mean that umpires are sitting in the back pumping out game day franks. We mean you really can't play the sport without them. Like all professional games, baseball has rules, and rules need party-poopers to enforce them. Otherwise, all you've got is a bunch of grown men chasing each other around a field with balls, gloves, and sticks. And that would be weird.
It takes a lot of talent, grim determination, and luck—not to mention an enthusiasm for tucked-in collared shirts—to hack it as an umpire. Very few people succeed. Every year, hundreds of people attend one of the two professional umpiring schools, but only the top students get the good job offers.
By the way, "good" here means making around $30,000 a year working low-level, low-paying jobs in the minor leagues (source). Sure, you can work your way to that $120,000+ gig in the big leagues—but as there's often only one opening per year in the Majors, you're going to be counting an awful lot of balls and strikes until then.
But let's just say you're one of the lucky ones who makes it to the top. It's a pretty sweet deal, right? Chillin' at the stadium, calling all the shots, rubbing elbows with legendary coaches and up-and-coming players on the team's charter jet. Except for the fact that it's nothing like that. The life of an umpire is a grueling one, featuring early mornings, late nights, musty hotel rooms, and lonely meals.
Oh, and no charter jet for you. You'll be flying coach on a commercial airline.
It goes without saying that you love baseball—unless you thought this profile said vampire, in which case, gee, weren't you surprised. But as an umpire, you're not just watching baseball. You're right in the thick of it, judging the location of small objects moving very, very fast relative to an invisible, slightly made-up box called the "strike zone."
You need to stay focused and be able to think on your feet (we mean that literally; umpires spend a lot of their time standing). You may not be playing the sport, but you've got just as much on the line as anyone running the bases.
In addition to lightning-fast reflexes, a good umpire needs a lot of common sense, confidence, and patience, especially with other people. You won't always be the most popular kid in town.
Umpires face almost constant scrutiny from sports commentators and fans, as well as the always-entertaining manager meltdown. Umps don't often defend their decisions in the media, and while they can eject that crazy manager, it's not like they can kick baseball fans out of the stadium. What's an ump to do but pull a T-Swift and shake it off?
So, is umpiring right for you? If you're cool under pressure, have a sharp eye for detail, and love baseball, it might be worth looking into umpiring professionally. Trust us, if you're not right for the job, umpire school will make that apparent quicker than a Bumgarner fastball. In which case, you can always apply your sharp eye and even temperament to other jobs. Sniper, anyone?