Spending a summer on the diamond takes a toll on an umpire, mentally and physically. Improving as an umpire requires studying the rule book and working on your mechanics so you are in position to make the call. Umpires must prepare and maintain their mental and physical fitness for their entire season. This becomes a grind, but if you love umpiring it creates more good days than bad.
Each November I take a break to recover from the long season. My legs are tired and need time to heal from the squatting, running, twisting, turning, stopping, and starting I subject them to from mid-March through Halloween. Once December rolls around I begin working out again. Sit ups, pushups, squats, stretching, and hiking. I ease back into shape, allowing my body to fully heal while strengthening any problematic area from the previous season.
This off-season was different. Instead of relaxing and recovering in November, my body revolted. I spent five days in the hospital with pneumonia. I was admitted with a 103 degree fever and a resting heart rate in the 140’s (mid-50’s is my normal). I was in bad shape. Simply watching TV was exhausting. However, thanks to modern medicine, I recovered. It was two weeks after returning home before I could climb the stairs without needing a break. I was forcibly glued to the couch, so I watched all of Ken Burns’ Baseball. Making the best of a bad situation.
I may have felt terrible, but you can still smile through the tough times. (The Winning Run/ DJ)
My recovery was slow, but steady. As my physical strength returned my voice failed. All of the coughing from the pneumonia brought stomach acid into my throat, causing blisters on the muscles surrounding my vocal cords. I could barely speak or eat. Through it all my wonderful wife navigated life as a single mom with two kids, a 6 month old and a 33 year old.
Nothing prepares you for the inability to hold your daughter. The fear of dropping her because you are so weak is both terrifying and infuriating. Lots of sleep, healthy eating, slowly increasing my physical activity, the appropriate medication, and two cameras stuck down my throat my body and voice recovered.
The beginning of 2020 saw me feeling normal again. I could go through my normal daily routine. As the calendar turned to February, it was past time to begin preparing for the upcoming season. I was more than a few months behind in my offseason routine. The pneumonia took a severe toll on my physical strength and endurance. Low repetitions of push ups, sit-ups, squats, and short walks were difficult. I was 10 steps behind square one. Slowly my strength has returned. I will rely heavily on my mental preparations this season. I am not an umpiring veteran, but entering my fifth season I know how to prepare myself for the grind.
Umpiring is a privilege and this off season has shown how easily it can slip away. The experience I have will help me navigate the season. Baseball is an amazing game, but it is not life and death. I am excited to get back on the diamond. This season I have a new appreciation for the time and energy it takes to umpire at my best. Time will tell when Covid-19 allows my season to begin, but I will be ready.