Jacksonville Umpires Association

Through the Mask

By Fran Delaney

March 20, 2020 -

As we all sit around in our own little word, and right now it really is little, I can’t help but wonder what my teenage self would be saying right now. Back than we were carefree and had no problems. It was the 80's and life was good and a bit too colorful for those of you who lived through it. I played several sports in high school and loved every minute of it. For me sports were life back then and being involved was what I lived for. I can honestly say if it was not for sports, I may not have even went to college. Man, I loved football and thrived in that sport however baseball always had a piece of my heart. I was an above average baseball player that although I was listed as pitcher it was mostly batting practice to the opposing team. Coach always said, “throw strikes” and I did, a lot of them that got ripped into the outfield. However, I still loved the game. Most games are visual in nature seeing a great catch in football, watching a dunk in basketball, but baseball is a game of sound. The thump of a wood bat, the ping of an aluminum bat, the pop of the catcher’s glove, the chatter in the field, the coaches clap at the end of giving signs and my favorite the call of the umpire. I got into umpiring to make some extra money and to stay around the game. Its been a great 20 years and I still love doing it. Even with all the coaches, players and of course fans that are never happy with you it’s still something I love. The greatest thing about umpiring is the kids, period!!! If you stay around long enough you get to see kids grow from 8-9 years old to High School seniors. Most would say how great it is to see their baseball growth, but I see it different. To watch kids, turn into young men and women is the amazing part. They have gone from crying when they strike out to learning how to fight through slumps and best of all becoming great people in the process. I can’t even to begin to tell you how many kids I have called out or safe, but many have stood out for being not only great players but great kids. Some have gone on to bigger and better baseball things like college and pros and others have gone on to be great members of our society. I believe all of this will still happen even with our current situation. The sad part of this is that some of these kids will miss out on some special times. Whether it is their first-time playing baseball or that season of their career. My heart goes out to the High School Seniors that as every day passes it looks like their season is in doubt. We don’t always remember the past as it actually happened, but we do remember it. Some of my best times as an athlete happen in high school and especially my senior year as there is something deep down inside of all of us that know this could be the last time I get to do this. Some players are lucky enough to keep going but most are not. High School is the last stop until beer league softball or men’s league baseball. Those are a lot of fun but not the same and not even close. When all this first started, I truly believe all of us had that “we will be back in a few weeks” attitude. Although I knew this could be a long-term issue, I always expected us to be back on the field. Because of that we all thought it was going to be okay and those Seniors had no idea this could be their last at bat, their last pitch or their last put out. I am staying hopeful that some way, some how FHSAA and other state associations will be able to figure this out for these kids. Each and everyone of them deserve to have that one last chance to enjoy their game of choice. I look forward to hearing that thump, ping, snap, clap and call in the future. Everyone please stay safe out there and we will see you again on the diamond soon.