Marines are accustomed to serving as arbiters of disputes throughout the world, but Monday they put on a different uniform, as Major League Baseball Umpire Camps and the San Diego Padres teamed to offer a free one-day umpire camp for Marines from Camp Pendleton and other Southern California bases.
Approximately 85 Marines attended the camp at Tony Gwynn Stadium at San Diego State University. The instructors included current and former Major League umpires, Major League umpire supervisors and former top collegiate umpires. The camp was the beginning effort to train Marines in the art of umpiring and provide scholarships to attend the Professional Umpire Camp at the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy in Compton, Calif., Nov. 8-15.
Topics covered included: working the plate; handling situations on the field; physical conditioning; base work; and "getting the call right." A Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy scout team served as the players for the umpire camp.
"We believe that their integrity and the skill set that the Marines possess is very parallel to what our Major League umpires have," said Major League Umpire Supervisor Rich Rieker. "We've found a pool of talent not only possibly for the professional ranks, but also to help these brave soldiers go back and get re-established in their communities through umpiring."
The Umpire Camp for Marines was an extension of the MLB Umpire Camps, which have been held annually each off-season at MLB's Urban YouthAcademy in Compton, Calif. since 2006.
Major Michael Gervasoni, who coordinated recruitment of Marines to take part in the camp, said there is a natural connection between the skills learned as a Marine and those required to be an effective umpire.
"This might be a good opportunity for a career after the Marine Corps," Gervasoni said. "This goes in line with things they already do – make tough decisions, be calm under pressure, make people follow the rules, be professional. Just as important, it's a great community thing. Our job is to protect the country and its freedom, and these guys are getting to take a skill set back that any community in America would love to have, because they can't find enough umpires."
Monday's camp was held in conjunction with the World Baseball Classic games being played this week at PETCO Park. Major League umpires working the WBC games who served as instructors at Monday's camps included Ted Barrett, Bill Miller, Hunter Wendelstedt and Joe West.
"Anytime I can do something like this to give back and help others in umpiring, I'm going to do it," said West, entering his 32nd season as a Major League umpire. "As Major League umpires, our first responsibility is to the sport of baseball. Our second responsibility is to the profession, and our third responsibility is to do what we believe in our hearts is the right thing. And this is the right thing."
Lieutenant Colonel Eddie Fox, 43, based at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, said he enjoyed the challenge of putting himself in the situations Major League umpires face every day.
"There's definitely a connection," Fox said. "There's the integrity of the game, the discipline involved in ensuring you get the call right and the decision-making skills we learn in the Marine Corps. These guys have to make snap decisions, and we have to do the same thing. It definitely translates well from the Marines to umpiring."