Two springs after his cameo as a Blue Jays outfielder, SI's Tom Verducci was back in the big leagues, this time as an umpire for the March 23 spring training matinee between the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles in Fort Myers, Fla. Verducci writes about his experience in this week's SI.<br><br>The crew (from left): Tim Tschida (4), Brian O'Nora (7), Verducci and Fieldin Culbreath (25).
2 of 12Simon Bruty/SI
Verducci dons his uniform before the game. Veteran umps warned their protégé to do nothing that might put him in highlight clips -- and to make sure his fly was up.
3 of 12Simon Bruty/SI
Verducci stretches as the umpires get suited up in the clubhouse. "I trained long (O.K., two days with Tschida and Culbreth) and hard (kicking back watching games in the Florida sun) for this gig," the author says.
4 of 12Simon Bruty/SI
Verducci and Tschida in the tunnel en route to the field. "I tell all the young umpires that come up from the minors," says Tschida. "`Expect a close play every time.'"
5 of 12Simon Bruty/SI
The umpires take the field; Culbreth is at left and O'Nora at right. Umpires are closer to perfect than you think: They made only 100 incorrect calls in 2006, excluding balls and strikes.
6 of 12Gary Bogdon/SI
Verducci and the crew meet with Red Sox great Johnny Pesky, a special instructor, and Orioles coach Tom Trebblehorn at home plate before the game. As per custom, the rookie ump had his joke ready -- but Pesky wouldn't let him get a word in.
7 of 12Gary Bogdon/SI
Verducci watches closely as Melvin Mora plays defense. At third base the best action the author got was "a Manny-being-Manny moment when Ramirez looks at me and chortles, "Heeeeey! Que pasa?!"
8 of 12Simon Bruty/SI
The author rings one up. Verducci had a quick trigger early, but he gradually learned that the best calls were the ones made with certainty.
9 of 12Simon Bruty/SI
Verducci watches as first baseman Kevin Millar fields a wide throw. The author was immediately struck by the power and speed of the major league action from such a close vantage point.
10 of 12Simon Bruty/SI
Verducci looks on as Baltimore's Brandon Fahey dives back into the bag while Eric Hinske fields the pickoff throw. Working first base late in the game, the author was wary of line drives and ready for a bang-bang play.
11 of 12Simon Bruty/SI
Verducci gets a tip from Culbreth. "Ominously," the author says, "the most important advice given to me was to avoid utter disaster."
12 of 12Simon Bruty/SI
Verducci shares a laugh with Hinske. Don't be fooled by the jocularity, however; spring training games are intense. David Ortiz, for example, was spitting epithets after receiving an intentional walk in the eighth.
You May Like
Sign Up for our Newsletter
Don't get stuck on the sidelines! Sign up to get exclusives, daily highlights, analysis and more—delivered right to your inbox!