I remember the day that I truly became a baseball umpire – when I “earned my stripes” as they say.
It certainly wasn’t my first game, or my first month as an umpire.
The year was 2014 and I decided I needed an avocation. A hobby, a passion, a craft I could work on.
I settled on umpiring because I had been a baseball fan for as long as I could remember. And I had been yelling at umpires for just as long.
The job certainly looked pretty simple from my couch: see the play and make the right call. Simple.
And it kinda was for my first couple of months. I worked teener league games with a partner and we had few problems. I had studied hard and attended plenty of training sessions that spring, so I was feeling pretty confident.
Then I worked a true Little League game. That meant younger kids and one umpire. You make all the calls starting from behind home plate, or as fast as you can hustle to where you need to be.
I don’t think it was my first game alone, but it would definitely end up being my most memorable game.
The game sailed along for several innings, but then all heck broke loose. The visiting team had a runner on second when the batter hit a grounder to shortstop.
Just as the shortstop reached down to field the ball, the runner barreled into him. This was not supposed to happen.
My first mistake came when I froze. That was met by the home team manager to my right screaming for an out.
I yelled “Out!,” which compounded my first mistake. It looked like I let a manager talk me into the call.
But I was not done wrecking this car. The visiting team manager was equally theatrical in arguing for incidental contact.
I frantically tried to settle and focus my thoughts on the rule book I had studied so thoroughly. I soon found myself agreeing with visiting manager.
I changed my call to “Safe!” Now I had completely and totally stepped in it. I had committed the worst sin an umpire can make, the thing they had warned us would eventually happen from the first day of training.
I had lost control of my game.
The correct call should have been interference on the runner, who would be returned to second base. The batter is out.
Having completely botched the call, I did the only thing I could do: popped the mask back on and called for the pitch. We had more games to play.
There are several analogies here that work for financial services. Obviously, our industry is experiencing a lot of change and outside pressure.
While the unknown is a little scary, how we learn, adapt and grow doesn’t change much. Perseverance and hard work usually mean success in the end.
In my case, I became a much better umpire for the above, admittedly mortifying incident. And I never missed this call again.
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Editor John Hilton has covered business and other beats in more than 20 years of daily journalism. John may be reached at email@example.com.
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