The life of a baseball umpire can be tough at times. Whether it's being questioned — loudly — by a coach, player or fan about the strike zone, or taking a foul ball or errant throw off an undesirable portion of the anatomy, or just having a generally rough day at the office, a certain amount of respect, perhaps even a touch of empathy, should be afforded the thankless task of umpiring.
The men (and women) in blue are an essential element and must exercise good judgment between the lines of a baseball field. Like all effective sports officials, the best umpires go unnoticed.
Unfortunately, some umpires have been a little too visible, according to homeowners who live on Linden Avenue and Ontario Street.
Reportedly, they have elected to change into their game gear on the streets adjacent to OPRF before a ballgame. The unwelcome and allegedly unsightly "quick change" maneuver has aroused protestations of a different sort.
In other words, "Umpires Gone Wild" is probably not a reality show spectators are eager to see.
One local shutterbug photographed one of the offenders from a second-floor apartment. All that was missing was a feather boa and David Rose's signature melody, "The Stripper," blaring in the background.
Make no mistake, the undressing of umpires is a serious and recurring issue that needs to be addressed, and OPRF athletic director John Steltzer has acted swiftly and spoken with the West Suburban Conference baseball umpire assignment chair, who in turn has notified the umpires that using the streets as a locker room is unacceptable. Last season, the issue was also addressed and rectified. This spring, a reminder about "changing clothes in private" was evidently required.
The assignor concluded his e-mail reminder with the following: "Please help out and dress in the locker room provided. If you have any questions, please let me know."
The school has made the Oak Park Stadium football locker room available for baseball officials to change clothes. Hopefully this will resolve any questions about where to put on one's Fruit of the Looms.
Spring weather is finally showing signs of coming around after a brutal patch of rainy, windy and overcast conditions. Attention can now turn back to the baseball field where Chris Ledbetter's Huskies are gearing up for another state title run.
As for the umpires who will call OPRF games the rest of the season, your work is valuable and appreciated. When you bellow "Play Ball," it's music to every baseball fan's ears.
Even the neighbors, who like you much better in blue than white.