While spring training is used as a time for players and coaches to work on camaraderie, strategy and conditioning, professional umpires also need the time to get ready for the regular baseball season.
4 In Your Corner followed MLB umpire, Tim Timmons, at Jet Blue Park to see what it’s like for the crew calling the game on the field.
Timmons says he actually starts training and running during the off season. He says, "Especially the older you get, you just have to maintain."
An umpire in the major leagues for almost 19 years, Timmons' journey began before that. He says, "It didn't take me very long. I figured I was not going to make a living playing ball. It was important to me though. I wanted it to be part of my life." So, he started calling amateur games in his native Ohio. Shortly thereafter, he decided to take it to the next level. "There were 400 or so, people that went to umpire school that year. They gave six minor league spring training jobs so I ended up getting one."
One of his first lessons came from a legend. "(I) open the door, and it's Hank Aaron. Hey, Henry Aaron. Mr. Aaron and he came in and talked to the minor league umpires. He talked to us for about 20 minutes. and I'll never forget this. He said, if you give to this game it'll repay you ten fold." It's rewarding even when it seems like the game's not giving back. Timmons says, “The jeers pay the bills.” He understands that fans and/or players are yelling at the uniform, not the man. He adds, “I think for us, the biggest thing is that you're so locked in pitch after pitch that you don't hear it."
Timmons is one of six umpires who call Southwest Florida, home. Of course there are trade-offs. He says, “The biggest challenge is the part about raising a family. You miss a lot because you do travel so much. And that’s part of it.”The father of three boys says he couldn’t do it without his wife, Leslie. “I get that solid four and half months off where I can be Mr. Mom and have been over the years."
During his off time, Timmons enjoys playing golf and refurbishing vintage Porsches. He is also active with several charities, including Umps Care Charities.
If you are interested becoming an umpire, there are two schools in the country.