Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Twofer - Plate Umpire Ted Barrett's 18-Inning Night

Baseball is often thought of as a sport where its umpires don't have to be in peak best physical condition. From Simpsons to Seinfeld, the "fat umpire" shtick persists. And then there's Ted Barrett and his World Series crew, 18 innings spanning seven hours and 20 minutes, and umps whose very fitness contrary to the out-of-shape trope enabled these six men to get through a continuous pattern of standing, walking, jogging, running, and—oh yeah—making calls on a baseball field during the third-longest game in Major League history, and the longest postseason game of all-time.

Ted Barrett worked 18 innings behind the plate.
For home plate umpire Barrett himself, add 561 squats (without sitting) over 7:20 of game time, and on top of everything else, you have the sorest thighs in all of baseball, and a not-so-brief glimpse back at a man who used to spar with the likes of boxers George Foreman, Evander Holyfield, and Mike Tyson.

In 2017, Referee showed us that MLB has taken umpires' fitness to the next level, emphasizing several programs to keep the staff in shape and, according to MLB Umpiring Director of Medical Services Mark Letendre, change the perception surrounding the "fat and out of shape" caricature.

But especially for a plate umpire, the physical demands of 18 innings don't paint the whole picture. Barrett told the New York Times that in addition to physically having to work leg and back muscles over the course of the record-setting 440 minutes of baseball in Game 3 of the 2018 World Series, "the mental part is really tough, because you've got to concentrate. It's just complete concentration every pitch, just staying in the moment and fighting any temptation to let your mind wander."

Barrett saw 561 pitches (286 callable).
And for the Rev. Dr. officiating the ceremony known as Game 3 Friday night (you can also call him "Reverend Doctor Crew Chief"), it's a theme that he knows quite well, as his dissertation for Trinity University was entitled, "An Investigation of Faith as a Life Principle in the Lives of Major League Umpires."

Barrett explained how said faith got him through 18 innings at Dodger Stadium: "For me it’s a lot of prayer, it’s quoting verses in my head, and that just helps me stay focused, stay locked in."

Barrett's Calling for Christ ministry for professional umpires grew out of a divided channel that emanated from The Baseball Chapel in 2007, which Barrett was not in charge of. Umpires such as Josh Miller described his experience with the Chapel thusly: "From Day 1 it was uncomfortable...You have a guy coming in and preaching to you about something you don’t believe in, it throws you off mentally."

Al Clark dealt with bigotry in his journey.
Miller also said that he experienced bullying as a result of his Jewish faith. Retired AL umpire Al Clark said he experienced similar anti-Semitism—even threats that made direct reference to his religion, allegedly from Hall of Fame umpire and NL Supervisor Al Barlick—and Bruce Froemming was caught as recently as 2003 using a slur of his own.

When Barrett developed Calling for Christ to fill the void, and as he progressed in his studies into faith, Barrett made it a central point to mold the group's mission to fully embrace and welcome umpires of all walks of life and spiritualities, from atheist beliefs to religious prayer diversity and beyond. CFC grew to establish relationships with Jewish and Muslim clergy, and under Barrett's leadership is in a position to support any umpire and any faith with a key theme of inclusiveness.
Related PostAngel Hernandez, MLB, and Discrimination (Part 2) (7/13/17).

This message of personal virtue ultimately led Barrett to become the most-decorated umpire in UEFL Postseason Awards history, having earned three Crew Chief of the Year titles (2014, 16, 17), three Honorable Umpire of the Year awards (2012, 13, 14), and one (Best) Umpire of the Year trophy (2014).

All of this—and an UMPS CARE visit to Boston Children's Hospital alongside Jeff Nelson, Jim Reynolds, and Tim Timmons on the morning of Game 2—led to a historically challenging game in Los Angeles, during which Barrett logged a 96.9% plate score, actually improving over the final nine innings of the game, and missing just nine pitches on the night...which amounts to just 1.2 per hour.


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