Major League Baseball umpires take a lot of grief during the season, and sometimes into the offseason. When everything goes smoothly, nobody mentions the umpires. If a close play results in a questionable call, fans often verbally attack the men in blue. Few people get to see the gentle and caring side of MLB umpires.
Gary Darling is a 23-year Major League Baseball umpire and worked his way up to crew chief. Many baseball fans know the name Gary Darling and recognize him as an umpire. What most people don’t know is that Darling is also the President of the UMPS CARE Charities Board of Directors. UMPS CARE is the official charity of Major League Baseball umpires.
The charity focuses on children. One of the great things they do is visit children’s hospitals around the country with Build-A-Bears. The umpires and others in the organization spend time with the children and help dress the bears with them. The other way they help out is by providing baseball game tickets to children that are waiting adoption. These children are given great seats during a game as well as pre-game stadium tours.
UMPS CARE Charities biggest fundraiser is an online auction. The auction is currently in progress and will be ending Monday, March 22, 2010. Over 100 items are up for bid, many of which are sports related. All proceeds from the auction will support the UMPS CARE Charities youth programs.
Double G Sports was lucky enough to ask MLB Umpire Gary Darling a few questions.
Double G Sports: In your mind, what does UMPS CARE symbolize?
Gary Darling: I think it symbolizes the fact that people, in general, feel compassion for our fellow man. We started out with a desire to help retired umpires in need and now UMPS CARE has expanded into something much bigger. Most of us have children that we miss during the season. UMPS CARE offers us the opportunity to put a smile on the faces of children awaiting adoption and children coping with serious illness.
DGS: It must be very rewarding to help out young children and families in need. Is there one particular experience that stands out?
GD: In 2009, I visited Children’s Hospital of Orange County when our crew was in Los Angeles to work a series. It was an incredibly amazing experience. Page Soapes, a sponsor representative of Bristol-Myers Squibb, and I spent 20 minutes in out of the playrooms with a young girl who was battling cancer. She smiled as we spent time dressing up a few Build-A-Bears for her and her sister. It’s a memory that will last for a long time and I’m looking forward to another event with my crew in 2010.
DGS: Umpires take a lot of grief during games and often times don’t get the recognition they deserve. How does it feel to be recognized for something positive and be seen in somewhat of a different light?
GD: I think recognizing people for community outreach efforts are important, but we participate in the UMPS CARE Charities programs because we truly care. It feels good to give back to communities all across the country.
DGS: Which is harder, making the right call in a tight game or hearing the stories of the many young children UMPS CARE Charities supports?
GD: Umpiring is what we do. I’m fortunate to have two healthy kids but I realize this is not the case for everyone. We just try to put a smile on the faces of the kids and lift their spirits in any way we can.
DGS: What is your favorite memory as an umpire?
GD: I worked with Steve Ripley, Larry Poncino, and Mike Winters in 1998 on the weekend when Mark McGwire hit home runs 60, 61, and 62. it was an electric atmosphere. Just as players and fans want to be in and at big games, umpires enjoy being on the field during baseball’s memorable moments.
Visit the charities website, www.UmpsCare.com to see a full list of items available at the auction. Everything from a chance for you and your friends to watch batting practice from the field to a pre-concert meet-and-greet with the Black Eyed Peas including floor seating. You can also win tickets to the 2010 MLB All-Star Game, or have “Lunch with an Ump.” These are just a few of the many great items up for bid.
Again, visit www.UmpsCare.com to learn more. Its for a great cause!
The auction is going on now and will be ending March 22, 2010.