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Angie Wieck, Published July 01 2012

It's My Job: ‘We’re not as big of jerks as we look,’ umpire says

FARGO – With a name like Reggie Jackson, some might say the Fargo umpire was destined from birth to be involved in the sport of baseball. He shares the name with baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, who was at the top of his professional career when our Reggie Jackson was born in 1975.

Jackson recently talked about why he became an umpire and some of the misconceptions about the profession.

Q: How did you become an umpire?

When I was in college a couple of friends of mine heard about this being a good way to stay active in the game and to make some money. … I started off doing high school and Legion games. As you move up into college it’s more organized nationally and regionally, so you have to go to camps and try out. If they like you, they’ll assign you a schedule of games. As you get rated out better, you improve your schedule.

Is this a full-time occupation?

No. … The only guys that make money umpiring are major league umpires. I think the reason most of us do it is the guys that we meet umpiring. … For a lot of us it’s not so much the level of ball anymore or moving up, it’s more being able to go work a game with a buddy and hanging out afterwards.

How does one get started?

You have to buy equipment, and that’s the hardest thing about baseball compared to other sports. It’s probably going to cost you $500 at the bare minimum to get all the equipment. … Then you must join our association, the Fargo-Moorhead Area Baseball Umpire’s Association. We then guide you through the steps to get certified by the state for high school level.

Do you have a hard time finding umps?

We do. I think a lot of it is that people don’t know how to get started. … People can ask any coach in town, and they’ll tell you how to get in touch with me.

What do you want people to know about umpires?

We’re not as big of jerks as we look. We’re the only ones involved in a game that don’t care who wins or loses. Everybody else has a stake in the game so a lot of times people confront an umpire.

… People will see us interacting with a coach who is mad at us, but a lot of the time it’s returned in kind. Also, it’s a big field so usually what happens is a lot of shouting back and forth. It’s not always the case that we’re mad at each other. It’s just that if you don’t shout, nobody’s going to hear you. Also, with the music playing, they (fans) can’t actually hear what we’re saying. They just see someone yelling.

How often do you have to eject someone from a game?

In high school and Legion and lower levels, I probably haven’t had an ejection in years. … When I was in the Northern League, I probably averaged about six a year. In college, it’s probably about one every three years. … When you start out you’re going to get more arguments probably because you messed up more often. Sometimes even when you mess up, if the manager or coach goes too far, you still have to eject them.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501