Minor League umpires hone their skills for the Majors

WSYR-TV - For three friends, the job of a professional umpire goes beyond just balls and strikes.  It’s a passion that drives them to chase down their dream of making it to the Big Leagues.

“It’s a tough job, and it takes a unique personality, perseverance and patience.  You have to know this is something for you,” Shane Livensparger said.

The grind begins at professional umpire school, where 150 aspiring umps a few times a year try to hone their craft in hopes of latching on in the Minor Leagues

“It is essentially like a five week interview. Somewhere around 15 to 30, they send those graduates to another evaluation school that Minor League Baseball puts on themselves,” said Livensparger. 

The International League has seven, three-member crews that cover a series. Every time they step onto the diamond, they know they are under the gun.

“Do your thing, and if you see a manager coming out, take a deep breath and grasp yourself and get ready for the conversation.  Be a good listener and just answer his questions,” said Scott Costello.

Sometimes that might be a little hard with a manger yelling in your face, but they know it is all part of the game.

One big part of the game is balancing the financial aspect of the job.

“It is not a significant amount of money by any means. You have to be very smart. You have to understand when this season ends in September, your paychecks are done. They don’t come back until March,” said Ryan Clark.

From Syracuse to Buffalo, even down to Gwinnett; from April to September professional umpires have a 24/7 job. Sometimes it is tough, being away from their families.

“The toughest thing is being away from your wife and family. When I was in the Texas league I saw her once for two weeks. Just lots of skype or facetime, phone and text. It is tough, defiantly tough,” Costello said.

In the end, they know all their sacrifices will hopefully pay off.

“This is absolutely what I want to do. It is my dream. I have worked all this time to get here, so I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Clark said.

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