Lawrence McNeely is a 36-year veteran of calling balls and strikes, but this year he and other umpires have been on the bench with youth baseball leagues in Cheatham County suspended because of coronavirus concerns.
McNeely said he is missing the simple exchanges between the players, coaches and even fans.
“Right now, we (umpires) would go out there and just let somebody yell at us,” McNeely said with a laugh. “And I’m not supposed to be friends with the coaches in the area but you get to know people and I miss getting to see all of those guys. Even the interaction with the catchers and the parents is something that I’m missing right now.”
The home evaluator at Arrow Exterminators has worked as an umpire at the 2006 Junior League World Series and the 2018 Senior League World Series. He is usually the man other umpires call when they have a question about a rule.
“Usually right about now my phone would be buzzing from other umps who just have questions,” McNeely said. “This has really affected a lot of people that you would never think about.”
Some local umpires depend on the income from calling the games and that is often a forgotten side effect to the lost seasons.
“I’m blessed to say that it’s not money I rely on, but I know several who do,” McNeely said. “It’s really been tough on those guys because that is a part of how they pay their bills.”
With all the free time that’s suddenly popped up, McNeely says he’s found a few things to do around the house.
“My wife was furloughed and just recently got to return to her job, so she found me a few ‘honey-doo’ jobs around the house,” McNeely said. “I know some other guys who are in the same predicament. There’s just not a lot going on so we’ve had time to catch up on things around the house, which is different for this time of year.”
McNeely said he has been notified that youth leagues will start again in July.
“There are no words to describe what it means to us umpires, it’s really just a passion,” McNeely said. “It’s like someone ripped something away from you. I really miss the comradery between all the umpires and coaches.”