When you tune in to tonight's Futures Game, remember that it features not just the top minor league ballplayers. Some of the best upcoming umpires will be there as well.
Marquette's own Adam Hamari, who is currently a crew chief in the Double-A Eastern League that Erie plays in, was selected to be a part of the game. Actually, a pretty big part as he'll be the guy behind home plate calling balls and strikes.
But before I share a Q&A with him I did on Friday, here's a couple stories.
I've known Adam probably longer than he remembers. As a first-year reporter for the Mining Journal, I covered American Legion baseball during the summer. At that time, he played on a pretty good Marquette Blues team. Well long story short, I scored a play an error and reported it as such in the paper and a day later got an e-mail from Adam saying it wasn't an error. I was so new at all of it that was actually the first time someone wrote in to say I reported something wrong.
So next time I saw him, I made sure to seek him out and say, "It appeared to be one to me from my view, but I'm sorry I got it wrong in the paper," and he was cool about it. That made me feel better anyway.
I watched as he started reffing high school basketball games and umping all manner of baseball. Let me tell you, Adam is driven (and was always quite sure of himself, a skill that probably comes in handy with some of those crazy minor league managers!) When he went to umpire training camp, scored well and got an offer to start umpiring in Short Season A ball later that year, I wasn't surprised.
I'm not surprised he was selected for the honor of calling the Futures Game -- which can be seen at 6 p.m. tonight on ESPN2 -- and I won't be surprised when he steps behind a major league plate some day. He's one of the good ones, and a good person on top of all of it.
Try to remember that in 10 years when his strike zone still stinks.
Just kidding, Adam! We're all quite proud of you.
Keep reading for six questions and answers.
1) What made you decide to become a professional umpire?
Growing up, I was always interested in umpiring. While I was playing, I always took note of what the umpires were doing, and thought that I could do what they did, too. After finishing college in December of 2005, and knowing few teaching jobs would open up in the midst of the school year, I decided to give professional umpiring school a try. That January, I enrolled in the Jim Evans' Academy of Professional Umpiring. I figured if I didn't make it, that I would always have teaching to fall back on. Fortunately for me, I haven't had to rely on that backup plan just yet!
2) How much work and skill does it take to move up the ranks toward the goal of eventually being in the MLB?
The road is long and tiresome, and really a survival of the fittest. Many of the good umpires often "hang it up" because they have become tired of traveling, being away from home, and the constant routine of working baseball games everyday. To make it to the Bigs, you have to be the best of the best, and succeed at all levels in the Minor Leagues.
3) What's your favorite and least favorite part of the job?
Favorite: Getting paid to watch baseball games! Aside from that, it's great to be able to travel the country and see all sorts of new places.
Least: Being away from family and friends for 6 months - sometimes more.
4) How did the honor of becoming the home-plate umpire at the Futures Game come about?
I received a call a few weeks ago, and was informed of the assignment. Needless to say I was surprised, but honored at the same time. There are so many good umpires to be chosen from, so more than anything I am humbled at the opportunity. Between the four of us working the game, our employer - Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation (PBUC) - made the selection.
5) Has it hit you yet how big a moment in your career this is?
I've had time to think about what it will mean, but I don't think that it will really set in until the weekend is over and I've had a chance to reflect on the entire opportunity. Clearly being on the stage that I will be on will be a tremendous opportunity, so I'm more looking forward to that than anything.
6) What do you most look forward to in Anaheim?
Aside from the game and festivities, I'm looking forward to seeing my family who will be making their way out to the west coast. Being on the road for so long, it makes it difficult to see anyone so that will be fun as well.