Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cast of Characters, Version 2.0

There was an umpire at our park that showed up a few years ago. I was coaching my son, maybe we were in the 10U age group. This guy began umpiring many of our games and he would even come up to the park when he wasn’t working, just to see how our team and a few others were doing. He didn’t have any kids of his own playing ball at the time and he really enjoyed the baseball atmosphere. His name was Tom Hutton and we all called him “Hutt”. I had never considered becoming a youth baseball umpire before I met Hutt.

That first season ends and my son moves on to play football. I’m on the sidelines as a coach and who do I see running down the sidelines after a play, wearing the “zebra” outfit (shorts and all) but Hutt. “You referee football, huh?” “Got to keep busy,” he told me. I came to find out that he also dabbled in a little basketball as well.

A season or two later, Hutt was asked to accompany a local team to Cooperstown and serve as their official umpire. Sometimes a team is simply looking to fill the responsibility but in this case, the players really wanted Hutt to travel with them. He could not have enjoyed the trip more, being among fellow umpires and youth baseball, and the parents from the team made him feel like one of them.

It came as a shock to everyone when one day Hutt, who was 47, died unexpectedly from cardiac arrest. He was a guy that, when he was gone, left a void. For a long time umpires would scratch out his name in the dirt before they began a game and coaches, after lining the field, would use the white chalk to write “Hutt” near an on-deck circle.

A few folks at the local youth athletic association decided to do something about the void. Field #2 at our local park, the field where Hutt worked most often, was dedicated this year to Tom Hutton and renamed “Hutton Field”. Those that were able to get this done would tell you that it was a small token of appreciation but it’s a lasting tribute to a guy that really loved being at that park.

Just yesterday a 12U player noticed that I was wearing my green “Hutt” rubber bracelet on my wrist. “You still have yours, huh?” he asked. I told him I did and that I had another just in case I lost this one. “You know that field over there?” he asked me, “that’s named after him.” I nodded and smiled, thinking of my friend Hutt.