An umpire's job is rarely easy. Making instant decisions on close plays that could have a major affect on a game isn't exactly a desirable position.
Then there are the critics.
"We hear them," said Ted Miller, a 16-year veteran of high school baseball umpiring. "Our job is the only job in America where people can yell anything they want at you."
Miller, who has served as a football referee, basketball official and baseball umpire in the Augusta area since 1988, no longer umpires high school baseball games. He has moved on to the college level, where he helps run the Palmetto Collegiate Umpires Association. At least 14 colleges and universities from Georgia and South Carolina call on his services.
Miller said the job is a demanding one.
"You have to be physically fit, dependable and knowledgeable," he said.
Then there's the financial part of it. Miller said it's virtually impossible to make a living from officiating high school sports. Each umpire must supply his own equipment - a bill that can easily exceed $400 for an umpire calling balls and strikes behind the plate.
"We don't do this to pay the house note, but it can be a nice second income," Miller said.
Besides his officiating duties, Miller makes his living as a Columbia County school teacher. He was once a star high school and college catcher and played two years in the Minnesota Twins organization.
After he retired from playing professional baseball, he turned to officiating.
"A lot of it is getting into the sport when we can no longer play," Miller said. "It's a nice way to stay active."
He's served as an umpire in the 2002 NCAA D-II World Series and the NAIA World Series from 2002-06. Most of his work is now local.
With a new season approaching, it's time once again to prepare for cold weather, hot weather, rude parents, loud coaches and the unexpected obscure rule.
"A good example is this past Saturday, when a pitch was made with a runner on second base. The ball got away and the catcher used his face mask to scoop the ball up. I had to call it," he said.
Miller made the proper call and sent the runner to third base.
The uninformed fans in the bleachers might not have agreed, but Miller knew he had made the right call.
He conceded that he still hasn't learned everything there is to know about the art of umpiring.
"When I get there, I'll let you know," he said. "The day you stop learning is the day you need to get out."
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.