Trey Ward Is Mastering The Skills Of A Professional Baseball Umpire
MADISON- Since the age of 13 Trey Ward has had the desire to have the one job that is many times thankless and in many ways disrespected- professional baseball umpire.
The 2014 graduate of Bob Jones High where he played baseball for the Patriots and earned the High GPA Award for his 4.0 grade point average, Ward earned an academic scholarship to LaGrange College in Georgia where he played four years of baseball and earned a degree in biology as part of the class of 2018. He put on hold the possible use of his education degree to pursue that dream he had since he turned a teenager.
“I thought I had a shot at being a baseball umpire, but I didn’t think it would happen as it has,” said Ward, 23 and son of Bill and Diann Ward and currently one of 16 chosen to umpire the 16-team, four-state Coastal Plain League.
As a youth player at Madison’s Palmer Park and playing on several academy travel teams prior to playing school baseball at both Liberty and Bob Jones, Ward was hoping to follow in his father’s footsteps a longtime baseball umpire who handles the calls in high school and college. Matter of fact, it was his father who first got Ward into the area of umpiring the sport.
“It was a fall league and my father asked me to try my hand at covering the calls in the field in my first game,” said Ward. “I remember I wasn’t very good as I didn’t know all of the information I would need to become a fulltime baseball umpire.”
He continued umpiring at Palmer Park through his high school and college years before he became what he called “serious” about the profession and attended a professional umpire clinic at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Tex. He caught the attention of several former Major League umpires and clinic instructors who invited him to the Pro-Prospect Umpire Camp in Fort Myers, Fla. The prospect camp was very beneficial in a way to get a head-start on his training as he soon joined Minor League Baseball Umpire Training Academy at historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla. earlier this year. While there he quickly saw his years of experience on the field was paying off dividends.
“I had the highest grades in the school on the rules of baseball and placed well in the field work portion of the training,” added Ward. “I was soon hired to work in the Coastal Plain League.”
As an umpire in the league he and his permanent on-field two-man partner and road roommate are constantly on the road from town to town and game to game. Each game is streamed live and are archived for them to review on their technique, reactions to the ball and just overall appearance as a professional umpire. Ward added, “Watching the videos is like constructive criticism and we see ourselves in a different light.”
Ward is employed by Minor League Baseball Umpire Development and those umpires are much like the players who play the game as all are trying to become better, advance in their careers and maybe hit the “Big Show” of Major League Baseball.
“Yes, that’s my plan. I now it’s a long road and the average length of an umpire in our position to advance up the ladder is seven years,” said Ward. “In a couple years I hope to make it to ‘Double A’ and then move on from there.”
There are 76 fulltime Major League umpires and there is typically only one new opening a year. There are 234 minor league umpires, like Ward, waiting to take that one opening.
“I’ve always like the game of baseball and being an umpire as it allows me to be around the sport I can no longer play,” said Ward. “I like the fact I can help in keeping the game in order.”
Ward admitted he hears the players, coaches and fans yelling at him to make the correct call, but training has taught him to ignore everything he hears and not let those comments get into his head. He feels he has the experience, the proper training from his father and the umpire schools to be able to work his way to where he’ll be on the field of a Major League Baseball team and make a career of the thankless job he loves and respects.