Photography by ALICE MARY HERDEN
Spring Hill, Fla.-- Student-athletes and coaches are not the only ones that have felt the hardship as the baseball season was cut short by COVID-19. The umpires whose arduous job is to keep the game in check have no games to oversee.
“It’s a segment of sports that people don’t think about,” Kieras said. “We refer to ourselves as the third team.”
Spring Hill resident Joe Kieras has been umpiring on the baseline and behind the plate since 1977 from little league games to college baseball.
“I have never seen anything like this,” Kieras said.
The last college game Kieras umpired was on October 6, 2019. He was behind the plate at Pasco Hernando State College for a scrimmage game against SWFL Baseball, a travel baseball program based out of Fort Myers, FL.
“All my friends are umpires, and some of them are full-time, and some of them are even minor league umpires, and all of a sudden, the coronavirus came out, everything came to a screeching halt,” Kieras said. “My umpire friends are missing out on thousands of dollars of additional income that their families count on. Some are really out of luck because they umpire full-time, that is their profession.”
Umpiring a hundred games a year for twenty-three years, Kieras says it’s time to retire the umpire mask. Kieras took a part-time position with Hernando County Parks and Recreation earlier this year.
The enticing talks from his friends to get back into umpiring hasn’t swayed him to get back on the field, however he will still be involved. Kieras has been asked to be an evaluator for the Peninsula Baseball Umpires. Peninsula Baseball Umpires is a baseball umpires' association sanctioned by the Florida High School Athletics Association (FHSAA) to umpire high school baseball in Florida
“You’ll still see me around. I’ll just be in the stands with a notebook,” Kieras said.