Crystal Lake resident Dan Bellino has been a full-time Major League umpire since 2011 and worked as a professional umpire since 2003. The former lawyer and aid to a federal judge was part of the crew for this weekend’s Cubs-Cardinals series at Wrigley Field, giving Bellino the chance to sleep in his own bed in a hectic schedule spent on the road.
When you have a manager coming out and arguing with you, especially your first few years of umpiring, it can be unnerving. You can’t really describe it. Every play is different and you learn to control the argument and you try to ask questions as opposed to just being on the defensive. Instead of just answering his questions, it’s best to ask questions and take control of the conversation because a lot of times, they’re arguing without even seeing it. You have to figure out quickly if they’re out there because they think you missed it or because they’re out there trying to protect their player. That’s the most difficult part of umpiring – trying read between the lines and trying to understand what they’re trying to accomplish by coming out there.
The best part of my season if the off-season. The worst part of my job is traveling, because I’ve got young kids and to be completely honest with you, (Major League Baseball) doesn’t pay us to umpire baseball games. That’s fun. They pay us to leave our families. Being in the minor leagues is challenging, to say the least, because you have to weight your opportunities. It takes a lot of luck, it takes a lot of skill and your timing has to be right. It’s almost like you’re trying to guess when the next retirement is going to come around.
Nobody ever works the perfect game. You strive for it, but there’s always something to improve on. It’s challenging, but it’s fun. We love the game of baseball and we take a lot of pride in the game of baseball. We are baseball’s greatest fan. We want to uphold the integrity of the game – it’s sacred and it’s a privilege to be on the field. If you don’t believe that, you’ll never make it on the Major Leagues because you need to appreciate that it is truly a privilege. I think the players, the managers – all on-field personnel – to some degree acknowledge that.
When I miss a play, I’m the most upset person about it. It’s not the player who maybe missed out on a base hit or a pitcher that missed out on an earned run. As far as I’m concerned, they’re in charge of their career, I’m in charge of my career. So when I miss a play, I’m upset about it because somewhere, in my preparations, I did something wrong.
It’s really hard to be focused for 162 games. That’s something we battle all the time – how do we stay sharp? So when we miss something, we get very upset with ourselves. We care and the fact people don’t get that, that’s OK. We’re in a tough job. When you miss a play, it’s not easy to when you see it in every newspaper and you see it on SportsCenter over and over and over again. It’s like the next day can’t come soon enough so there’s a new cycle. But that’s what we do and it’s why we’re paid to do the job. It’s the job we accepted. So I’m not complaining.
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