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Umpires inspire, inform at Dream Series panel

MLB.com @JesseSanchezMLB

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Growing up in Southern California, Malachi Moore never imagined that standing behind home plate and calling strikes could be as gratifying as crouching in the batter's box and swinging at them.

Moore was a ballplayer. He dreamed of playing in the Major Leagues and making plays, not judging them. By his own admission, Moore could run and he had a decent glove, but he was just "all right."

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Growing up in Southern California, Malachi Moore never imagined that standing behind home plate and calling strikes could be as gratifying as crouching in the batter's box and swinging at them.

Moore was a ballplayer. He dreamed of playing in the Major Leagues and making plays, not judging them. By his own admission, Moore could run and he had a decent glove, but he was just "all right."

A few words from veteran umpire Kerwin Danley, who was visiting MLB's academy in Compton where Moore worked and trained, changed everything.

"Imagine someone coming up to you and saying it's time for you to umpire and you're like, 'Really?'" Moore said. "But I had to be realistic and understand I would not be a Major League ballplayer."

Moore and Danley joined fellow umpire Adrian Johnson and umpire supervisor Cris Jones in sharing their career experiences, discussing the unique relationship between umpires and catchers and talking about diversity at the position in a special presentation Sunday evening at the Dream Series.

The panel was moderated by broadcaster Daron Sutton.

"We were not burying you, Malachi," Danley said with a laugh. "We said you still have a chance to be in the big leagues. You do."

Tweet from @JesseSanchezMLB: Umpires Cris Jones, Kerwin Danley, Adrian Johnson and Malachi Moore share their experiences with the 60 participants at #DreamSeries. ���You should have a backup plan. You should have three or four backup plans.��� - Danley pic.twitter.com/mPz8vQ1MKc

The Dream Series, which runs in connection with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, is designed to develop the 60 participating pitchers and catchers and diversify baseball's future talent pool. One of the goals of the five-day event is to provide information on baseball career opportunities on the professional and collegiate level, like becoming an umpire.

"You should have a backup plan. You should have three or four plans," Danley told the teens. "You are young. You have a chance to do things in life. Do [baseball] until somebody tells you that you don't have it anymore and you need to do something else."

The hour-long panel with the umpires was an entertaining chat that shifted from a serious tone to light-hearted and then back and forth. The tenor was always sincere and honest.

"You have to put in the work and be ready for the long haul," Johnson said. "It takes a lot of dedication and hard work to be successful."

It's already been a long journey for Moore. He played junior college baseball, coached and was part of the grounds crew at the academy in Compton before he became a Minor League umpire. Moore's path also included heartache.

"My brother was shot and killed when he was 19 and I was 15 at the time and that was my only sibling," Moore said. "It was tragic how it happened, but overcoming that, it helped me mature in life, and that's why I felt like this umpiring decision was the correct path for me to go down. I went in not having any expectations. I thought I was going to go to umpire school. If I get in, cool. If I don't, so be it. But I went to umpire school and I fell in love with it."

Moore's love for the game was reinforced last summer when he served as the crew chief for the Futures Game and Home Run Derby at Nationals Park. He still thanks Danley and the other umpires who suggested the career change and Moore says the ultimate goal is to join his mentors on a Major League field.

"You have to learn that if something doesn't work, you've got to keep trying something else," Danley said. "Some of these kids, they will put all of their eggs in one basket, and they've got to realize that you don't give up if you don't make it in one thing like playing baseball. Keep going. You can make it in life if you don't give up."

Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix.