Umps host 13-year-old umpire who saw brawl
DENVER -- After Sunday morning’s thrill of meeting Major League umpires, such as Chris Guccione, who are his role models -- and receiving a much-needed new chest protector -- Josh Cordova, 13, wanted to hear the stories.
“I asked them a couple questions … just like, 'How many people have you thrown out?'” Cordova said prior to Sunday's Dodgers-Rockies game at Coors Field.
Of course, Cordova's story, as frightening as it was, beats them all.
Cordova -- who umpires when not playing youth ball as a catcher, pitcher and shortstop -- was working a game involving 7-year-olds in the Bear Creek Junior Sports Association a few weeks ago when a brawl broke out among adults, ages 24-55. A video went viral instantly.
“I don’t want this to be all about me; it must’ve been scary for the 7-year-olds, seeing their parents on the field,” Cordova said. “I don’t want them to have the idea that baseball is like that. I want them to have the idea that baseball is a great game, to love the game.”
There were citations issued to a dozen adults, according to the Denver Post, but none of that has dissuaded Cordova from his dream of umpiring in the Majors.
Guccione, a Salida, Colo., native and a 20-year veteran Major League umpire, reached out through Umps Care Charities to make Cordova the special guest of Sunday’s umpiring crew. Umps Care, in addition to working with community organizations, provides college scholarships and supports the umpire community.
Guccione wanted to show his support for Cordova, urge civility at youth games and make it known that umpiring is a good route for people who enjoy the game and want to make it better.
“This is where I’m from, this is where I was raised. I grew up in a small town, Salida, Colo., playing baseball and umping on the side, just like Josh is doing,” Guccione said. “When I saw the story, I was shocked and I was saddened and I wanted to reach out.
“It just so happened that I got to come back to Colorado. This is not my regular schedule. I switched crews, just luckily, and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to reach out to Josh, not only to him but his family, to say, ‘Hey, I’m proud of you, I’m rooting for you and what you did was the right thing.’”
Guccione took the opportunity to encourage more people to try umpiring, or officiating any sport.
"Anybody that has a love for the game, that wants to give back to the organizations that they are part of and wants to grow the game," Guccione said. "You're the Supreme Court out there. You've got to know the rules. It's a good learning experience.
"I would encourage anybody that wants to get involved, look up your local organization, get out there and do it."
Cordova was wearing one of Guccione’s No. 68 black umpiring shirt, and he said he’ll wear it while umpiring games. Prior to Sunday's first pitch, he took the Dodgers' and Rockies' lineup cards, while also receiving a blue umpiring shirt.
After the story went national, Cordova said, “I am grateful. A lot of people supported me through this time. A few parents [reached out]. But I’m very appreciative for everyone who's reached out to me.
“I didn’t think it would get this big.”