By Fred Moreno
Every so often I stick my nose where it doesn’t belong. This time it happened literally and figuratively when I stuck my schnoz inside the square of a chained link fence as I was watching a Little League game between 6 year olds from Westbury and Carle Place. It only took about two minutes for the umpire to call time out and yell at me to remove my nose from inside the fence “before I lose it.” I was going to yell back and tell him to keep his nose out of my business, but I didn’t want to show the kids that I was disrespectful of authority.
I noticed that the umpire was now on his cell phone. Was he calling the police on me? No, but I did hear him say that he would, “be there in two seconds.” Sure enough he ran from the field, got into his car and sped away. I found out that his daughter went into labor and had to leave. So now what? Or should I ask, “Guess what?”
Well the game must go on, but all the people there were rooting for Westbury or Carle Place so it wouldn’t be fair if any one of them would be the substitute umpire. Both managers agreed that “the guy with the nose” would be the perfect sub. The fact that I didn’t know the difference between a ball and a strike didn’t faze them.
Before I knew it, there I was behind home plate only a few feet from where my nose protruded only minutes ago and heard myself yelling, “Let’s get ready to rum—I mean, play ball.” Things went surprisingly well for five of the first six innings with both teams pleased with my decision making. The only glitch up to that point was that I had to use the men’s room in the top of the sixth when Carle Place had the bases loaded. Both managers must have thought I was going to be the second umpire to make a quick getaway, but when they saw me walking back from the blue port-a-potty, they were relieved. And so was I.
Carle Place failed to score despite having the bases loaded so going into the bottom of the sixth and final inning the score was 4-3 in favor of Carle Place. Now it was Westbury’s turn to load the bases. There was one out and it was Jeffrey’s turn to bat. Now this was the cutest kid you ever did see. He stood around 42 inches and had these golden curls that fell about two inches over his collar. He had the bluest of eyes and the cutest of smiles.
Of course, umpires are supposed to be neutral, and I was, but the pressure of the situation had me reminding little Jeffrey not to be nervous. He looked up at me with those baby blues and said, “Just don’t call any more low balls a strike like you did the last time, Nostrildamus!” I asked him to repeat the last word and he said that he didn’t know what it meant but, “that’s what my coach has been calling you all game.”
Despite his unintentional insult, I was still nervous for him. The game was on the line. When the count went to 3-2 I could hardly breathe. On the next pitch, Jeffrey hit a short fly ball to left field. Everybody yelled to the boy on third base to tag up. I was hoping he knew what it meant. He did and correctly waited for the fielder to catch the ball then took off for home plate. This was it. If he was safe Westbury would tie the game.
The ball and the boy arrived at the same time. I mean the exact same time. The base runner collided with the catcher who did a backward somersault but held onto the ball. The dust from the play formed a mini cloud over the scene. And then you could hear nothing but silence as everyone waited for my call. But like everyone else, I was silent. I really didn’t know what to call. The only thing I remember calling out was, “That was close!” I quickly thought of my options. Should I call it a tie? Should I suggest a coin flip? The only thing I was sure of was that I had to use the bathroom again. But I was unable since I was trapped between the bodies of the two coaches who demanded a decision.
I finally gave in and said that I would, “have to call the runner out.” The Carle Place coach quickly disappeared and began the celebration with his team. The Westbury coach with little Jeffrey at his side asked how I could make such a call. I explained that it couldn’t have been any closer. When he asked how much was he out by, I turned to both of them and said with a straight face, “He was out by a Nostrildamus!” And that my friends was the old ballgame.