Tournaments : : Story
Friday, October 23, 2009

This grandma is an ump -- and a good one

Jim Ecker        
JUPITER, Fla. -- Mona Osborne is 54 years old and has two grand-children, but she's not in Jupiter to watch anyone in her family play baseball in the 2009 WWBA World Championship. She's here to umpire.
 
"I just love the game and I love the kids," she said Friday.
 
Mona, who lives in West Palm Beach, Fla., has been a certified umpire for 14 years. She was the first woman to work the high school state championship game in Florida, she's done college games, and she also umpired an exhibition game between the New York Mets and the University of Michigan.
 
She's not a novelty. She's an ump.
 
"When I did this, I didn't think I was a woman trying to fit in. I never thought like that," she said. "I just thought I'm an umpire and I happen to be female. And I think the coaches pick up on that."
 
Mona worked two games Friday in the BBWA tournament, the first on the bases and then behind the plate. Her blonde pony-tail hung down from her cap and she might have gotten a few quizzical looks from the players at the start, but it quickly faded.
 
This ump was here to work.
 
Mona helped umpire girls' fast-pitch softball games a while back, but gave it up. "I don't like that sport," she said.
 
She remembers watching her eldest son, now 26, play in a Little League game about 14 years ago and recalls a conversation she had with the president of the league.
 
"I said, 'You know what? I think I want to do that,'" she related. "And you know what he said to me? He goes, 'You can do the girls' softball games.' So anyway, the next year I started."
 
She loves baseball, not softball.
 
"My dad says when I was a little girl, I'd sit in front of baseball games on TV and I was really into it," she said.
 
Mona began umpiring baseball games in the Palm Beach County Little League program as a volunteer, which she said was good training. She began working high school games the next year and now is a highly respected official who helps train other umpires.
 
"I just worked hard, and I went to every clinic I could," she said.
 
Mona went to Japan last year to umpire in the World Cup, representing the United States. "That was really exciting," she said. "That was a highlight, second to my grandchildren."
 
Mona said she rarely has trouble with coaches who might bring a chauvinistic attitude to the park. "I'll tell you, I'm going to say 98 percent just sit back and wait," she said. "They might be quiet, and then by the end of the game they're just yakking (in a friendly manner)."
 
She figures she's ejected about a dozen coaches during her 14 years as an umpire. "Not many," she noted. "You know what? They threw themselves out. I just obliged them. They went over the line."
 
Mona said coaches and players are not inclined to clean up their language just because a lady is on the field.
 
"No, and I wouldn't expect them to," she said. "I've had them apologize to me before. I say, 'Hey, if I can't live through that, I don't belong out here.' That's kind of my attitude about it."
 
The lady is an ump.
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