If I’ve been asked once, I’ve been asked……at least twice – who are these two guys, Sam Griffith and Bobby Gumbs, with whom you umpire all over the globe each August?
Ironically, I’ve been wondering the same thing 🙂
So as we made the drive from Lithuania’s capitol, Vilnius, to the site of this week’s Sporto Vilkai Cup in Utena, I turned investigative reporter.
Here’s the skinny:
Sam is Umpire in Chief of District 68 and lives in Mission Viejo, CA. He’s 55, was born in New York to Australian parents, lived Down Under for a spell and attended Berkeley High and the University of San Francisco before finding his way to L..A.
He married way up when he found Deb, his bride of 32 years, and they have two 20-something boys and a grandson.
Sam’s been umpiring 22 years. He did his first of six years worth of European Regionals in Kutno, Poland in 2001, has done all five Sporto Vilkai Cups, has been nominated to do the West Regional in San Bernardino a hundred times, has (miraculously) avoided being selected every time, and can recite the rulebook by letter, number and page (annoying).
Bobby is a youthful 59, was born in the Dutch colony of Aruba, moved to Holland to study and find work, married up (trend developing)when he found Lida, and has one son.
He’s been umpiring 18 years and has done three of the four possible LLB World Series (Majors in Williamsport, PA; Juniors in Taylor, MI, and Big League in Easley, SC, which concluded just three days ago. He’s done 11 years worth of European Regionals and all five Lithuanian tournaments, and there’s not a baseball player, coach or administrator on the continent who doesn’t know him (he’s a 6-foot-5 black “comedian” with unmistakable mechanics and mannerisms).
For those friends of Sam and Bobby who have been referred to this space and who don’t know me, I was born, raised and still reside in the Eastbay of Northern California. I am 56, I cashed in way above my pay grade 32 years ago when I tied the knot with Marsha, and we have two 20-somethings. I started umpiring 13 years ago, have done five years worth of European Regionals and all five Lithuanian tournaments.
So how and when did The Three Amigos (our given name in this part of the world) hook up? At the European LL regional in Poland in 2002.
Sam and Bobby had already met the previous year in Kutno, but I am credited with being the straw that stirred the drink (an apt description after last night, but that’s another story for another day).
Since our first of five years together in Poland in ’02, we’ve also umpired in Germany in ’03, given a clinic together in Scotland in ’04 and been together all five years in Lithuania since ’05.
In some respects, we are as different as, well, black and white. In other respects, like umpiring, we share a passion that literally knows no bounds.
PLAY BALL: It’s time for baseball. Come Monday morning, defending champ Czech Republic squares off against Kaunas (Lithuania), followed by Belarus meeting host Vilnius. Poland has a bye.
The economy kept the California team from coming, and Sweden bailed just the other day.
So the aforementioned five teams will play a round robin culminating Friday with the championship and third-place games.
We have eight umpires for the 12-game tournament: the three of us and five from Lithuania. We’ll be teaching as much as we’ll be umpiring, although these five are pretty much the cream of the Lithuanian crop.
SEEN AT THE COACHES meeting tonight: the Belarus coach wearing a hat from Ladera Ranch LL, which visited here last year, and the Kaunas coach wearing a Viejo LL t-shirt (SoCal donation from a few years ago).
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