Local umpire waits for teams to play ball


One of the things Ballston Spa native Jesse Bush says he loves about being a minor league baseball umpire is the travel.

Bush, 24, made his professional debut in the New York-Penn League last year. He drove everywhere from nearby Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, the Troy home of the Tri-City ValleyCats, to Vermont, Staten Island, Brooklyn and beyond.

“It’s just different everywhere you go,”https://www.timesunion.com/” he said. “It’s just, like, different from the mountains to the big city to the cornfields. It’s kind of unique.”

These days, Bush’s driving is limited to delivering food from the Ripe Tomato. That’s the Ballston Spa restaurant where he works while baseball is on pause with the rest of the world in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

He also earns money in child care by supervising the young children of essential workers during the day.

Though Bush is making a living, it’s not in umpiring, the vocation he began when he was only 13 years old.

Bush was promoted from the short-season NYPL to the full-season Class A South Atlantic League this year. The minors would have opened last Thursday, and Bush was supposed to be in Rome, Ga., home to an Atlanta Braves affiliate.

Ballston Spa's Jesse Bush, right, umpired in the New York-Penn League last season. (Courtesy photo)

Ballston Spa’s Jesse Bush, right, umpired in the New York-Penn League last season. (Courtesy photo)

Courtesy photo

“I miss it,” Bush said. “I should have been down in Atlanta, Georgia, the last couple of days, and I’m up in New York and it’s raining. I wish we were umpiring. I wish games were going on. I miss it. It’s just a different feel, especially during the season.”

Minor-league umpires are paid a monthly salary of $2,000 to $2,300 at the short-season level and $2,100 to $3,900 for full-season play, according to milb.com, not including expenses and benefits.

While the pay isn’t exorbitant, Bush said the camaraderie has its own rewards.

“It’s a lot of fun being with other umpires that are at your level or higher than you,”https://www.timesunion.com/” he said. “It’s kind of just like a close-knit family and you just make so many friends in the umpiring world and it’s just really a blessing to hang out with guys and get to know each other.”

He’s not the only Capital Region native who umpires in the minors. Anthony Perez, originally from Ravena, entered the professional ranks in 2014 and worked in the Double-A Southern League last season.

Bush first caught the fever when he was 13 and umpired Little League games. He played at Ballston Spa and later at Division II Cedarville (Ohio), where he pitched, caught and played first and third. During the summer, he’d come home and umpire Babe Ruth games at the field down the street from his home.

After graduating two years ago, Bush attended the Wendlestedt Umpire School in Dayton Beach, Fla.

“I just love baseball and I just wanted to stay on the field as much as possible,”https://www.timesunion.com/” Bush said. “I want to stay in the game. You’re kind of a neutral side to the game instead of being on one side when you’re on a team. Just a different appeal, a different way to look at it.”

Like any player, Bush aspires to make it to the big leagues.

“I think every minor league umpire, that’s their goal,”https://www.timesunion.com/” he said. “We wouldn’t be in what we’re doing if we didn’t have the goal of getting to the highest level. Yeah, that’s a big goal of mine.”

In the short term, Bush hopes there will be baseball this summer. Though he said he doesn’t mind heckling from fans, he’d even be happy to work in front of empty bleachers if teams decide to keep the crowds out because of coronavirus fears.

“I hope they figure it out,”https://www.timesunion.com/” he said. “I wouldn’t even mind umpiring even if there was no fans … I think (players) just want to get back on the field. That’s their job and it’s our job too as umpires. We just want to get back on the field as soon as possible.”

msingelais@timesunion.com • 518-454-5509 • @MarkSingelais



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