Editor’s Note: This is part of a summer Q&A series in which every Wednesday sports writer Jared Bell will talk with people in the local sports news.
Adam Hamari’s journey took him through Peru.
A Marquette, Mich. native, Hamari played and umpired in the Senior League Baseball Central Region Tournament, which started Saturday in Peru and Oglesby and is scheduled to conclude today with the semifinals and championship.
As a player, Hamari played in the tournament in 1999 for Marquette — the Michigan state champions — before he returned to the tournament as an umpire.
He later became a professional umpire, and after nearly seven years in the minor leagues, was called up to the major leagues in late June when he served as a replacement umpire for a series with the Chicago Cubs at the Milwaukee Brewers.
He’s remained in the big leagues since and has umpired series in Milwaukee, Baltimore, Anaheim, Arizona, San Francisco, Oakland, Texas, St. Louis, Toronto, Miami, Tampa and Washington D.C.
Now 30 years old, Hamari owes part of his start in umpiring to the Central Region Tournament, and over the weekend, he discussed his profession, Major League Baseball and his experiences in Peru.
NewsTribune: How did you get into umpiring?
Adam Hamari: I started umpiring at the age of 12 and was working Little League games almost entirely until I was old enough to do other levels. A mentor of mine — Dave Turenne, who also happened to be a teacher of mine in high school — helped me get started and was very instrumental in my progression. He would constantly push me to be better and was very good at humbling me throughout my early career. Dave passed away when I was in high school, and I wanted to keep working hard to be the best umpire I could be. Dave also worked the Central States Tournament and helped me connect with the great umpires that are in the area now. I continued to work my way up as I got older, and once I graduated college, I attended the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring in 2006.
Upon graduating from the Academy in 2006, I was placed into the minor leagues into the Class A short-season New York-Penn League. I worked that league in 2006, the long-season Low-A Midwest and California Leagues in 2007, the High-A Florida State and Double-A Southern Leagues in 2008, the Double-A Eastern League in 2009-10 and the International League in 2011 until I got called up. This is my first year working in the Major Leagues as a fill-in.
NT: How did you find out you were heading to the majors? What was your reaction?
Hamari: Needless to say, I was ecstatic when I got the call that I was going to the big leagues. All of the years of hard work and travel had finally paid off, and I was going to step foot on a major league field for the first time. It was absolutely awesome.
I worked my first series in Milwaukee, which was awesome. Being from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, it was the closest (MLB) city to home, so most of my family was able to come down, and I also had a lot of friends come up from Peru. I worked with Jeff Kellogg, Eric Cooper and Paul Schrieber for my first week, and they were very helpful and fun to work with.
NT: What’s the best and worst part of the job?
Hamari: The best part about the job is that I am doing what I love. There aren’t many people who can say that, and I am certainly blessed and humbled to know that I have that opportunity at hand. There really aren’t many downfalls of this job. Being away from home during the summer months is probably the hardest thing to deal with.
NT: Most people probably don’t realize how much work being an umpire really is. Can you talk about all the behind the scenes stuff and what a typical day is like for you?
Hamari: A typical day for me up here might go something like this: Get up, play golf, eat lunch, take a nap and head to the ballpark about an hour before game time. If I don’t play golf, I usually lounge around and kill time during the day. Once we get to the ballpark, we might discuss plays that have happened or other intricacies of the series. Some ballparks have weird ground rules or other things of the sort that we might talk about.
NT: What’s the relationship and interactions like with the players?
Hamari: There really isn’t much interaction with the players. We need to be as focused as possible when we’re out there because of the microscope that we’re under. The pressure to be right all the time forces us to be on top of things at every moment.
NT: What do you remember about your time playing in and umpiring at the Central Region Tournament?
Hamari: I don’t remember playing as much as I remember the hospitality that we were shown by the host families there. Our team stayed with a few families that lived next to each other — the Milus, Wasik and Rice families — and our team had so much fun hanging out and getting to know them that it made the experience that much better. After that year, I think I went back to either visit or umpire for the next five or six years.
The guy I owe a lot of my career to is John “Chuck” Deisbeck. When I was playing, I would always go back and watch the umpires in the other games. When Chuck was working right field at Washington Park, I called him over between innings and told him my interest in umpiring. He told me to meet him in Left-Center —a completely different story that the locals appreciate — and we hit it off. I came back the next year and we umpired together and he took me under his wing. It wasn’t long after that I was working the Central States Tournament and was having a blast.
NT: Do you still keep in contact with some of the Central Region Tournament organizers?
Hamari: I keep in touch with a large majority of the guys there. A few of them — Deisbeck and Dan Wieczorek — came to my first series in Milwaukee . The people there have been so helpful coming up and it was just an awesome experience to be a part of year in and year out.
NT: What makes the tournament so special? How does it compare to other tournaments you attended?
Hamari: That tournament is special because of the closeness of the community. The planning that goes into making it memorable for the teams and the umpires is awesome. I remember when Jim McVey was running the show and everything had to be perfect. If I was home, I’d be going back every year possible. It’s one of those things that becomes a part of you. It really is the best tournament out there.
NT: Do you have any funny stories from over the years that you’d like to share, either with the Central Region tournament or as a pro umpire?
Hamari: My first year umpiring in the tournament, I played in a golf tournament with Al Stiel, Chuck Deisbeck and Jim McVey. I remember watching McVey tee off on the first hole and there was just something that didn’t look right about his golf glove. The pinky finger was flapping in the wind. I leaned over to Deisbeck and said, ‘What the heck is wrong with McVey’s pinky finger?’ He doubled over laughing and I was perplexed. He looked at me and said, ‘There’s nothing wrong with it. He just doesn’t have one!’ It became the joke of the day, but we went on to win the tournament. They must have given us a few shots (laughs).
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.