By Dave Wagner
While baseball umpires often take a lot of grief, most are in it for the love of the game.
Former area high school players Wes Hatley and Ricardo Anaya said they’ve used umpiring as a means to stay close to the sport.
No one does it to get rich.
Anaya, 25, said normal play is $40 for a varsity game and $20-25 for a junior varsity game. Umpires usually carpool to games and receive mileage if the round trip is at least 60 miles.
Hatley and Anaya are members of a Clovis-area umpiring group of about 15, under the direction of David Briseno.
“I got into it last year,” said Anaya, a 2002 Eastern New Mexico University and 1997 Portales High grad who played three seasons of baseball for the Rams. “I was always going out and watching baseball games, and I thought it would be fun to still be involved.”
Hatley, 22, has been umpiring longer than Anaya. A 2000 graduate of Clovis, he said he first got into it as a freshman at New Mexico State, then became even more involved after transferring to West Texas A&M in Canyon.
He’s done some junior college and Division II-level games.
“I really, really enjoy umpiring,” said Hatley, who shared the Wildcats’ single-season home run record (seven in 1999) before current senior Jason Seefeld belted eight last spring. “The day I hang it up, like the day when I stopped playing baseball, will be a sad day for me.”
Both players were catchers in high school, and that may have contributed to their intrigue with umpiring. It also may explain why they prefer working the plate to doing the bases.
“It’s actually been a little more difficult than I thought it would be,” said Anaya, who worked mainly junior varsity games last year but now does varsity games in Clovis, Portales and surrounding smaller towns.
“You have to be more intense than if you’re just watching the game,” he said. “And you’ve got to know the rules.”
Hatley said at one time he envisioned himself eventually doing Big 12 games, but his priorities have changed. He’ll graduate in May and plans to marry in July.
“My whole goal when I started umpiring was to do Division I college baseball,” Hatley said. “In order to make it to that level, you have to work a long time at the junior college level.
“But now that I’m graduating from WT with a degree in criminal justice, I’m going to come back to New Mexico and become a state policeman.”
Anaya, whose long-range goal is to be able to work a state tournament, said umpiring has helped make him better at dealing with people.
“Now that I have it from an umpire’s perspective, I understand what’s going on,” he said. “I’ve learned to be more patient and listen.”