MARQUETTE - When asked, former Major League Baseball umpire Larry Poncino was willing to give a little advice to Marquette's Adam Hamari after he was called up to work in the majors for the first time this week.
"Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut," Poncino said with only a small wry smile. "Listen to the guys you work with, since they've been in the majors a lot longer."
In Marquette for the Beacon House Celebrity Golf Classic, Poncino, 56, umpired for 23 seasons from 1985 to 2007, including a number of postseason games and an All-Star game, and said he might still be out on the diamond if it wasn't for a neck injury.
Marquette’s Adam Hamari, far left, umpires his first major league game behind home plate at Miller Park in Milwaukee on Thursday while the Brewers’ Sean Halton gets his first career major league hit, a single, during the fifth inning against the Chicago Cubs. (AP photo)
"It's a tough job, but it can be a rewarding career," he said. "The cameras are on you all the time."
He also agreed with the famous quotation about the expectations of officials in just any sport - "You're expected to start perfect and get better from there."
Poncino added that Hamari is at a good age, 30, to start in the majors, since he was 28 when he began. Hamari got attention from the Close Call Sports
website, www.closecallsports.com, with his debut, which was to fill in for MLB regular Chad Fairchild during the Chicago Cubs at Milwaukee series. Hamari worked at second base Tuesday, first base Wednesday and behind the plate for the first time Thursday afternoon.
The site explained that Hamari, in his third season as a regular in the Triple-A International League, was an honors graduate of the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring in 2006, just like another umpire who made his debut this week, Will Little. Hamari began in Class A in 2007, moving up to the top minor league level including as home plate umpire at the 2010 MLB All-Star Futures Game.
Hamari also officiates high school and college basketball and is a substitute teacher during the baseball offseason.
Poncino said umpiring has only gotten harder over the years as technology has makes second-guessing more pervasive.
"You feel like you called a great game, then you're told you missed 16 pitches," he cited as an example of MLB video analysis of balls-and-strikes calls today. "It takes away from the feel of a game."
He always liked what 2007 Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn said - "Nobody ever got to the Hall of Fame by walking."
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.