Getting the call: Tichenor finally gets full-time umpiring chance
By BRETT MARSHALL
"Take me out to the ballgame, take me out to the crowd..."
Those words from one of the famous songs for baseball are all too familiar to Todd Tichenor.
The Garden City native and now Holcomb resident hears those lyrics many, many times while doing what most baseball fans can only dream about.
Tichenor, who has been a part-time Major League Baseball umpire for the past six seasons, doesn't have to worry now about being the designated "part-timer."
In early January, the 33-year-old got the phone call he had been hoping for, the one from the MLB office to notify him that he would now be the newest full-time umpire for the 2012 season.
"I knew there was just one spot open, and you're always hoping that you get that call," Tichenor said. "But I didn't think I'd be overwhelmed with the emotion that I've felt since the call came."
That call came from Peter Woodfork, vice-president of baseball operations, who had worked for the legendary Joe Torre. Tichenor had said he thought the call would come from Torre.
However, that same day Torre resigned from MLB to pursue the potential purchase of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
"It's been a great experience to have the chance to meet people like Joe," Tichenor said. "He'd always told me that if there's anything he could do for me, to let him know. That's pretty neat."
There are only 68 major league umpires working full-time, Tichenor said. There are 15 crews comprised of four umpires each. There are eight in reserve to help fill in when the regulars are either ill or taking a vacation.
During his six previous seasons of "part-time" umpiring, Tichenor would substitute for those vactioning or ill officials. Now, he'll have a complete season schedule, along with a full complement of benefits — vacation, medical insurance and a pension plan.
"In the past, if I didn't work I didn't get paid," Tichenor said. "With a young family, now it's great to have the benefits of insurance and vacation. I'll be able to see my kids play ball."
Before he was officially hired, Tichenor had to go through a rigorous stream of examinations in Phoenix. It included an evaluation from an orthopedic surgeon, blood tests, eye exam and concussion tests.
"It was quite a lot, but they've got to know that you're completely healthy because you've got to be able to be out there nearly every day you're scheduled," Tichenor said. "Everyone jokes about the eye exam (he was evaluated at having perfect 20/20 vision)."
He indicated that by mid-March, his crew chief, Brian Gosman, would draw for the season schedule based upon seniority with other crew chiefs. Once the schedule is drawn, Tichenor will know in what cities and on what dates he will be assigned. Once every six weeks, he will take a week's vacation. Then, even in the offseason, he will draw his salary, unlike in years past.
"It was seven months of being paid and five months not," Tichenor said of his part-time work. "It's just a great comfort and relief to be in this position. I'm very honored to have this opportunity."
Gosman hails from southern California while his other crew members include Larry Vanover from the New England area and Tony Randazzo of New Mexico.
"I know all of the guys so it makes it that much easier to be the new guy," Tichenor said. "Those first couple of years, the regulars just see you as a sub, but I think now that I've done the part-time for several seasons, that I'm accepted."
Tichenor said that in today's world, the umpire crew members are greeted by a security detail once they arrive at the ballpark and are with them until they depart.
"These guys are off-duty police officers and really do a great job of taking care of us," Tichenor said. "They love baseball and they're very professional in how they do their job."
Tichenor said he reads the baseball rules book on a daily basis, calling it his, "professional Bible." The umpiring group had three days of meetings and training while they were in Phoenix. Tichenor said that he was pretty comfortable in his knowledge of the rules and that there was even a rule that covers things that have not occurred.
That would be Rule 9.01c which reads: "Each umpire has authority to rule on any point not specifically covered in these rules." Thus far, Tichenor said he has not had to use that rule.
It's been a journey that Tichenor describes as a "labor of love." Now that he's arrived at the full-time umpire designation, it's time to "play ball." And Tichenor can't wait for the 2012 season to start.