“I was safe, and the stupid umpire called me out,” Billy seethed. “That would’ve been the first home run I’ve ever hit.”
“Lighten up, Billy,” his friend Eric said. “You’ll hit another one someday. Besides, you ought to be happy we won.”
“But I can’t believe he called me out. It wasn’t even close.”
“You’re lucky he didn’t throw you out of the game. Come on, it’s almost time for the other game to start.”
“Give me a few minutes, and I’ll be ready.” Billy walked slowly to the parking lot. He sat for a moment in the privacy of his mom’s car and closed his eyes. “Dear Heavenly Father,” he prayed, “help me get over my anger. I know it’s not right to be hateful. Help me to not think bad of the umpire.”
The play was still vivid in Billy’s mind. The ball had exploded off his bat, splitting the right and center fielders.
“Tag all the bases!” the coach bellowed over the cheers of the crowd.
Billy never hesitated as he raced around the bases. As he approached home plate, he could hear the coach screaming, “Get down! Slide!”
As he went into a headfirst slide, everything seemed to happen in slow motion. He saw the ball go into the catcher’s mitt. He saw his hand skim across home plate. He felt the catcher tag his left shoulder, clearly after he touched the plate.
Billy pounded the dirt with both fists. Then he jumped up and screamed at the umpire. Eric was right—the umpire could easily have thrown him out of the game.
Rejoining Eric at the diamond, Billy muttered, “Well, at least these guys have a good umpire—Dad’s calling their game.”
For as long as Billy could remember, his dad had been an umpire. He had no doubt his dad was the best umpire in the league.
“Boy, some of the parents at our game were really getting upset about the call on you,” said Eric.
“Yeah,” said Billy. “I was too. Did you notice how fast the umpire left after the game was over?” He spotted his mom in the bleachers, and the two boys went up and sat beside her.
“Where have you boys been?” she asked. “The game’s about to begin.”
“We went for a walk so he could blow off a little steam,” Eric said.
“I thought that you were safe,” Billy’s mom told him, “but your antics were uncalled for. The umpires have a tough job; they’re not always going to make the right call. We’ll discuss your actions later.”
“Dad always makes the right call,” Billy mumbled to himself.
The game was 1–0 going into the bottom of the sixth. The Eagles were behind and down to their last out. The crowd was on its feet. Charlie Gibson, the best hitter in the league, stepped to the plate. Billy was a little surprised that the Aces didn’t walk him.
Crack! The ball sailed over the left fielder’s head.
“Tag ’em all, tag ’em all,” screamed Charlie’s coach.
Charlie rounded third and raced towards home. The left fielder threw the ball to the shortstop; the shortstop fired it to home plate.
“Get down! Slide! Slide!” yelled the batter on deck.
Charlie’s foot touched home plate at the same instant the catcher tagged him. Amid the swirling dust, Billy could see his dad waiting to make the call.
Billy saw Dad raise a clinched fist above his head. Down came the fist as he shouted, “You’re out!”
Charlie was outraged. He jumped up and started screaming at the umpire.
The game was over, and Billy’s dad tried to leave the field. A number of fans were yelling angrily at him.
“You’re worthless!” “How can you make an idiotic call like that?” “That’s the worst call I’ve ever seen!”
Some parents had run down to the fence to scream at Billy’s dad. Fortunately a policeman was nearby and escorted him to his car. Billy’s mom decided to wait until the crowd calmed down before leaving.
Billy saw Charlie walking toward the bleachers.
“You were safe, son,” said Charlie’s mom.
Charlie threw his glove down in disgust. “That stupid idiot lost the game for us and cost me a home run! That’s the third time we’ve had that bum this year, and he’s been horrible every time.”
“Did you hear what he called Dad?” Billy said to his morn. “We have to do something.”
“What do you want to do?” she asked.
“These people are terribly upset. If you say something, you’re liable to cause a fight.”
After the crowd thinned out, Billy and his mom went to the car. On the way home, Billy’s mom pulled into a service station. As she was pumping gas into the car, Billy noticed a man at another pump. It was the umpire of his ball game.
As Billy watched, a couple of small children poked their heads out a window of the man’s car and laughed. The man laughed back at them. He’s just like any other person, Billy realized with a start. In fact, he’s a lot like Dad. He began to feel guilty for acting as he had.
“Mom, if I apologize to the umpire, will we still have a discussion when we get home?”
“If you apologize,” said Billy’s mom, “we won’t need to discuss anything.”
As Billy walked toward the man’s car, he realized that Heavenly Father had answered his prayer to remove the anger from his heart. He hoped Charlie would offer the same prayer too.