In less than three weeks, 120 teams of 6- and 11-year-olds will fill fields at Camp Jordan, playing for the title of Dizzy Dean World Series champions.
Kim Crowe, umpire-in-chief for Tennessee Dizzy Dean Baseball and Softball, said the league's 150 umps will be rotating in and out of six to eight games a day. Fans shouldn't be surprised to learn the umpiring team calling their son's game might be related.
There are 18 parent-son umpire teams in the rec league this season, a record according Ronnie Berry, head umpire of Dizzy Dean leagues for ages 9-14 and president of the East Ridge Youth Association.
The Crowe and Berry families are two of them, each with decades-long ties to youth baseball.
Ronnie Berry's parents, Ron and Sylvia Berry, serve as officers on the state and national boards of Dizzy Dean. Six years ago, Mr. Berry's son, Jacob, donned the blue uniform and began umpiring.
The Berry men have called games together, and dad says they would never try to over-rule the other on a controversial call.
"I may have seen something that he didn't, or he might have seen something. We'll talk and he'll say OK. It's not over-ruling, it's an agreement," Mr. Berry said.
"If it's his call, you keep your partner happy," added Jacob Berry.
Mr. Berry said he's seen Jacob let a parent "get under his skin."
"But I've seen more that he's maturing, less of a hothead as he gets older. You see your children grow up and mature on the field," said the dad.
The younger Berry said he played baseball through middle school and started umpiring to make money.
"Now I like to do it for the kids. I like watching the little kids. They're crazy," he said, chuckling.
Mrs. Crowe agrees it's family tradition and dedication to the game that continues to bring generations of families to the umpires'' association. Mrs. Crowe said she's the eighth member of her family to wear blue.
It's not the money that motivates these men and women to don face masks and heavy protective vests in 100-plus heat, cope with argumentative coaches and irate parents. Mr. Berry said umpires in the Twilight league (ages 5-8) are paid $14 a game, with the pay scale climbing to $50 for high school games.
Mrs. Crowe said she umpired with son Josh, known as Doc, when he called his first game six years ago. He started at the Snow Hill Youth Association and now umpires rec league, high school and high-school select games.
She said her advice to him was the same she gives all new umpires.
"Be in position, always be dressed professionally, and be firm when you make your call," she said.
"If you're in position, and you know your rules and look like you know what you're doing, they rarely question you."
First female umpire-in-chief
Life's biggest milestones have happened on the ballfield for umpire Kim Crowe.
She was married at home plate on Field 6 at Camp Jordan 22 years ago, where husband Danny was umpire-in-chief. She went into labor while umpiring a game -- and that child is now an umpire, as well. In fact, she was his partner when he called his first game.
Now she's the first female Umpire-in-Chief for Tennessee Dizzy Dean Baseball and Softball.
"When Krissi Whitaker, my first partner, and I started in 1988, she was my neighbor. We lived in Harrison and drove to Camp Jordan together. We sort of thought of it as breaking a gender barrier, because we were the only female pair we knew of at that time," she said.
"The parents thought it was great; the mothers especially loved it when two females walked onto the field. The coaches might have challenged us at first, but once they saw we knew the rules, it was respect from then on."
Now her son, Doc Crowe, said she's known as "Big Kim."
"When I'm working a game, if I say who my parents are, the other coaches or umpires say, 'Oh, Big Kim's son,' and they won't question me because they know I'll know the rules," he said.
"I get a lot of respect from the guys," Mrs. Crowe said. "I love the job."
Ronnie and Jacob Berry
Kim and Doc Crowe
David and Chad Lee
Clayton and Matt Shell
Shane and Brandon Morrison
Rob and Austin Millsaps
Randy and Zac Stewart
David and Jacob McNabb
Paul and Justin Tucker
Paul and Zack Pugh
Rusty and Nick Romito
Tim and Chad Patterson
Woody and Woody II Sartain
Mike and Matt Manning
Bill and Korey Jackson
Shane, Brandon and Wes Morrison
Steve, Chris, Brad and Corey Harvey
Dealing with irate parents
Ronnie Berry: I tell Jacob, "The game's over with -- let it go." That's how you have to look at things.
Kim Crowe: Always be approachable. As long as they can see you care about the kids, they'll be fine.
Doc Crowe: Sell your call. I'm in my sixth year of umping, and I've never had to throw anybody out.