May 4, 2016

April rounded out nicely, with stimulating visits as well as travel. On Wednesday, April 26 I had the pleasure of lunching here at the Carlisle with two delightful umpires, both of them women and both experienced in their field.

Baseball umpires Perry Barber, center, and Ila Valcarcel came to visit while they were in Florida.

My friend Perry Barber brought with her a colleague, Ila Valcarcel. Both women had been umpiring in Clearwater at a tournament for high school-age baseball players attended by hundreds of scouts.

While we enjoyed each others’ company, Perry and Ila were kind enough to share with me several news items about current developments in women’s baseball and women’s umpiring.

Perry told me about the new effort on the part of baseball women to unify behind the purchase of two buildings near the park once used by the Rockford (Ill.) Peaches to serve as a Women’s Baseball Museum and a place for related facilities. The group behind this effort is looking for contributions from well-off sympathizers. Ila told me about her work for a company that trains umpires and is being persuaded to welcome more women.

I played the piano at the Carlisle while Perry and Ila were visiting.

It seems to me that women are uniquely qualified to become umpires. They are known traditionally for their preference for peaceful relations and often serve as peacemakers in contentious groups. Women have served well as judges and facilitators to keep things running smoothly. When baseball players become contentious, I would like to see a woman umpire bring them back to operating peacefully.

Acting as an umpire in male baseball games is hardly an easy gig for women, who must put up with abuse in tense game situations in which players lose their cool. Even when thinking clearly, men have often expressed their annoyance at seeing women on the baseball field because of their assumption that only men can do this job. They fail to realize that women have been successful umpires since the 19th century.

Ila told me about women’s current problems with finding uniforms that fit women’s figures. She spends a lot of time altering her uniforms and helping others find ways to change baggy, shapeless, ill-fitting shirts and too-large leg protectors into uniforms and equipment that delivers protection without hampering their work and making them look lost in their clothing. Ila goes so far as to soak her leg protectors in water in order to reshape them to fit her smaller figure.

Perry’s late cat, Matty, named for Christy Mathewson, bears a striking resemblance to my late cat, Toto. Toto was the inspiration for my book I Know What My Cat Is Thinking, And It Isn’t Very Complimentary. I gave Perry and Ila each a copy of the book.

To commemorate the occasion, the three of us had our pictures taken by a Carlisle staff member and hope to meet again, if not under the hot Naples sun then elsewhere.