Baseball umpiring has become Weaver's life

Published 4:02 pm Monday, April 3, 2006

By By BRUCE HIXON – Sports Editor
Joey Weaver knows when he goes to work there is going to be one side upset with every decision he makes. On the other hand, he also knows there will be one side that likes every call he makes.
Such a life goes with being a baseball umpire.
Weaver, a Brewton native, has heard the cheers and jeers that go with his trade since he first started working high school games back in 1981.
Weaver made the decision to start umpiring full-time when he was a student at Troy State University.
Weaver was in such a hurry to go to work he skipped Troy State's graduation ceremony in order to attend an umpiring school in Bradenton (Fla.).
Weaver's ranking enabled him to land one of the 40 jobs that were available in baseball's minor leagues.
As is the case with players, umpires usually have start out at the lower levels of the minor leagues and work their way up.
Weaver started his climb in the South Atlantic League and worked his way up the minor league ladder with stints in the Appalachian League, the Carolina League, the Florida State League, Southern League, and finally up to the International League. The International League is Class AAA and stands one level below the major leagues.
The call Weaver wanted the most never came, which was the one that would have taken him up to the major leagues.
Weaver, who plans on working some in the Southern League this season, has spent seven and a half years in the minor leagues. When his hopes of a major league job faded, he turned his focus towards the high school and the collegiate ranks.
During his career Weaver has worked 13 state championship games and 15 state semifinal rounds in Alabama and Florida.
Weaver said there are a couple of noticeable differences between umpiring in Alabama and Florida.
Weaver, who also officiates basketball, said another huge difference between Alabama and Florida is pay.
Weaver acknowledges there is a dwindling pool of officials, especially young officials.
Weaver's knowledge of baseball rules is constantly tested.
Weaver said the balk rule is probably the call that is questioned the most.
Of course, the call that fans, coaches, and players usually complain about the most is whether or not a pitch is a ball or a strike.
Weaver's years of service have helped him land a spot as the Alabama High School Athletic Association baseball rules coordinator.
Weaver is also the national umpire chief of the Amateur Athletics Union (AAU) Camp, a month-long clinic held at Walt Disney World and the Atlanta Braves complex in Orlando (Fla.).
While days of long travel, working under the hot sun, rain, and lengthy extra inning games are some of the drawbacks to being an official, Weaver said it is still fun.