By Kevin Cuddihy
Over 23 UMPS CARE Charities golfers—comprised of Major League and Minor League Baseball umpires as well as “Friends of the Charity”—took club to ball in a 100-hole golf marathon at beautiful Augusta Ranch Golf Course in Mesa, AZ, on November 10. When the beautiful day was done, more than $75,000 had been beautifully raised for the charity’s endeavors.
UMPS CARE Charities is the official charity of Major League Baseball umpires and is dedicated to youth in need, including ballpark events for children in foster care waiting adoption and bringing a Build-a-Bear Workshop® experience to patients in children’s hospitals suffering from cancer and other serious diseases.
The golf marathon is the brainchild of longtime ump Jim Reynolds, a veteran of over a decade in the big leagues and a member of the charity’s board of directors. This was the third year for the event, which has raised almost $200,000 in its short history.
Gary Darling, president of UMPS CARE Charities, was responsible for $12,000 of the final 2010 kitty through his fundraising and, as the high man, got to tour the course with a large pink stuffed teddy bear. “I’m lucky to have some very generous friends and family members,” said Darling. “The main reason people donate is because they are asked.” And the cause is very worthwhile. “If we didn’t raise money, UMPS CARE would not be able to function.”
Other top fundraisers included Dan McGinnis, a friend of umpire Tim Timmons, who raised over $4,500; and Minor League Baseball umpire Adam Hamari, who reached out to an impressive 91 donors for almost $3,500 in funds.
“I was introduced to the charity last year, and it really is a remarkable organization,” explained Hamari, a five-year vet of the minors who counts the 2010 XM All-Star Futures game and a pair of “Futures at Fenway” games as career highlights so far. “Once people realize the great things that the charity does for the kids, it’s hard to turn down. I was able to meet my goal through hard work and the willingness of each and every person that donated.”
And while McGinnis is not a professional umpire, he’s become involved through his friend and had a blast at the event. “How often do you get to swing a golf club 500 times in one day,” he jokingly asked. “All of the guys that were there knew the task at hand and we were able to complete the event before dark. My feet are still sore but it was worth it.” And he had a message for the other participants: He plans on raising funds again next year and promised he “will take over first place” and control of the pink bear.
While fun, the event is a sacrifice for the umpires too, most of whom have just concluded a long season wearing the blue. Major League Baseball umpire Tim Welke combined the event with “family time,” though, inviting his brother Tom to join him for the day. “I’d rather play a hundred holes with my brother than anyone else,” Tim admitted. This was his first year at the golf marathon, but he’s been a part of the charity’s outreach and knows the importance of their work. “Being able to go to hospitals and see what the bears mean to kids, see the kids at ballparks, that’s pretty cool,” he related.
And to a man they agree—the sacrifice is worth it. “The smiles on the children’s faces” is what Hamari pointed to as motivation, and the other umpires concurred. “Last summer the crew I was with went to the Boston Children’s Hospital,” Welke reminisced,” and you realize how important it is. I’ve been able to see up close and personal what the value is.”
UMPS CARE Charities hosts many other fundraisers throughout the year, including a Golf Classic in Phoenix in January, an online sports memorabilia auction scheduled for March, and a “Run for Bears” at the Baltimore Marathon (see www.UmpsCare.com for more details on each event and how to donate). And plans are already underway for next year’s golf marathon, scheduled for November 9 back at Augusta Ranch, with registration May 1.
Don Rea, owner/operator of Augusta Ranch, where the marathon has been held since its inception, said he’s happy to host “for as long as they’ll have us; I think the charity is awesome. I hope they do it forever—we’ll raise a million dollars eventually just at a tiny course in Mesa.”
UMPS CARE President Darling won’t complain about that. “Each year we keep raising more money than the year before,” he said. “I’m very proud of the guys who get involved, especially the minor league umpires who have supported UMPS CARE.” Welke perhaps summed it up best: “We’re not a big group, but we’re providing a lot for a lot of people. I’m really proud.”
MLB Umpire Gary Darling raised over $12,000 in donations for the charity.
(L-R) Will Little, Adam Hamari, and Clint Fagan.
(L-R) Tim Timmons, Chris Segal, Ed Leopold, and Dan McGinnis.
(L-R) Tom Welke, Jim Reynolds, Mike Williamson, and Tim Welke.