RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Mike Webster patrols the infield at Ting Park on a Saturday afternoon in Holly Springs. Webster has been umpiring for more than 30 years but is best known for having officiated the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and even a National Championship game.
“I’ve just been real lucky,” Webster admitted. “I don’t really look at it as a venue or what’s better I just look at it as the next game that I get a chance to work and enjoy.”
On this day Webster is calling a game between Fayetteville Tech and Wake Tech. Behind the plate is former Garner head basketball coach Eddie Gray. He won a state championship with the Trojans in 20-15. But for 36 years he’s also umpired baseball.
“It’s the camaraderie of the other umpires,” said Gray. “You get to be outside and be around athletes and sports. It’s kind of in the DNA I guess.”
Well it sure isn’t for the money and that’s ok.
“This is sort of like a hobby,” Webster explained. “It’s not a vocation it’s an advocation and we get out here and enjoy it. But we get to work with the kids and that’s a lot of fun. That’s the aspect that draws me and motivates me.”
Still what little they do make, can come in handy.
“When my son was a student at UNC I called 88 baseball games,” sighed Gray. “That’s where most of the money went, to pay his tuition.”
So why keep doing it? For the love of the game both admit. With nearly eight decades of umpiring between them, Gray and Webster, nonetheless, have no designs on giving it up.
“It’s a game that we enjoy,” stressed Webster. “Fun is fun no matter where it is or what you’re doing you want to give it your best and do the best you can.”