Kittrel (KT) Brice referees Pop Warner football all over Monroe County and an is active member of Rochester District Basketball Officials Board 60. But he’s never umpired baseball or softball.
Then why was KT at Genesee Valley Park Wednesday night refereeing for the Kickball League of Rochester? Shotgunning.
KT explained the intricacies of the shotgun challenge rule. Basically, each team can challenge the decision of the referee on certain plays that are close enough to leave room for human error. The team winning the challenge, wins the call. On some occasions — if KT isn’t sure himself — he can initiate the challenge. There are many possible variations — Foot Race, Wheel Barrel Race, Somersault Race, Crab Walk, Dance Off, Cartwheel Race, Shoe Toss, Dizzy Bat activities — but the traditional method is puncturing a beer can and downing its contents: the shotgun.
As the shotgun arbiter, KT has to make a split second decision: “who drank the fastest and spilt the leastest.” KT is on his own without help from an instant replay review booth back in the Manhattan studio. It’s this adrenaline rush of the bang-bang shotgun call missing from softball that irresistibly draws KT to the otherwise placid game of kickball.
At one point, the team named Steve Sucks challenged the call that Steve was out at first (even though sucky Steve is usually out). Steve sent Dan to face off against Amy Newhouse, participating in her first ever challenge, a virgin shotgunner.
Amy was coached by Katie who has punctured and chugged her share back in the day. Katie says shotgun is all about the two S’s — speed & spill — and advised Amy to “go with the whims of your stomach and esophagus.” Katie suggested not using your teeth to puncture the can. I asked Amy if she practiced shotgunning in private but she thinks society frowns upon such behavior.
Whether beginner’s luck or not, Amy quickly sent Dan to the showers. Dan’s teammates did mock him for all the beer spilled — as caught in the live action photo — and his pathetic wiping off of his mouth with his shirtsleeve in defeat. But at least Steve Sucks cheered Dan for winning second place in the challenge.
Coach Katie said Amy had great speed and no spill as her protegé beamed in victory. You never forget your first shotgun.
Originally, I was at Genesee Valley Park to umpire games for the University of Rochester Medical Center League (most players are affiliated with the Center).
One of my favorite umpiring venues, the League’s mood is relaxed and good humored. The play can be spirited but always in good fun. A nice blend of socialization and softball. And on some Wednesdays we are entertained by a popular Drum Circle and a throng of dancing Hula Hoopers. With a certain light but distinctive aroma wafting over the field.
This was first visit back since last year. Then, as seen in Promoting Wellness through softball at the URMC — except for the expert intervention of several medical students — I almost called my last ball and strike. But like Mike Piazza after Roger Clemens beaned him, I was primed for action.
Unfortunately, people in medical residencies are notorious for tardiness. At the 6:00 game only two cardiologist actually showed, Jackie and Tom, and they were rookies to the league. So the two punctual cardiologists joined McGinnity’s — not so thrilled at being stood up — for a batting and fielding practice. Then at the 7:15 game not enough surgeons straggled in for a full team. The game was forfeited and the teams played a scrimmage instead.
I figured I had escaped harm’s way, but while watching the scrimmage a smashed foul ball came my way. Jackie lept to my aid. Diagnosis: cardiac arrest 2/2 slow response. Response: T x CPR. Treatment: duck next time.One surgeon was more dismissive of the blow: Not Tear; No Harm. Saying he was off the clock, radiologist Frank of the X-Raiders wouldn’t take any x-rays of the damage.
I also met the UR’s Office of Advancement team. UR had just exceeded expectations in a just completed 10 year capital campaign. I asked Matt if it felt like winning the World Series. Matt explained that fundraisers do not see a capital campaign like a baseball or softball season ending with a championship game. Instead the sports metaphor is mountain climbing, trekking from one peak to the next, always looking up at the obscuring mist. Still, Advancement did win this game at the URMC league.
So I wandered the fields visiting with the umpire and referees. Umpire Jim Hill stood his ground while dodging bats and balls.
I asked kickball referee Mark — also a player in the league — what is the hardest play to call. A bang bang play at first because unlike softball or baseball, there is no thud sound. I’ll give Mark that point, but that air filled kickball poses no threat to his manhood.
At another field, Erika was giving Jon the ref — also a player in the league — a hard time all game as the calls kept going against her team. Erika was miffed that she had slipped Jon $50 before the game.
Kickball referees are not nearly as handsomely compensated as real umpires, so I wasn’t surprised they were corruptible. Also, John seemed to be enjoying himself too much for Erika’s taste. After the game, Erika asked for her money back.
I am not worried if softball adopts the shotgun challenge. For I have never yet made a call even close to disputable.
ALSO ON SOFTBALL