Responding with grace and mercy

July 11, 2024

By Jeff Becraft


Years ago, I umpired little league baseball for two seasons. I have no idea why.

I was really not a very good umpire. But one of the things that I learned about umpires is that umpires are human. I would tell people, “If the pitcher’s on a roll, then I’m on a roll.” (I used to pitch growing up and I guess I leaned towards them.)

I mostly umpired for the real little kids, the ones that were just starting. Now, this would make for some interesting evenings. Like one game, the catcher couldn’t catch the ball. And so I’m ducking and weaving trying to miss pitches thrown in there by the pitcher. Our son, Josiah, would be umpiring out in the field and in between innings, he would be giving me a hard time.

He would comment, “Wow… how can you call a ball or strike and you’re ducking out of the way?”

I was like, “Dude, the catcher can’t catch. The balls are hitting me.

Josiah got a big kick out of that and for my next birthday, he drew a birthday card for me that showed me jumping out of the way of pitches behind the plate.

Like I said, I was not a very good umpire.

There was one time when I was umpiring out in the field and the batter hit this ground ball between first base and second base. The first baseman goes way over to snag the ball and then goes sprinting back to the base and dives to touch the base with his glove.

Now, to be totally honest, I’m not sure who got there first… the runner or the first baseman. They both seemed to get there about the same time. But after I saw that incredible play with that first baseman and I wasn’t really sure… that guy was out! The coach of the offensive team wasn’t really too happy with that call.

But without really being sure… and seeing a tremendous play like that… man, that dude is out.

I’m sure that when coaches and players showed up for a game and saw that I was umpiring, I’m sure they would be thinking, “Oh, great day in the morning… we’ve got that umpire.”

But I would do the best I could.

We have one friend of the family who used to ref soccer games. His famous quote was, “A good ref makes for a dull game.” Maybe that was my philosophy and I didn’t even realize it.

Umpiring changed my perspective on umpires and refs… and maybe people in general. Umpires are human, refs are human, teachers are human… you can go down the line.  Umpiring also changed my perspective on how I treated umpires and refs. It is usually just expected that people will belittle and carry on and yell at umpires if they miss a call. I began to realize that they are human… just like me.

When I was umpiring behind the plate (or in the field), I was doing the best I could. So I started treating umpires and refs with a lot more mercy than I used to before. I’m not saying that every once in a while I don’t get stirred up when I see a bad call… but overall, I have become a lot more understanding.

Years ago, Armando Galarraga, was one out away from pitching a perfect game for the Detroit Tigers. But on what should have been the last out, the first-base umpire missed the call and called the runner safe. Later on, after the game, the umpire saw the replay and he actually broke down and cried. His mistake had cost that player a historic perfect game.

How did Galarraga respond?  With grace and mercy.  It is recorded that he was forgiving and understanding of the mistake and told reporters after the game, “Nobody’s perfect.”  It is an amazing story.  You will have to research it yourself to find out the whole story of the interaction between Galarraga and umpire Jim Joyce and understand the depth of Joyce’s sorrow and Galarraga’s compassion and mercy.

It is a great day to show grace and mercy to one another.


Jeff Becraft is the Director of Our Place of Hope and the Director Emeritus for Youth Corps and has dedicated much of his life to helping shift the vision of people’s lives. Our Place of Hope is a paradigm shift for people living with mental illness that encourages them to regain meaning, purpose, and hope for their lives. You can connect with Jeff at  [email protected].