One of the things I’ve always respected (and been jealous of) about my mentor (Tom Jenkins) was his quick wit and his ability to handle himself in arguments with coaches and players. It sometimes take me a week before I think to myself, “Dang it, that’s what I should have said in that argument with that Coach…” I asked Tom for some of his favorite interactions and one-liners.
1. While working the plate at St. Edwards University a pitch came in around the top of the zone and the catcher never got leather on the ball. The first thing it hit was the back stop. The visiting head coach yelled out to me, “Where was that pitch?” I turned and looked at him then pointed to the backstop. ”It’s up against the backstop!”
2. A man Tom Jenkins respects is Austin legend Randy Christal. Randy was walking back to retrieve a ball that got away during warm-ups and as he was walking he had a big smile on his face. The guy who sat directly behind the plate at the University of Texas we called “The Bread Man” (because he worked for Butter Crust). They had this exchange:
Bread Man: “Randy, I know why you are smiling…’cause the Horns are losing!”
Randy: “Nope…I was just thinking how you paid $5 to sit there and look at my ass for 9 innings!”
3. And one other: in 1992 Tom was sent to LSU for a NCAA Regional. The year before another umpire who was also overweight had a hamburger sent out to him (by the fans) at 3rd base. It got into his head, devastated him and ruined his tournament. Tom, never one to deny that he’s a big guy, was expecting something similar to happen to him. He wrote this story to me in an email:
“In my first game, I was working 3rd and the crowd along the 3rd base line was pretty rough on me. I went out to talk to the 2nd base Umpire during the break and when I return there was a hot dog sitting on 3rd base. The fans were laughing hysterically. I went over and picked it up and walked to the fence and said so all could hear…’all you people talk about is your great food down here. So what do you do? You bring a lousy hot dog. If you are going to bring me food, make it something good!’ With that I slam-dunked the dog in the trash can and walked away. The crowd took a collective breath…then started cheering. They apologized for bring me a mere hot dog and promised better offerings in the future. From then on, they never messed with me and always brought me food after the game – and it was always great food! Two years later when I returned I was treated like a king.