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John Homan: A great example of putting others above self

By John Homan
Posted on 6/6/2018, 1:00 AM

So often, we go through life thinking how we can be better served by others. Perhaps it's just part of being human that we put ourselves first in much of what we say, think and do.

That's why when you witness an act of selflessness, it's like a cold splash of water hitting your face on a winter's day. It wakes you up right away and makes you realize that the world does not revolve around you. We may want it to at times, but it doesn't.

In my evening gig as official scorer of the Southern Illinois Miners, something unusual happened Sunday.

I got a phone call from the league commissioner's office. And it had nothing to do with how I scored the game. It had everything to do with humanity.

The man on the other end of the line informed me that the home plate umpire -- Dennis Frech -- had a personal emergency, his father had just suffered a heart attack, and could I dig deep into my contacts list and possibly find a replacement for him as quickly as possible?

With the help of my son, I got in touch with a former umpire -- Kevin Hall -- who now serves as a scheduler of umpires for the Great Rivers Athletic Conference (junior college sports). He and I began making calls.

One right after the other was unavailable for various reasons. It was Sunday, after all. People make plans on the weekend. Moreover, who wants to join a game in progress? And who wants to jump into the pressure cooker that is professional baseball?

As I looked for the next potential fill-in arbiter, my gaze went back to the field ever so briefly and I could see Frech soldier on, continuing to call balls and strikes so that the game would not be put into the hands of only one umpire.

As each half inning passed, my respect grew for the man in blue as he sacrificed his personal needs for the needs of the teams and fans attending the game.

Finally, painstakingly, reinforcements arrived in the fourth inning. One came from Carterville and another from Mount Vernon. Instead of two guys working the game, there were now three. Better too many than too few. And Frech was finally free to tend to his family concerns. I hope that his father survived the attack and is on the mend.

It's funny how my perspective on this particular umpire changed in the span of a few minutes. No longer was he that guy who is known for a tight strike zone; no longer was he that guy I have seen call a hundred games before. He was that guy who put others first, even in a difficult time for him.

That is the kind of person we should strive to be.

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