Lebanon's 'Iron Man' umpire

He was my teacher, and I learned a lot from him. I was skinny, and he was big (Gregg weighed 350 to 400 pounds during much of his career). He sat over me and made me stand in there and watch as the pitchers were throwing. I was scared, too. They were throwing that ball, and I wanted to duck and run, but he made me hang in there, Hardy remembered, with a smile on his face.

He credits Bob Taylor, the late Lebanon band director, for getting him this job where he has been calling em like he sees em for 25 years or more. Hardy estimates he works about 90 games during the regular season before calling another 90 or so games once tournaments begin in July.{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=65|imageid=449|displayname=0|float=right}

I have done every tournament that there has been done here, he said modestly but honestly. Im the senior to the senior umps. I tell the new umps to come to the ball park early, to know their surroundings and remember where youre supposed to be on the field at all times and know the hand signals.

I see myself being a teacher as well as an umpire, said Hardy, who has two grown sons, Rod and Michael, and seven grandchildren. I teach the kids the fundamentals of athletics and playing baseball. Sometimes people come to call out for the money, but for me, the moneys good, but its better when youre teaching at the same time.

The sportsmanship of the game is what I try to teach everybody, cause if youre not having fun coaching or playing, then you might as well not even do it.

As for the hardest part, he confesses it is dealing with coaches and parents.

{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=65|imageid=448|displayname=0|float=left}If parents would understand what it is like to get out and do this, they would understand its not an easy job at all. I just tune out everybody, he said, comparing it to wearing ear plugs.

As for physical protection, the umpires uniform consists of a face mask, chest protector and shin guards, complimented by gray pants, a blue shirt and a blue cap. But the gear is not fool-proof.

If I had a dollar for every lick and every foul ball I took, Id be rich right now, he mused of bearing the brunt of fouls balls to the head, Adams apple and shoulders. One trip to the emergency room revealed seams from the baseball imprinted on his arm like a tattoo.{phocagallery view=category|categoryid=65|imageid=450|displayname=0|float=right}

Hardy, who umpires two games a night, three nights a week, once tried his hand as an umpire in a girls' fast pitch league. That big ole yellow ball moved all over the place. Woo, Lord, I just cant do it, he reminisced about the gig that only ran for two weeks.

After 40 years of calling, its been one merry-go-round. Ive had a lot of laughs, a lot of fun. As the years go by, everybody gets to know you. I love it.

The worst thing I hate, a kid comes up to bat and cries. A lot havent played before and are afraid theyre gonna get hit or strike out. I get em, hug em and tell em theres gonna be another day, said Hardy, Lebanons man behind the plate, who may just keep on umping from here to eternity.

Writer Ken Beck may be contacted at kbtag2@gmail.com.