Gordon Krick starts 4th decade of umpiring

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“Mother, may I slug the umpire,
Slug him right between the eyes?
If you let me do it, Mother
You shall have the champion prize.

Let me clasp his throat, dear Mother,
In a dear delightful grip
With one hand and with the other
Bat him several in the lip

Let me climb his frame, dear Mother
While the happy people shout;
I’ll not kill him, dearest mother;
I will only knock him out.”

By John Bernhardt
To the fans residing outside the lines, the job of the umpire looks easy. And, as the selected stanzas from a poem published in the Chicago Tribune in 1866 attests, from the onset of the game, baseball umpires have been derided by players, disparaged by managers, and ridiculed by fans.
All that seems almost antitheses when you consider Delaware County’s longest serving baseball umpire, Gordon Krick. This spring Krick began his fourth decade arbitrating baseball games throughout the region.

“Gordy pretty much umpires the way he manages his whole life,” longtime South Kortright baseball coach Bob VanValkenburg said when asked about Krick as an umpire. “He has a very level approach. He’s a great guy.”

Ironically, the area’s senior baseball umpire, an accomplished high school soccer and basketball star, never played baseball.

“I loved playing soccer and basketball in high school,” Krick recalled when considering his time as a student at South Kortright. Basketball at South Kortright almost always extends into early spring and Krick was a country boy who loved his responsibilities in the spring and summer on the farm. Baseball never really jived with his schedule as a teen.

Recognizing Krick’s athleticism, the baseball coach at SK would work with Gordon during noon hours trying to entice him to consider playing the game. He wanted Krick to pitch and instructed him on the intricacies of throwing a fastball and a knuckleball. “It just wasn’t for me,” laughed Krick. “I had some serious troubles with command.”

Off to college
After high school Krick was off to Orange County Community College where he played soccer for another SK alum, Coach Jim Migli. Krick also tried his hand at basketball during his sophomore year at OCC, replacing a player after the Thanksgiving break who suffered from low blood pressure.
Brockport was Krick’s next college stop. Krick earned an undergraduate degree in physical education and returned to Delaware County in the spring of 1970 to do some substitute teaching at Delaware Academy in Delhi.

When the wrestling coach unexpectedly left the district, Krick was hired on the DA staff to finish the year. The following fall, Andes Superintendent Red Johns hired Krick as the Mountaineers’ physical education teacher, soccer and basketball coach.

It was Andes principal, Charley Smith who convinced Krick to try his hand at umpiring. Smith was a baseball guy who loved to call a game. In either 1972 or 1973, Gordon can’t remember the exact year, Smith hooked Krick on becoming a man in blue.

“I remember those two guys walking across the field to umpire a lot of baseball games together, chuckled VanValkenburg when told of Krick’s umpiring beginnings.

A real professional
“Gordy is truly a professional,” VanValkenburg said when describing Krick’s approach to the umpiring craft. “He always gives you a steady game. Gordon is low-key and consistent with a mutual respect in his relationships with coaches and his interactions with players.
Consistency was the first thing that came to mind for long time and retired Margaretville baseball coach Rick Funck when asked about Krick.

“Gordon is one of the most consistent umpires I’ve dealt with in all my years of coaching; consistent in arriving on time, consistent in temperament, consistently soft spoken, and consistently low key, a true gentleman,” Funck explained.

Calls the low strikc
And Funck laughed that over the years Krick had a consistently low strike zone.
“When I’d see Gordon getting out the car in the parking lot, I’d huddle with my pitch and catcher and tell them that today we needed to really work the low part of the strike zone.”

Krick works hard keeping on top of his game. The former Andes teacher has always enjoyed working with young people and he enjoys seeing how the local teams progress each year.
“Umpiring allows me to keep in touch,” Krick noted, “to keep contact with schools, coaches and students. I also enjoy working with some of the guys I’ve called games with over so many years.”
When looking back over an umpiring tenure that stretches four decades, one weekend stands out in Krick’s mind. Some 20 years ago, Krick was one of two umpires from the local board selected to join a pool of men in blue from around the state to cover the high school state championships. Krick worked as part of a four-man team for the first time. That was a highlight in Krick’s career.
Krick has some advice for young people who might be considering taking up the umpiring calling. “You have to have a tough skin,” the veteran coach advises. “It’s also a good practice to not listen to the comments of fans,” Krick counsels. When your umpiring the bases Krick has learned its good practice not to make a quick call. “See the play, register it, and then make the call,” he adds.

The best advice a beginning umpire could take as he starts to learn his trade is to model his work after Gordon Krick, a true gentleman, a class act, and a powerful example of everything involved in calling a first-rate baseball game.