When the first pitch was thrown in Monday’s LNP Tournament, a community tradition collided with a family trade for two men dressed in powder blue.
Rick Velez has served as an umpire for 38 years — 18 years longer than his son, Richard Velez, has been alive.
In a Midget-Midget game between Donegal and Mountville Monday, Rick stood behind the plate calling balls and strikes, while Richard handled the infield duties.
It was the second time the two worked the opening game of the LNP Tournament together.
“Tonight, when they announced our names, to me, that was just really cool,” Rick said. “That’s something that meant a lot to me.”
Richard graduated in 2018 from Donegal High School, where he pitched and played outfield.
He was determined to stay close to the game of baseball, and saw umpiring as the best way to do that.
So he’s followed in his father’s footsteps.
“Life situations happened and I came home from school one day, and he had the gear laying in the living room,” Richard said. “I had to make a couple decisions that I wasn’t going to play ball.
“I picked up a bat when I was three, and I don’t want to leave the game.”
Rick and Richard have been working games together for about four years now. Rick said he usually works the opening games of a series when LNP Tournament time comes around.
Richard swapped his powder blue for black, and stuck around for the second game of the evening, between Penn Manor and Manheim VFW.
Before that, though, the two comisserrated over the calls they’d missed and what could have gone better — as every good umpire crew does after a game.
Rick said Richard makes him a better umpire. Rest assured, there’s no slack given between father and son.
“You know, I’ve been doing it for so long and you know the old ways,” Rick said. “And he’s been taught a new way when he goes to all these umpiring clinics...It’s making me want to be better. He’s really helping me this year, especially this year, I’ve stepped my game up.”
There’s honest with each other, because, according to Richard, that’s the only way to get better.
There’s a job to do, but it’s hard for Richard not to appreciate working alongside his father, who taught him the game he loves.
“I can’t describe it,” Richard said.