A Columbia Native Gets His Call to "The Show"
Jason Kiser grew up in the small town of Paris. He couldn't even play on his school's baseball team because, at the time, they didn't have one. But it didn't slow his love for baseball and this spring he's getting the call, all the way to the big leagues. It started with little league, but he's now heading to the big leagues. In 1998, while umpiring high school baseball, Jason Kiser decided to chase his dream of making it to the pros, by making the call.
Kiser said, "I found out about a school for umpires in Florida. Harry Wendlestadt's school for umpires and sent the money in."
Kiser caught on, and worked his way up the ranks. He climbed the Minor League ladder, and living his life on a baseball tour bus.
"It's tough sometimes," said Kiser. "You leave usually after a game if the league allows you. You jump in your van and you drive 8-9 hours."
Style and form are important in umpiring, so Kiser is always taking a close look at his work.
"It sounds funny," Kiser explained. "I'll get in front of the mirror, work on my strike call, see what looks good."
Looking good means looking alike.
"Blue, blue, blue is my favorite color," Kiser confirmed.
But don't let the uniform fool, every umpire is unique. No place do you see it more than the way they call a strike.
Kiser demonstrated, "Haaaaaaaaa, something like that. It's kinda loud and get it done."
Recently Kiser got the call, his first invite to Major League Baseball spring training. Where evaluators look for holes in his game. If he's safe, he'll fill-in for the big league umpires.
"I'm going to walk on the field, and have the big league uniform on," said Kiser. "On a big league field and big league players. It's going to be great."
And he's only a call away.
"It's a great lifestyle up in the big leagues," Kiser says, "You meet a lot of people on your way up and I think it would just be the dream job -- next to playing."
Kiser is going to start his second season of umping AAA baseball in the Pacific Coast League. Kiser says the toughest call in baseball is the bang-bang play at first. The key is to watch for the runners foot touching the bag. And listen for the ball in the glove. Kiser now lives in Columbia. He says the difference between a AAA and Major League umpires salary is $80,000 a year.