Q&A: Major League Baseball Umpire, Marquette native Adam Hamari

MARQUETTE – Marquette resident Adam Hamari has completed his first week umpiring in the Major Leagues, working three games each in Milwaukee for the Brewers’ National League series against the Chicago Cubs and in Baltimore for the Orioles’ American League set against the New York Yankees.

He is working a three-game interleague series through the Fourth of July, St. Louis at Los Angeles Angels, with all three games starting at 9 or 10 p.m. EDT.

Hamari took some time this week to answer questions via email while he traveled across the country from Baltimore to Anaheim.

SB: It looks like you’ve had a pretty good start to your Major League career. I caught the last four or five innings of Sunday night’s game (ESPN’s national game with Baltimore and New York), and what the heck, were they trying to avoid having any plays at first base?

AH: Ever heard the saying, ‘No news is good news?’ That would apply to this statement. Sometimes it’s better to be off the camera!

SB: Do you expect the games you worked last week and for however much longer this lasts are the No. 1 factor in determining if you’ll get another chance – temporary or permanent – in the Major Leagues? Or do the years of work in the minors make the most difference?

AH: Reaching the Major Leagues is a great accomplishment, and being able to stay here becomes the goal. With the abundance of cameras on every call we make, the importance of being right all the time plays a great role in our advancement.

The games that I’ve worked – and will be working – will have a big impact on my future. As they say, it’s hard to make a first impression twice. Ultimately, you need to succeed right out of the gate. The Minor Leagues (this is my eighth season) play a big role in preparing you to get to the Major Leagues, but once you get there, it’s your performance there can be the determining factor if and when you get to go back.

SB: Can you say anything on where you go next, or for that matter, how much longer you’ll be up in the Majors? Is there a chance you’d join another crew for a different vacationing umpire or even take a permanent spot soon?

AH: I’m in Anaheim now, but things change so quickly and your schedule is always temporary. My schedule has already changed from what it originally was supposed to be, and that is for an abundance of reasons (injuries, vacations, time off).

SB: Have you gotten feedback either from the Major League umpiring chief or the commissioner’s office on how you’ve done, or whether you’re under serious consideration for a permanent job in the big leagues?

AH: My first three games we had a supervisor there in person, so we received feedback after each game in the locker room in Milwaukee. So far the feedback has been positive, which is nice, but I know that I need to continue to improve every day to keep this journey going. It has taken almost eight years to get to this point, so I want to be sure to be at the top of my game every day I step onto the field.

SB: What experience has most prepared you for this shot at the Major Leagues?

AH: I don’t think that there is anything than can actually prepare you for the Major Leagues. Stepping on to a big-league field is so much different than any other assignment that I’ve ever worked. The lights are brighter, the stadium is bigger and the stage is larger.

You work your entire career for the opportunity to have that happen, and you prepare yourself both physically and mentally for that challenge so when you do get the chance, you’re as prepared as you can be.

I think the closest experience that has helped out has been working spring training the past two years. It’s not nearly the stage that I’m in now, but it has been a nice stepping stone to help me prepare myself for the big leagues. You see a lot of the teams in spring training that you do in the regular season, so there is some familiarity out there.

SB: Were there any significant differences between doing the games in Milwaukee and in Baltimore? Are there major differences between calling Major League and minor league games?

AH: There weren’t any significant differences in doing the games in Milwaukee and in Baltimore. Every game in the big leagues (and minor leagues) is a big game. There are different implications for every player out there, regardless of the score or where their team sits in the standings. It is our job to be perfect every night, regardless of where the game is being played or who’s playing, and that’s what I strive to do every day I work.

SB: Have you steeled yourself for possible criticism from the national media if you’re involved in a controversial play or decision at some point in a Major League game?

AH: I’m definitely aware of the circumstances, but let’s cross that bridge if it happens – which hopefully it never will.

SB: I interviewed an ex-Major League umpire (Larry Poncino, 1985-2007 in the majors) at the Beacon House Celebrity Golf Outing in Marquette last week. I asked him if he had any advice for you, an umpire just doing his first few Major League games. It might sound a little harsh, but he said, “Keep your eyes and ears open and your mouth shut.” I guess that’s pretty succinct, but does it sound correct so far?

AH: Mr. Poncino’s advice is spot-on with a lot of advice that has been given by the other umpires. When you’re the Triple-A umpire filling in on a crew, you go up and do your job and listen to the veterans. He couldn’t be more accurate.

SB: Poncino also said it’s rather nerve-wracking with all the technological second-guessing of umpires now. He particularly mentioned when he would call what he felt was a near-perfect game behind the plate and then be told he missed a dozen or more calls on balls and strikes. Does it sound like more of a generational thing, or does that add significant pressure?

AH: There is added pressure to be perfect. The cameras are there to prove correct and incorrect, and there are some nerves that come with that. You don’t want to be out there second-guessing yourself, but it happens. You have to fight that mental battle and call the game to the best of your ability, striving to be perfect.

SB: Is there a certain bit of celebrity status you’re getting that you weren’t expecting either for just being an umpire?

AH: I’ve had a lot of people reach out and call or text me with congratulations, which is really nice. The support has been awesome, and really helps drive you to succeed. There’s a part of you that makes you want to work even that much harder so you don’t feel like you’re letting anyone down.

The ride to get here has had a lot of peaks and valleys. It’s making sure those peaks don’t get too high, and the valleys too low. That is of great importance. We are going to face obstacles, but we have to overcome those obstacles and keep an even keel at all times.

SB: What’s your toughest and/or most memorable call so far in the Majors?

AH: So far my most memorable call in the big leagues was probably my first call last Sunday in Baltimore in the first inning. The game was the ESPN Sunday night game of the week, so there is a little added pressure there. The Yankees’ Ichiro Suzuki hit a ball up the middle that the Orioles’ second baseman dove for and threw from his knees just in time to get Ichiro on a bang-bang play at first. I correctly called him out, but that sure got the adrenaline flowing! I would say that was probably the most memorable thus far because of the magnitude of the game.