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John’s Journal: Two Games, Two Sports, One Umpire

Scot Field Steps Up So Teams Can Play Softball, Baseball

Posted: Sunday, April 25, 2021 - 3:01 PM


HAYFIELD – Scot Field was a busy man on Thursday, leaving his home in Eyota for the 7:30 a.m. start of his workday at United Rentals in Rochester. Normally he would work until 4 p.m. but he got off early in order to make a mid-afternoon appointment for his second Covid-19 vaccine. After that, he hit the road for the half-hour drive to Hayfield.

Having changed into his umpiring apparel at the clinic where he received the vaccination, he arrived at the softball field at 4 o’clock to work a 4:30 game between Blooming Prairie and Hayfield. It would be the first of two games that day in Hayfield for Field, 53, who that evening would work a baseball game between the hometown Vikings and Southland.

Both games were originally scheduled for 4:30 starts. When finding two umpires for each game became difficult, Hayfield activities director Chris Pack became creative. The baseball game was moved back two hours and Field agreed to work the softball-baseball doubleheader, something he had never done before.

“I’ve done lots of varsity-JV stuff but never two varsity games and never different sports,” Field said. “I had no hesitation, not at all. Chris Pack is a friend, but even if it wasn’t Chris I would have been thrilled to help any AD out with something like that.” (In this photo, Field, right, meets with partner Matt Carter and coaches Scott Koenigs of Southland and Kasey Krekling of Hayfield.)

Field was the base umpire for both games, making it a bit physically easier to work during a stretch of nearly five hours and 12 1/2 innings (“It’s a lot of squatting so your quads get a heck of a workout,” he said of behind-the-plate duties). His softball partner was Mark Benfield of Dexter; they parked their vehicles behind the Blooming Prairie school bus before walking across the parking lot to the field that’s next to the community swimming pool and a lovely park.

Field was friendly in communicating with coaches and players. Between innings, he walked toward the Hayfield bench to speak to the Viking playing first base. He said to her, “Be a little more deliberate on your foot. You’re pulling it (off the base) a little quickly.” She nodded, smiled and said thank you.

Hayfield’s softball team went to state for four consecutive years ending in 2018. The Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms were the Class A runner-up in 2012 and champion in 2013, so both schools have strong softball histories. Thursday belonged to the Vikings, who won 7-2 without having to bat in the bottom of the seventh and final inning.

The softball game ended at 6:20, a tight squeeze with the baseball game scheduled for a 6:30 start. Field used the restroom at the softball field to change from baseball to softball apparel; softball umpires wear blue shirts with pants that aren’t quite as dark as baseball pants, and baseball umpires wear black tops.

Pack, who had scheduled the junior varsity baseball game for 4:30 instead of after the varsity game, as is customary, made the short commute between the two fields during the softball game. The JV baseball had dragged a bit in the early innings, which turned out to be helpful.

Field has become well-known in the towns where he officiates. At one point during the softball game, a fan said to Pack, “So Scot is working the baseball game, too, huh?”

After changing, Field jogged from the restroom to his Jeep 4x4, got behind the wheel and exited the softball parking lot. He made a couple of right turns and saw the Hayfield school down the street. The baseball field is behind the school, along with the football/track stadium. He arrived at 6:32 after the two-minute drive and found a parking spot in the back of the lot, “away from foul balls.”

He jogged onto the field at 6:33. The Southland Rebels were taking infield, and the Vikings would follow. The JV game lasted long enough that the varsity game wasn’t close to starting at 6:30.

He met his baseball umpiring partner, Matt Carter of St. Paul, for the first time. The fact that Carter had to come from so far away was indicative of the growing issues in finding officials in most high school sports. After learning that the Rochester Area Officials Association had no one available to work a baseball game Thursday night, Pack sent out an email looking for an umpire; that email circulated until Carter saw it and replied.

Before meeting with the two baseball coaches at home plate, Field and Carter talked mechanics and assignments in the parking lot. Field confirmed with Carter, “You’ve got runners on tag-ups?”

The first pitch was thrown at 6:52, with Field once again stationed behind first base, ball-strike-out counter held in his left hand. The school and adjoining athletic fields are on the east edge of town; beyond are farm fields backed by wind turbines, which turned slowly in the April breeze.

Field, who also is an MSHSL basketball official, was well-acquainted with sports and officiating before becoming registered with the MSHSL and joining the Rochester Area Officials Association in 2015. He first worked as a sub-varsity and youth official while a student at St. Cloud State, then did some coaching and officiating as he and his wife Stephanie raised their two daughters; Madison will graduate from Buena Vista University in Iowa this spring and Lindsay is finishing her first year at Waldorf College, also in Iowa.

“It’s very rewarding,” Field said of working as an official. “It keeps you in the game. It’s nice to still be in the game and help those out who are able to play.”

He also has worked as an official with the Rochester Parks and Recreation Department, including sports for adult men and women.

“That certainly gets you prepared for the high school level,” he said. “The challenges of officiating adults can be an experience in itself. I worked on my skills at that point.”

As the sun set during the evening baseball game, Field removed his sunglasses. In the late innings, with the temperature dropping, he walked to the Southland dugout to fetch the jacket he had stashed there before the game. “I’m giving in,” he said with a smile.

Hayfield’s baseball team made its inaugural state tournament appearance in 2019, the last year spring sports were held before the Covid-19 shutdown in 2020.

Southland had come out swinging and put up four runs in the top of the first inning. The Rebels looked to be in control, but the Hayfield nine scored seven in the third and went on to a 15-5 victory. The 10-run margin was reached in the bottom of the sixth inning, ending the game at 9:19 p.m.

Field and Carter shook hands in the parking lot and parted ways, looking forward to working together down the road. Field got behind the wheel again for the 39-mile drive home. He pulled into his garage shortly after 10 p.m.

He’ll be busy again this week, with games scheduled for Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.

--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at jmillea@mshsl.org

“I’ve done lots of varsity-JV stuff but never two varsity games and never different sports. I had no hesitation, not at all. Chris Pack is a friend, but even if it wasn’t Chris I would have been thrilled to help any AD out with something like that.”
Scot Field

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