It was nearly six full innings of High-A East baseball Thursday night for the Aberdeen IronBirds and Brooklyn Cyclones and the umpires, including Harford County educator and resident Drew Hoagland, who handled plate duties.
“That was my first Minor League affiliated baseball game,” Hoagland said. “I work in the Atlantic League of professional baseball and of course in college and high school, too.”
Hoagland says he’s been umpiring in the Atlantic League for about six years. “York and Lancaster, those are the two sites I work mostly at and then occasionally down in Southern Maryland with the Blue Crabs,” Hoagland said.
The opportunity happened due to an injury sustained by the home plate umpire in Wednesday’s doubleheader. A foul ball off the face mask of the plate umpire late in game two brought about concerns and or symptoms and a substitute was needed.
Hoagland says he was up.
So, it was a first for doing a game in Aberdeen, but not at all uncomfortable for Hoagland, who is an Assistant Principal at Edgewood Middle School.
“Working a full Spring college season and then either working college summer ball or there’s this new Major League Baseball Draft League that they’ve put together, so I’ve been working there,” Hoagland said. “The Atlantic League they have the automated ball and strike system, so I got an earpiece that tells me ball or strike and I tell everybody what it tells me. That’s one of those experimental rules.”
In Aberdeen, though, it’s still the human factor. “In all other instances, I still got to stay pretty much true to how I’m doing on a play, like if I’m performing well, if I‘m in a good rhythm, so I don’t want to disrupt that,” he said. “I keep it tight, I let the catchers and the pitchers make the decisions for me.”
Hoagland adds, “There’s really a handful of pitches a game that you got to call, the rest of them kind of call themselves, but you gotta be in a good working relationship with everybody out there to make it believable. You gotta stay focused, track the pitch, all the mechanic and fundamental things make it easy for you to get those right.”
Hoagland’s work got cut a little short, but he was happy with the chance. “I would have loved to finish the game, we were in a good pace, a good ballgame, so working the full thing would have been fantastic,” Hoagland said. “That partner I got to meet and work with was great, but being in a rain delay watching all the players and shenanigans and having that experience was a slice of Americana that I was happy to experience as well.”