Voices of the Bay: Renaldo Cockrum Calls the Shots

The Bristol umpire in the center of the action at local high school baseball games this spring

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While the 2022 MLB season is still indefinite at press due to the ongoing labor dispute between owners and players, there will be plenty of high school and college baseball action happening on the fields for ametuer umpire Renaldo Cockrum to officiate. The Bristol resident has been calling both baseball and basketball matchups since 2006. A 1994 Portsmouth High School graduate, Cockrum attended Rhode Island College where he played basketball for two years. His affiliations include Newport County Officials Association for baseball and basketball, Collegiate Baseball Umpires, and the National Association of Sports Officials. When not wearing the uniform, Cockrum is a residential instructor for L.I.F.E. Inc.

Making the Team: My best friend’s son was playing in a Little League game and there was no umpire so my friend jumped in. One of the guys there said my friend should come to a meeting [to learn about officiating] and he asked if he could bring me. That was 2006. It was pretty much natural for me because I had a sports background. To get on the high school board, there is a two-year class. There are camps and clinics. If I had known about this [career path] earlier in my life, I would have pursued the Major Leagues. To get into the Majors you have to start young and put in 10 years in the Minors before moving up.

Pre-game Ritual: During the anthem, I’ll say a little prayer to myself to bless the game. There is a lot more preparation for a baseball game, between the equipment and having to be at the stadium an hour and a half before to check in for the college game. For high school basketball, if I have a 6pm game, I leave by 4pm and there’s a clock so I know when it will be over. Definity have to drink a lot of water and keep the body in shape.

Game On: I actually did more baseball during COVID than I did in a regular season. I remember being in Florida to start my season in 2020 with over 200 college teams and every day one more team pulled out. By March 17, everything closed down. Once summer started, stuff started coming back, like a men’s league and a collegiate team of locals.

The Big Play: In August I’ll be in Bristol, CT for the East Regionals for the Little League World Series. My goal is to get to Williamsport, PA [home of the Little League World Series] hopefully in 2023 or 2024. I started my chase in 2014 with the regionals in Delaware, and another regional in 2016 and the Little League Senior World series [ages 15 to 18 years] in 2018. Then COVID put a hold on things. You are selected by your district administrator.

From the Stands: There has been a real change in fan behavior since I started. You definitely have to have patience and thick skin. I’m confident because I know the game and what I am doing. Last year there were no fans allowed at the games and I enjoyed it. Basketball fans are right on top of you and they can be relentless, especially during a playoff game. Every call has to be made in a split second and you have to move on. In baseball, you have a little more time to think about the call.

Do Your Job: We all have jobs out there to do – refs, players, coaches, and fans. The problems start when the lines start crossing. If you’re a player, you play; if you’re a coach, you coach; if you’re a fan, you celebrate your team – and let us do our job.  After a game, regardless if they won or lost, sometimes someone may say that was a great officiating game, which can make you feel good.

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