For most of those involved in Major League Baseball who don’t end up at the All-Star Game, the All-Star break provides a brief respite in a busy six-month season that features scores of airline flights and only a handful of off days. Therefore, the four-day gap between the first-half-ending Sunday and the second-half-beginning Friday is a treasured opportunity to return home and reconnect with loved ones.
But for umpires Tripp Gibson and Mike Muchlinski, the break isn’t just about getting home, it’s also about giving back.
Snohomish County’s resident major-league umpires are doing their part for the greater good by spending their break hosting the fifth annual Umps Care All-Star Break Golf Scramble, which takes place Tuesday at Cedarcrest Golf Course in Marysville.
Gibson, who resides in Marysville, and Muchinski, who lives in Snohomish, are joined by Tacoma-based umpire Quinn Wolcott in putting on the event. The tournament raises funds for Umps Care Charities, the official philanthropy wing of MLB umpires, which provides financial and emotional support for youth and families in need.
“This is something important, and we’re so passionate about what Umps Care does that we wanted to continue that through the All-Star break,” said the 37-year-old Gibson, speaking last week from Washington, D.C., where he was umpiring the series between the Nationals and Miami Marlins.
This is the third year the tournament has been open to the public. All the proceeds go to Umps Care, which funds three specific programs:
— Blue Crew Tickets, in which at-risk youth such as those battling chronic illness, in foster care or from military families are given the chance to go to a game, visit the locker rooms and get onto the field.
— Blue for Kids, in which umpires visit children’s hospitals and provide a Build-A-Bear Workshop experience for kids with life-threatening illnesses.
— All-Star College Scholarship, in which children who were adopted at age 13 or older are provided with financial assistance for college.
The tournament, which has been at Cedarcrest all five years, had humble beginnings. It began in 2015 when Gibson, home for the All-Star break, got together with five friends for a round of golf, with small donations being made to Umps Care.
“When I first got into the minors (in 2006) there was no minor-league involvement in something like this,” Gibson explained about his reason for starting the tournament. “So when I got to the majors, this was something I really wanted to be a part of. I guess for me, I’m very passionate about helping our youth, teaching our youth, helping them become good citizens. Giving back is something I learned from my parents, and it’s something I always wanted to do. When I go on hospital visits or help kids, I do it somewhat selfishly because I know I’m giving back and doing my part to help youth.”
Since then, the tournament — with Gibson’s wife, Danna, doing much of the organizing — has grown exponentially. Muchlinski and Wolcott were brought on board in 2017 and the tournament was opened to the public.
“I think it’s the only local event that Umps Care does outside the Seattle Children’s Hospital visits,” Muchlinski, 42, said last week when he umpired the series between the Seattle Mariners and St. Louis Cardinals. “So when Tripp called me and said he was trying to bump the tournament up to raise more money for Umps Care, it was a no-brainer. I’m from this area, and with Tripp and Quinn also involved it means all three local MLB umpires are on board.”
Nearly 100 golfers took part the first year the tournament was open to the public, with approximately $25,000 raised for Umps Care. Last year, there were 140 participants and about $37,000 was raised. For perspective, this year Umps Care has 16 hospital visits scheduled in various MLB cities, and Gibson said the money raised last year was enough to fund more than one of those visits.
The popularity of the event has only grown. This year’s tournament sold out more than a month in advance, with golfers traveling from as far away as Kentucky and Arizona to take part. The community has gotten involved, with contributions from the likes of the City of Marysville and several businesses from around the county. Gibson is hoping to raise enough money this year to fund two or three hospital visits.
“(Blue for Kids) is a special and unique program that can sometimes be difficult,” Muchlinski said about the hospital visits, which he has participated in. “Tripp and myself both have young children, so it’s a sobering experience, and you realize you have a good life and MLB provides a lot for us.”
But how are their golf games?
“My golf game is OK, but I’m not breaking any records,” Gibson said.
“It’s suspect,” Muchlinski said. “In my own head it’s strong, it just doesn’t correlate to the scorecard.”
But while Gibson and Muchlinski may not be favorites to be part of the winning foursomes Tuesday, thanks to their efforts there will be plenty of children who come away as big winners.
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