The refrain emanating from fans attending area baseball and softball games is a familiar one. “Come on Blue!” It is not uncommon at all for umpires to hear that sound.
But what may be considered unusual or rare is a father-son umpiring team seen on the playing field at the same time umpiring the same game. Johnny “Red” Cox and son Daniel Cox have that distinction.
When asked recently prior to a junior American Legion baseball contest, as both men were preparing to change into their blue uniforms, if there was added pressure being on the field with his dad, Daniel replied with an emphatic “Zero pressure.” And according to Red, “(Daniel) has had extensive umpire training and I just want to do a good job for him when we are out there.”
The umpire training that the elder Cox alluded to is attributed to Daniel completing a five week umpire training session at the Jim Evans (former Major League umpire) Academy of Professional Umpires in Kissimmee, Fla. As a result of that training, Daniel, 29, who has umpired since he was 15, has earned an impeccable reputation on the diamond.
“Daniel is by far one of our best high school umpires,” said Clint Lawson who has been an umpire assigner for the Catawba Umpires Association for the past three years. “A lot of coaches request him. We put a lot of younger guys (that are just start starting out) with Red.” Lawson added that it was Red that introduced him into umpiring.
When asked if there was ever a hesitation to pair father with son at the same time Lawson wasted no time in replying. “No. Never. They are always professional on the field.”
That’s not to say there haven’t been instances when the duo were not in total agreement. “We have had several (disagreements),” said Daniel. “But none were call-related.”
Having been involved in umpiring for several years it stands to reason that the pair have called numerous balls, strikes, safe signs and out signs. As expected the calls will not suit everyone and Red and Daniel are not oblivious to the various insults hurled their way. One must be thick-skinned.
“You have to be (thick skinned),” said Daniel. “I used to not be when I first started but I learned to have it. I used to laugh hearing the same old stuff (insults) and a lot of time the ones doing it have no clue about what is happening on the field.” Red admitted to taking things personal in his early years but has “gotten better with age.”
Since getting their start in the Rock Hill Recreations League, Red, 55, estimates that he and Daniel have umpired 30 or 40 games together. “It goes back to when he (Daniel) was young,” Red said. “Now he is teaching me.” Their careers have included umpiring high school games, college games, American Legion games, and travel ball.
“We discuss plays we see,” said Red. “When we are watching a game we watch the umpires. We critique a play, especially if it’s a critical play. We are looking to see if the umpire was where he needed to be on the field.” Daniel added that “angle takes precedence over distance.”
And so despite scorching temperatures in the area, local ball fields will be brimming with activity and Daniel and Red will be busy although maybe not for the same reason.
“It’s a way for me to be involved with the game I love,” said Red. “The money is good but it also gives me a chance to be around and do something for the kids.”
Daniel profoundly makes it known there is one main reason for his involvement in umpiring. “I do it for the money, not because I want to,” he said.
But the father of a four-year-old daughter and nine-month-old son did provide a footnote that coincided with his dad. “I do it for the kids, too. Mine.”