Arasato climbs
the umpiring ranks

By Al Chase

Ryan Arasato expected to be assigned to a rookie league after graduating from the Professional Baseball Umpires Corporation school in Florida early last spring.

After all, he was a rookie umpire, had only watched one minor-league baseball game in his life and really did not know what to expect from a world where potential big-league players are beginning to claw their way up the ladder of success to the top.

The Kaimuki resident was surprised when he was assigned to the Class-A Northwest League, a short-season league with teams in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. He was partnered with Scott Jarred, a second-year umpire from Colorado.

"My first game was in Spokane (Wash.). There were 6,500 fans for the opening game and I had the bases," said Arasato.

That was the beginning of a summer for the two umpires who crisscrossed the Pacific Northwest in Jarred's car. They stayed in economy motels, lived out of suitcases, shared the same experiences and pretty much had only each other to talk to.

"About half the time we were in the same hotel as the visiting team, but the hotel management would try to put us on a different floor," said Arasato. "Just being in the same restaurant or lobby with a team is difficult.

"I learned quickly you have to be thick skinned if you are an umpire. I cared so much about how fans and players viewed how I umpired in my amateur days, but, by the first third of the season, I realized my job on the field was my top priority no matter what the outcome.

"I didn't really understand the true nature of what it means to be an umpire, but I learned that, learned to make the calls and believe in myself."

Arasato and Jarred had their good and bad games. They were evaluated twice during the summer by a PBUC representative who watched two games on each visit to see each umpire work the plate and in the field.

Then the representative would meet with Arasato and his partner. The rep would show a video of their mechanics, talk about how they handled certain situations and engage in a question and answer session.

"It's more teaching than evaluating. They want you to challenge things they say. I enjoyed the evaluations. It's a friendly get-together," said Arasato.

A man with strong religious convictions, Arasato credits God with helping him become the kind of umpire he wants to be. However, that doesn't mean he turns the other cheek when a manager or player goes beyond certain boundaries with the English language.

"Then it's time to take my mask off and tell that person it's time to leave the game," said Arasato. "I had four ejections and Scott seven this summer. I had two in Eugene (Ore.) and 5,000 fans went crazy.

"Scott and I had the most in the league. The league president prefers that you defuse the situation. They do not like to see problems on the field so you have to give managers and players as much opportunity as possible to get out of your face."

Arasato's most interesting game was an 18-inning affair that was eventually suspended due to a 1 a.m. curfew. But, at 12:30 a.m., the sprinklers started watering the field.

"No one knew how to shut them off and the grounds people had left for the night," said Arasato. "Finally they were turned off, but it was a rough game. My strike zone was inconsistent. I knew it. The players knew it. I was tired and hungry and probably called 500 pitches that night."

Arasato is working part-time with the A-Plus program at Maemae Elementary School and finishing his class requirements for a degree in exercise science.

There will be a season-ending evaluation from PBUC, then the wait to see where he will be assigned next year.

"I'm really, really excited that I'm a part of professional baseball. It's a different environment from amateur ball. It's awesome. It's fun," said Arasato.

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