10/2 Beer, balls & strikes

Koyie Hill didn’t really notice the two umpires sitting in the first row behind home plate Friday at Wrigley Field until a point in the game when pitcher Tom Gorzelanny needed a new baseball.

“I saw them on one pitch, when it was a foul ball or something, and the pitcher throws the ball back,” said the Cubs catcher, “and I went back to get a ball and I didn’t hear them but I saw the guys digging in their pockets to throw a ball back. I thought, that was pretty good. I didn’t think about it at the time, but now that I think about it, it’s pretty funny.”

Tim Williams and Joe Farrell, two traders on the Toronto stock exchange, are better known around Major League ballparks as the fake umpires. They were behind home plate at Wrigley Field calling every pitch between sips of beer, bites of their hot dogs, and posing for pictures.

Dressed head to toe in umpire gear minus their masks, Williams and Farrell had been to seven other Major League ballparks before Friday’s Diamondbacks-Cubs game. The only downside to their Chicago visit, besides the cool weather, was that Wrigley security confiscated their masks. Apparently, there’s a “no costume” policy at the ballpark. The two got them back with one out to go in the game.

“It was pretty funny, to say the least,” Gorzelanny said of the pair’s antics, a YouTube favorite. “It took me a while into the game [before I noticed them]. I saw them, and thought maybe they were imposters. I didn’t realize they were the real guys. They’ve got a good little gig going on.”

They sure do. Williams and Farrell had plenty of cold beer, courtesy of generous Cubs fans, and plenty of folks who wanted a souvenir snapshot. The two mimic the home plate umpire’s calls in perfect synchronization, signal the count, and whether balls are fair or foul. They’re into the game. Called third strikes are fan favorites.

“Reed [Johnson] and I talked about them earlier in the year, and we thought it was hilarious,” Hill said of the two. “Great seats, too.”
 
Williams and Farrell did pay for them. They were in Chicago on business, and bought the front row seats. What do Major League umpires think of the two?

“I’ve heard, secretely, they like us,” Williams said. “There’s a league mandate not to engage us during the game. I’ve heard they all like us, but they can’t talk to us during the game. We’ve heard from sources that they all find it entertaining.”

So do the players.

“They’re a pretty funny crew,” Gorzelanny said.

“I asked [crew chief Ed Rapuano], ‘How do you guys handle that?’” Cubs first baseman Micah Hoffpauir said, “and he said, ‘It’s fun for the fans.’ [Rapuano] said they had them last week in Toronto.”

And all the free beers?

“Perks of the business,” Hoffpauir said. “They had the whole get up. If you’re going to do it, do it right.”

Hill, who deals with umpires every day behind the plate, said he was impressed that the pair knew home plate umpire Paul Nauert’s name, and didn’t think their behavior was disrespectful.

“I think they have enough awareness of the livelihood of [the umpires] out there that they’re not going to trespass on that territory and ruin what they’ve got going,” Hill said. “They are pretty funny.”

– Carrie Muskat

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