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Joyce touched by outpouring of support

Joyce touched by outpouring of support

DETROIT -- Longtime Major League umpire Jim Joyce, whose incorrect call Wednesday night thwarted what would've been a perfect game for Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga, was just as remorseful and just as emotional when he discussed it again Thursday morning.

Joyce told reporters gathered outside the tunnel at Comerica Park that while he appreciates the support he has received from around baseball, his family has been hearing it from fans since his call.

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"I wish my family was [kept] out of this," Joyce said, "and I wish they would just direct it all to me. It's a big problem. My wife is a rock. My kids are very strong. But they don't deserve this. I'll take it. I'll take whatever you can give me, and I'll handle it like a man, and I'll do the best I can."

Joyce stood by his statements from Wednesday night, when he apologized profusely for his call. He asked to meet with Galarraga after the game and apologize personally, and ended up exchanging hugs.

He teared up Thursday morning as he talked about the feedback he has received.

"I cannot believe the outpouring of support I've gotten, not only from my fellow umpires, but all my friends, my family and, frankly, you guys," Joyce said. "I can't thank you enough. I can't thank the people enough. I'm a big boy. I can handle this. It's probably the hardest thing I've ever had to go through in my professional career, without a doubt."

Joyce was the home-plate umpire for Thursday's game. He had another chance to meet with Galarraga, whom manager Jim Leyland selected to bring the lineup card and shake hands with Joyce and the umpiring crew before the game.

The statements Leyland and Galarraga made Wednesday night have clearly had an impact on Joyce.

"It was not surprising to me, but on the other hand, it was very surprising," Joyce said. "They were both as sportsmanlike, as gentlemanly, as professional as anybody I've ever dealt with in this game. [Tigers bullpen coach] Jeff Jones was a teammate of mine at Bowling Green [State University]. He came in and he was of great support also. The respect and the sportsmanship that they showed me was unbelievable."

Leyland said that Major League Baseball gave Joyce the option to not work the game, but that Joyce wanted to do it. Joyce indicated that was not the case.

"Nobody has called me about that," he said.

As for the possibility that Major League Baseball could intervene in the decision, possibly even overturn, Joyce stayed out of the debate.

"That's for the Commissioner's Office, really," he said. "If they entertain the thought, that's obviously up to them. I just stand by what I said last night."

By Thursday morning, nearly all of the Tigers were speaking out in support of Joyce, a 22-year veteran umpire. The reaction from the national media in the aftermath, and the criticism Joyce has received, touched them.

"I just don't want this to be the focus of Jim Joyce as an umpire," Leyland said, "because he's one of the best and he has been for a long time. He's one of the class acts. He took it like a man. What can you do?

"I got texts from some people from ESPN that said [it was] disgraceful and it made me sick. I just can't feel that way. I know most people feel I'm an old grumpy [person], but I'm not. But I just can't feel that way. I feel bad for him. But I feel bad for Galarraga, too. Don't get me wrong, that's history. This is not a light thing. This is history. I'm not trying to downplay it. But what's the saying, 'Cast the first stone.'

"We just aren't the type of society that beats people up. We are a very forgiving society. What the heck? The guy felt worse than anybody in this room. I'm just not going to get into it. I'm not going to do it. Do I feel bad? Did he miss the call? Yes. But this is a very forgiving country. When you are dealing with the human elements, just like a manager making a mistake, or a writer writing a bad story or a player making a mistake, that's just the way it is."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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